The Miami Hurricanes, back into the Top 25 and eager to prove they belong there, staved off pesky Wake Forest 87-81 on Wednesday night.
UM sank six three-pointers after the break — including three from substitute Sam Waardenburg — to pull ahead when Wake Forest was getting dangerously close. The Demon Deacons clawed their way back into the game on the shoulders of Bryant Crawford and Chaundee Brown (43 points combined), but the Canes made enough free throws down the stretch to hang on.
Miami freshman Lonnie Walker IV once again displayed the athleticism that made him one of the nation’s most coveted recruits. He led the Canes with 19 points. Walker had given Miami a 10-point cushion with five minutes left in the first half when he sank a three-pointer directly in front of the Demon Deacons bench, and he came up big late in the game, as well.
Ja’Quan Newton had 16 points for UM off the bench. Freshman point guard Chris Lykes, starting his third game, scored 13 points to go with his five assists. Waardenburg, playing more and more, chipped in 12 points. Dewan Huell had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
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The Demon Deacons had lost nine of 11 conference games before Wednesday and were 9-14 overall; so it was the perfect opportunity for Miami to pick up a home win. But it didn’t come easy.
Wake Forest posed a big problem — literally — with junior center Doral Moore, who stands 7-1 and weighs 280 pounds. “He is a very big man,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said before the game. Moore looked even bigger when UM’s (barely) 5-7 guard Chris Lykes was on the floor.
The Hurricanes put Dewan Huell on Moore. They put Ebuka Izundu on him. Anthony Lawrence took a stab at him. But Moore’s height and seemingly endless arms were tough to overcome. He dominated the paint early in the second half to help Wake take its first lead of the game, 41-40, with 15 minutes to go. Moore finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
The Hurricanes led 35-31 at the half.
It was Miami’s second game without starting guard Bruce Brown, who had surgery on his left foot Feb. 1 and is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
The Hurricanes (18-5, 7-4 ACC) hit the road to play at Boston College on Saturday at 2 p.m. and return home to face No. 2 Virginia on Feb. 13 at 9 p.m.