University of Miami

AmericanAirlines Arena hosts UM, NBA legends, seven other college basketball teams Saturday

Canes head coach Jim Larrañaga: “Lykes is very competitive”

Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larrañaga talks to the media after their 78-70 win over Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in an NCAA college basketball game at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Saturday, November 17, 2018.
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Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larrañaga talks to the media after their 78-70 win over Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in an NCAA college basketball game at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Saturday, November 17, 2018.

South Florida college basketball junkies have a jam-packed menu of games Saturday at the Hoophall Miami Invitational, a quadrupleheader being played at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The University of Miami and Yale tip off at 7:30 p.m., capping a schedule that includes Georgia Tech vs. St. John’s (noon), Memphis vs. No. 20 Texas Tech (2:30 p.m.), and North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt (5 p.m.).

The Hurricanes won their first five games this season, but are coming off back-to-back close losses to Seton Hall and Rutgers. They lost 83-81 to Seton Hall at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California, on Sunday and on Wednesday dropped a home game to Rutgers, 57-54.

Miami, which had been averaging 84 points per game, was held to 33.8 percent shooting against the Scarlet Knights, including 7 of 28 from three-point range. The Canes are in the midst of a stretch of six games in 13 days before taking a break for final exams.

Yale enters Saturday’s game averaging 88 points per game and allowing 77. The Canes will have to be particularly prudent guarding the perimeter, as the Elis made 15 three-pointers in a 103-61 victory over Bryant. Miami will also have to do a better job handling the ball, as the team has been turnover-prone in recent games.

Point guard Chris Lykes, Miami’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, has 22 turnovers on the season, including five in the first half against Rutgers. He took full blame after the game, and vowed to improve.

Newcomer Zach Johnson, a Miami Norland alum and grad transfer from Florida Gulf Coast, has made a big impact and started against Rutgers. He averaged 18 points at the Wooden Legacy tournament.

He is looking forward to playing at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“I’ve never played there, so when the schedule came out and I saw we were playing there, that was exciting. Hopefully, we can come out with a win.”

UM center Ebuka Izundu, who has been counted on heavily in the absence of Dewan Hernandez, left Wednesday’s game with leg cramps, but is expected to play against Yale. Hernandez is sitting out while the school and NCAA review his eligibility status.

The four-game showcase, sponsored by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Air Force Reserve, opens with St. John’s vs. Georgia Tech. The Red Storm, coached by alum and five-time NBA All-Star Chris Mullen, is 6-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 season. If it win, it will be the first 7-0 St. John’s team since 1994-95. The team is averaging 83 points per game. Georgia Tech is 4-2.

Memphis is also coached by a former NBA star — four-time All-Star Penny Hardaway. The Tigers (3-3) got good news this week, as they signed 7-footer James Wiseman, the top-ranked recruit in the nation. Wiseman played for Hardaway at East High in Memphis.

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