Back pain? What back pain?
University of Miami senior center Ebuka Izundu, who missed practice early in the week with a sore back, helped carry the Hurricanes to a much-needed 62-47 win over Notre Dame on Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
Izundu was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field for 10 points in the first half, including an emphatic buzzer-beating dunk that sent the Canes into the locker room with a lead and a boost of energy. His aggressive play helped UM open up an 11-point edge early in the second half before he limped off the court with leg cramps. He returned to the court a few minutes later and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams had been languishing at the bottom of the ACC standings, and viewed Wednesday’s game as winnable. The Hurricanes (10-12, 2-8 ACC) had lost five games in a row, and were off to their worst conference start in 25 years. The Irish (12-11, 2-8 ACC) had lost five of the previous six games.
After a brutal January schedule loaded with Top 25 opponents, the Hurricanes finally got to exhale on Wednesday before hitting the road this weekend for a Saturday noon game at No. 8 North Carolina.
Junior guard DJ Vasiljevic, who went scoreless against No. 3 Virginia last Saturday, had his first career double-double and took a career-high 14 shots. He scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Anthony Lawrence also had a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds).
UM coach Jim Larranaga didn’t like Vasiljevic’s body language and lack of effort in the Virginia game, and let him know during a private meeting on Monday. Vasiljevic said he “took it to heart,” cleared his mind and gave full effort against the Irish, chasing rebounds all over the court.
Point guard Chris Lykes, going up against high school teammate Prentiss Hubb, chipped in 11 points and was a pest on defense. Hubb turned the ball over six times and had just three points after going 1-for-7.
“Miami’s defense really bothered us,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. “If you score 47 points, you’re not going to win a league game. Lykes changes the game with his ball pressure. He disrupted our whole flow. Their personnel’s pretty good even though they only have seven of them. Some of the matchups they kind of manhandled us at times, treated us like the JV.”
The Hurricanes and Irish will go at it again at the Watsco Center on Thursday night at 7, as the 25th-ranked UM women’s basketball team takes on No. 4 Notre Dame, the reigning national champion.
It is Miami’s first top-five opponent this season, and Coach Katie Meier hopes a big crowd shows up.
The Canes (19-5, 7-2 ACC) are coming off a home win over Virginia. Center Beatrice Mompremier scored a career-high-tying 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting in that game. Guard Kelsey Marshall had a season-high 17 points, and Emese Hof added 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Irish (21-2, 8-1 ACC) are led by ACC Preseason Player of the Year Arike Ogunbowale, who averages 21 points per game.
UM has lost six of its past seven games against Notre Dame. Miami’s lone victory was 78-63 in Coral Gables on Jan. 8, 2015.