University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga and his basketball team are hoping February is more forgiving than January.
The Hurricanes have slipped to 9-12 overall and are tied for last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 1-8 league record heading into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. home game against Notre Dame, a team with similar struggles.
UM is off to its worst conference start since 1993-94, when the Canes went 0-18 in the Big East. Larranaga has not had a losing season since 1997-98, his first year at George Mason University, and he is hoping to salvage what’s left of this one.
Of Miami’s five recent losses, four were to top 20 teams, including last Saturday’s 10-point loss at No. 3 Virginia. The Hurricanes played seven Top 25 teams in January.
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The rest of the schedule doesn’t look quite as daunting, beginning with Wednesday’s matchup. The Irish are 10-12 and 2-7 in the ACC after snapping a five-game losing streak with a win at Boston College. The Hurricanes have won three of their past four meetings. Last February, UM won 77-74 on the road.
Six of Miami’s remaining nine games are against teams in the lower half of the league standings — Notre Dame, Clemson, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Pitt. UM’s lone ACC win this season is against Wake Forest. The three games against ranked teams left on the Canes’ schedule are at No. 8 North Carolina on Feb. 9, at No. 2 Duke on March 2, and at No. 11 Virginia Tech on March 8.
The Hurricanes have been playing with a depleted roster after Dewan Hernandez was suspended and Deng Gak got injured. The lone remaining center, Ebuka Izundu, has been hampered by back pain this week and did not practice on Monday. His status for Wednesday’s game is day-to-day.
A matchup to watch for against the Irish is UM point guard Chris Lykes vs. Notre Dame guard Prentiss Hubb. They were teammates at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. Lykes is Miami’s leading scorer with 16.7 points per game and the heart and soul of the UM offense.
The Irish are led by John Mooney, who averages a double-double (14.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg). Sophomore Nikola Djogo started his first game of the season last week against Boston College and responded with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range.