University of Miami

Balanced scoring helps UM basketball team cruise past Louisiana

Kamari Murphy (21) and guard Angel Rodriguez (13) pose for their own photo as forward Ivan Cruz Uceda (33) looks on, while they wait to take a team photo during Miami's media day in Coral Gables, Fla.
Kamari Murphy (21) and guard Angel Rodriguez (13) pose for their own photo as forward Ivan Cruz Uceda (33) looks on, while they wait to take a team photo during Miami's media day in Coral Gables, Fla. AP

Angel Rodriguez has not played in Puerto Rico since he left for Miami as a high school sophomore, so he is thrilled to be heading back with the University of Miami Hurricanes for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament later this week.

He is especially pumped because the Canes are 2-0 after Monday’s 93-77 victory over the University of Louisiana, and proving they have multiple scoring options. Six UM players hit double figures, led by Davon Reed with 19, followed by Rodriguez (18), Sheldon McClellan (16), Ivan Cruz Uceda (13), Anthony Lawrence Jr. (12), and Ja’Quan Newton (11).

Five players scored in double figures in the season-opening win last Friday against University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

And Kamari Murphy hasn’t even played yet. The highly-touted Oklahoma State transfer was suspended the first three games for violation of team rules. He will miss Thursday’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off game against Mississippi State. He is scheduled to return Friday for the second-round game.

“We truly don’t have a lot of guys, but the guys we have can contribute in a great way and do different things,” Rodriguez said. “The only thing sort of missing is another big, but that’s coming soon, so we’re all excited about our team and the way we’re playing right now. I’m very excited to play with this group of guys in front of my people.”

The Canes, who fly to San Juan on Tuesday, shot 56.4 percent Monday and made 12 of 23 three-point attempts, compared to 5 of 20 for the Rajin Cajuns, whom outscored Miami 42-22 in the paint. Shawn Long led the Cajuns with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Reed gave UM a big lift with his outside shooting and a thunderous second-half dunk. Rodriguez made a couple from beyond the arc, and made eight of his 11 free throws. Cruz Uceda hit a trio of threes.

“We feed off each other,” Reed said. “We see everybody making shots, and feed off that good energy. Nobody’s afraid to make the extra pass. Sometimes we pass up a good three for a better three.”

Rodriguez added: “You see the scoreboard, everybody’s scoring, fighting for each other. It’s fun.”

Lawrence Jr., a freshman, had a big first half. He came off the bench, and in 12 minutes scored nine points, had four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. His father, Anthony Sr., played for the Hurricanes from 1991-93, and his uncle, Patrick, played at UM from 1991-94.

He played a key role because 7-foot center Tonye Jekiri got in early foul trouble.

“Amp [Lawrence] is bigger than some of the other guys, so we went with him,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “He’s not really a four [power forward], but he can play the four. He’s got very active hands defensively. He can rebound, can score. It gives us another player to count on throughout the game. We’re counting on that balance. It will make us harder to guard. This was a total team effort.”

Michelle Kaufman: 305-376-3438, @kaufsports

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