It was raining buckets inside and outside BankUnited Center on Saturday afternoon, as the 21st-ranked University of Miami men’s basketball team took a 30-point lead in 16 minutes and rolled past Charlotte 88-60.
Unlike the Hurricanes’ previous game, an overtime thriller at Nebraska, there was no drama on this day. Nevertheless, the announced crowd of 6,735 seemed happy to be out of the rain, and fans had plenty of scoring to enjoy as Miami improved its record to 7-1. The 49ers fell to 1-7.
Nine UM players scored and everybody got to play.
Ja’Quan Newton led the Canes with 14 points and six assists. He was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Davon Reed had 12, and Kamari Murphy and Ivan Cruz Uceida added 11 each. Freshman Anthony “Amp’’ Lawrence continued to impress, making four of his five shots for nine points in 15 minutes. Tonye Jekiri had 10 rebounds, all on the defensive end.
Angel Rodriguez tweaked his wrist, but it didn’t seem serious. He scored eight points.
The statistics UM coach Jim Larrañaga seemed most pleased about were his team’s 19 assists and Charlotte’s 16.7 percent shooting from three-point range, an indication that the Hurricanes played better perimeter defense than they had earlier in the season.
“We needed a game like that from a defensive standpoint,’’ Larrañaga said. “We’ve been doing a couple of drills I think have made a significant difference. It’s put emphasis on contesting shots without fouling. We made them miss their threes. Three of 18, 16 percent, we’ll take that any night.’’
With the University of Florida coming to the BUC on Tuesday night, there was a danger that the Miami players might look past the 49ers. But the Hurricanes looked focused from the start.
“We remember from last year, Eastern Kentucky around this time, a terrible loss, hurt us in the end to get to the tournament, so we took this game personal within ourselves to come out, no matter who we’re playing and get the W,’’ Murphy said.
Sheldon McClellan did not start because he missed practice Friday with a lower extremity injury. But he entered four minutes into the game and seemed fine.
One of the loudest cheers of the afternoon was for a hastily produced video featuring new UM football coach Mark Richt. It included old photos of Richt in his Hurricanes uniform in the early 1980s, clips of his opening news conference Friday and an interview.
Larrañaga said he is “very excited’’ about the hiring of Richt.
“I love everything about him, but he’s a little young; he’s only 55,’’ the 66-year-old Larrañaga joked. “What’s great is his familiarity with the university as a student-athlete. It’s also great he played at Boca High. High school coaches will know he’s a Florida guy. … What’s so impressive is his record against the ACC … 19-3, been to bowls almost every year, top 10 seven years. How good will he be? Look at his track record. Look at his experience. Look at what he’s done. His youth should not be a problem.’’
As for the Hurricanes vs. the Gators on Tuesday, the coach has this message for fans: “I think the crowd should start getting here around 6 o’clock on Monday, and I’m not sure if that should be a.m. or p.m. Our students need to get here and get themselves ready for a Battle Royale.”