No. 15 Miami topped the 80-point mark for the seventh time this season, shot 55.8 percent from the field overall and 38.1 from behind the 3-point line, and won the rebound battle 37-32.
But what really pleased coach Jim Larranaga on the occasion of his 100th victory with the Hurricanes was the way his team played defense in its 85-63 victory over College of Charleston Saturday afternoon.
“I told the team after the game that that was a terrific defensive effort,” Larranaga said, pointing out key contributions from sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton, who led the team in scoring with a career-high 20 points in addition to career highs in rebounding (7) and steals (4), and freshman forward Anthony Lawrence, who contributed 11 points off the bench and had two steals.
“That second half defense after the first TV timeout, we went out and Kamari Murphy was everywhere. Ja’Quan, Anthony Lawrence, just a terrific defensive effort. And it led to fast-break layups, baskets, shared the ball.”
The Hurricanes held the vistiors to under 40 percent shooting from the field and under 31 from 3-point range. The Hurricanes had 11 steals that led to 17 Charleston turnovers.
The one negative?
“We had a few too many turnovers,” Larranaga said of the 17 miscues his team was charged with. “Some of those turnovers we were almost getting in each other’s way. They were trying to steal the ball right from the outlet pass, so we made a couple of miscues.
“But defense was so good for such a long period of time that I was very, very proud of the effort.”
This was a game that Larranaga was a bit leery of. The Hurricanes were coming off an 11-day break for final exams, and it was at this point at last year’s semester break they laid a huge egg before their own fans, losing 72-44 to unheralded Eastern Kentucky.
But they took care of business this time, winning their fourth in a row and improving their record to 9-1. They trailed only once, when Charleston’s Canyon Barry (the youngest son of former Miami and NBA great Rick Barry, who was watching from the stands) hit a 3-pointer to make it 3-2 in the opening minute.
The Hurricanes quickly responded and went to the locker room up 41-32. When the visiting Cougars trimmed the gap down to three points at 43-40, the Hurricanes went on a 12-2 run and remained in control over the final 12 minutes of the game.
The difference reached 28 points with under four minutes left before the Hurricanes let up.
In addition to the double-figure efforts from Newton and Lawrence, guard Sheldon Leonard had 14 points for the Hurricanes and center Tonye Jekiri 10.
Barry led the Cougars, who fell to 7-3, with 20 points. Backing him up were forward Jarrell Brantley with 13 points and 11 rebounds and guard Marquise Pointer with 11 points off the bench.
Miami will be back in action Tuesday night, taking on La Salle in the historic Palestra in Philadelphia. The Explorers are 4-4 and will be coming off their semester break.
Charleston is at Campbell the same night.