by Russell Hanson
Coral Gables, FL – The last time the Miami Hurricanes stepped onto a basketball court, they couldn’t quite overcome Sister Jean’s magic, falling to Loyola-Chicago in the opening game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Hoping to make that game a distant memory, the Canes opened their season tonight on the right foot with a 81-61 victory over the Barry Buccaneers in an exhibition game at the Watsco Center.
The Hurricanes shot 56% from the field and 47.6% with 7 players scoring in double digits. The Hurricanes also played impressive defense holding Barry to 36% shooting from the field and holding them scoreless for the final 3 minutes of the first half. In addition, Miami out-rebounded Barry 42 to 34 while adding 7 blocks and 7 steals.
Senior Anthony Lawrence II, whom Coach Larranaga said was dealing with cramping, led the way as Mr. Versatility for the Hurricanes with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists to go with 3 blocks and a steal. Fellow returning starters, DJ Vasiljevic and Dewan Hernandez, were both major contributors as well, with DJ scoring 17pts and Hernandez led all scorers with 19 points along with 10 rebounds for a double-double. Waardenburg started and played 21 minutes but was not much of a factor with 1 block and 1 rebound as he too, was dealing with cramping. Chris Lykes played 30 minutes and shot only 3 of 10 from the field but managed to score 10 points. Barry University head coach, Butch Estes, said they game planned around Lykes and it showed as they sent double teams his way early and often. Coach Estes also praised Lawrence as the “glue that holds the team together” saying that Lawrence is always there “…to hit a big shot when they need one.”
All 3 Miami newcomers scored their first points in the green and orange with Zach Johnson, the 2017 All-Atlantic Sun guard, playing significant minutes (26) and scoring 17. Anthony Mack, the Wyoming transfer, and first season walk-on Willie Herenton both entered the game with less than 5 minutes remaining and scored 3 and 1 points respectively. Another newcomer to the Canes, Rodney Miller Jr, did not play and in the post game press conference, Coach L indicated that he would redshirt this season in preparation to be a major contributor next year.
When asked about what the team can learn and improve on going forward, Coach L mentioned turnovers. He felt they did a good job in the second half with 6 turnovers versus 9 in the first. This will be something that Miami must clean up if they hope to compete for an ACC title. Coach L also talked about having 7 guys that will rotate in and out of the starting lineup: Hernandez, Waardenburg, Lykes, Vasiljevic, Lawrence II, Johnson, and Izundu. Coach L feels that Gak and Mack can both be contributors during the season but notes they are still developing.
Miami will officially start its season on Friday, November 9th with their home opener against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks who finished 16-14 last season. Tip off is scheduled for 7p.m.