By Russell Hanson
Coral Gables- The Miami Hurricanes finally got back into the win column tonight with a complete team effort. Dejan Vasiljevic (15), Ebuka Izundu (14), Anthony Lawrence (11), and Chris Lykes (11) all contributed double digit points while Vasiljevic and Anthony Lawrence both notched double-doubles as The Hurricanes pummeled Notre Dame with a 62-47 victory.
The Hurricanes shot 44% from the field while holding Notre Dame to 32% shooting. The Hurricanes also outrebounded the Irish 39-33. After the game Coach L said, “I think overall we defended, and we rebounded well. This was the first game we won the rebound battle in a very long time.”
Notre Dame came out the gate firing hitting four of their first five shots to open up a 13 to 4 lead while the Hurricanes only managed to hit two of their first seven field goal attempts. Izundu was the only Hurricanes who seemed to be able to get a shot to fall as he scored all of the Hurricanes’ early points. “There was great concern on our side when we fell behind so quickly by the first TV timeout.” Coming out of that media timeout, Chris Lykes hit a really tough shot over two defenders to bring the Canes a little closer. Miami’s switch to a zone on defense seemed to trouble the Fighting Irish a bit as they turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. After the game, Coach Brey of the Fighting Irish praised the Hurricanes defense for really bothering them, “I really think Lykes’ ball pressure creates a lot of issues.”
Coach L was asked about his thought on that and responded with, “When he arrived in the Summer, July of his freshman year, we talked about how he could impact the game defensively and these last two games he’s been really on point.”
After a sloppy run of play, the Irish extended their scoreless drought to beyond five minutes. Chris Lykes and Ebuka Izundu continued to carry the team. With just over eleven minutes remaining, the Canes found themselves down 13-12 while Lykes and Izundu had six points each. John Mooney ended Notre Dame’s six-minute drought with a fast break dunk that put Notre Dame back up by two. A three by DJ Vasiljevic gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the game with 8:40 remaining.
The Hurricanes and Irish would trade the lead back and forth for a few minutes as neither team could get the big stop they needed. The teams both went over five minutes without scoring a single point. To say the first half was sloppy would be an understatement. Despite the sloppiness, Izundu ended the first half with a huge dunk to send the Hurricanes to the locker room leading 28-23.
When asked, Coach Larranaga said, “It’s very interesting. When we played Notre Dame last year, Lonnie Walker made a three at the buzzer and I thought it gave us tremendous momentum and then Notre Dame came out and scored the first nine points of the second half. So, I basically told the guys, ‘we did this last year. We can’t just relax and let them come out of the blocks very fast in the second half.”
The Hurricanes opened the second half by hitting their first three shots to open up an eleven-point lead and forcing Notre Dame to call a timeout. Out of the timeout Notre Dame would end their scoreless streak on a bucket by Laszewski, his fifth point of the game. Izundu reached 12 points by putting back a missed jumper by Vasiljevic but immediately waved over to the bench as he began to cramp.
Despite obvious signs of fatigue, Coach Larranaga’s squad continued to fight forcing six straight misses for the Irish while extending their lead back to 12. Anthony Lawrence extended that lead even further by hitting a corner three to put the Hurricanes up 43-28 with 13:30 left in the game.
Izundu re-entered the game with just over ten minutes remaining and picked right back up where he left off, creating a turnover on defense which led to free throws at the other end. Zach Johnson would hit one of two from the line to make the score 49-33. Smothering defense by the Hurricanes again forced a turnover which Lykes turned into an easy layup. As the Notre Dame scoring drought approached four minutes, Coach Mike Brey was forced to take a timeout with his Irish trailing by 18.
Late in the second half, Miami began an assault on the paint where Lawrence and Izundu looked unstoppable down low. With just under five minutes remaining, Lawrence drove left and scored an easy layup getting him his 10th and 11th points and notching a double-double. Izundu came close to matching his teammate but was pulled from the game, with three minutes left, needing three more rebounds.
As the clock ticked under three minutes, the Canes led 57-41 and the Watsco Center crowd showed their appreciation as they showered the team in applause. The final horn sounded and Miami got themselves an ACC victory.
Miami will return to action Saturday at 2pm in Chapel Hill where they will face the UNC Tar Heels.
PHOTO: Dejan Vasiljevic/hurricanessports.com