Different year, same results. With senior guard Lance Hurdle missing the season opener due to injury, sophomore guard Eddie Rios carried the backcourt with a career-high 17 points, as the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes thumped Florida Southern 96-60.
Rios shot a team-best 3-3 on three-pointers while dishing out four assists. Rios looked more comfortable on the court this year than he did last season.
“I felt confident out there,” Rios said. “It’s a new year, new season. I had a lot of confidence coming into the game.”
Said head coach Frank Haith on Rios, “Eddie’s performance was great to see. He stepped up tonight.”
Down in the paint, junior Dwayne Collins was a problem child, adding 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Even Florida Southern’s seven-footer couldn’t slow down Collins, as he twice succumbed to Collins’ thunderous dunks.
“Dwayne was phenomenal,” Haith said. “That’s the kind of big boy stats you want. He played like he was capable of. When he plays like that, he is a tough match-up.”
Last year, Miami defeated Florida Southern 104-61 and scored 50 points in the paint. The focus of this year’s game was the same with the Hurricanes, bruising Florida Southern with 42 points in the paint and 22 fast-break points.
The night started out tough for first team All-ACC selection Jack McClinton, as he struggled to find his rhythm and tallied only six points by the half. McClinton didn’t make his first three-pointer until 9:25 remained in the second half. McClinton did end up finishing with 18 points, though, a career-best for season-opening games.
But all eyes were on the Hurricanes newcomers. Last year, forward Cyrus McGowan had to sit out a season due to NCAA transferring rules. McGowan got the nod to start over senior forward Jimmy Graham and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I was anxious to play,” McGowan said. “I couldn’t wait to play with these guys. We have so much hunger this season.”
Highly touted freshman DeQuan Jones had a tough first night, but Haith attributes this to his nerves. Jones had back-to-back turnovers once he entered the game, and his first shot was an air ball. But down the stretched in the second half, Jones found his comfort zone, as he scored seven points in a span of 90 seconds.
“Quan got his feet wet,” Haith said. “He is a freshman, and he was just anxious, you could see that. It was great that he broke through that and was able to make some plays at the end because we are going to need him.”
Senior forward Brain Asbury also got in on the action, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Up next, the Hurricanes will to travel to the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam Tournament. Their first opponent will be Southern Miss on Friday, and, if they advance, they could potentially play No. 2 Connecticut in the second round.
“The competition is tough out there,” Haith said. “It’s another great tournament and I’m excited for our team. We will have our work cut out for us.”