In its first test against a school from a major conference, the University of Miami men’s basketball team prevailed against Rutgers Tuesday night by a final score of 72-57.
The Canes were led by guards Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who dropped 19 points apiece. Scott was relentless against the Scarlet Knights down the stretch with his running teardrop over taller defenders, and Grant delivered from the three-point line.
“We are constantly trying to put them in positions to do well,” said head coach Jim Larranaga, after his second win with Miami.
Kenny Kadji, the redshirt sophomore transfer out of the University of Florida, chipped in with a loaded stat line of 13 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He provided the formidable post presence his team desperately needs with Reggie Johnson out.
“[Kadji] is very skilled,” Larranaga said. “He’s long, he’s athletic, he can jump. His defensive presence was one of the major keys tonight.”
While Kadji played solid interior defense, blocking and altering a number of Scarlet Knight shots, the Canes surrendered several second-chance opportunities, allowing Rutgers 22 offensive rebounds.
“Our initial defense was very good, our rebound defense could have been better,” Larranaga said. “That’s an area where we’re undersized. We know we have to work at it and improve.”
While Miami led by as many as 19, they experienced a scare midway through the second half in the form of a 15-2 run that cut their lead to six.
The difference in this game, as opposed to most of last year, was clear: When the opponent made a run to cut into a big Hurricane lead, the players kept their composure and ultimately came away with a win.
“We’ve been through those tough times where we lost leads and didn’t execute at the end,” Grant said. “Coach [Larranaga], he’s key for us. He knows when a team is down, specific ways to beat them.”
Scott said the team has learned from past miscues and attributes their success down the stretch Tuesday to maturity.
“We just stayed calm, we stayed poised, stayed together,” he said.
Led by Malcolm Grant, who at one point drained three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, the Canes started 5 of 9 from the outside.
“I think the reason why Malcolm has been so successful is he’s an incredible shooter,” Larranaga said. “Maybe the best I’ve ever coached.”
Miami ended the first half shooting 53.8 percent on threes, but later came back down to Earth.
Freshman Shane Larkin made his debut for Miami after receiving news at 1 p.m. Tuesday that an NCAA waiver cleared him to compete immediately after transferring from DePaul.
He entered seven minutes into the game, and on his very first possession as a Cane, knocked down a three-point basket.
The Hurricanes avenged their 61-45 loss early last season against these same Scarlet Knights up in New Jersey.
Miami’s next challenge will be another home game against the North Florida Ospreys on Saturday at 7 p.m.