For anyone concerned Miami would look ahead of Charlotte with a matchup against Florida looming on Tuesday: the Hurricanes led by 30 at one point. In the first half.
No. 21 Miami thoroughly eviscerated the 49ers at the BankUnited Center on Saturday, winning 88-60, the team’s largest victory this season. Miami won both matchups against Charlotte last season by a combined 22 points. The Canes beat the 49ers by 28.
“I think the score just reflected how good we played on defense, and how we just came together as a team, not underestimating the other team,” redshirt junior forward Kamari Murphy said.
Head Coach Jim Larrañaga credited the team’s improved defense to drills they worked on to contest shots without fouling.
“I thought we needed a game like that from the defense standpoint. We’ve been working so hard to improve,” Larrañaga said. “We still fouled them a bit too much but we made them miss their threes. Three-for-18, 16 percent, we’ll take that any night.”
Larrañaga was also pleased with the balanced scoring attack on offense. All 12 of Miami’s players got on the court and nine of them scored. Sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton led both teams with 14 points on 2-of-5 shooting thanks to going 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
“We didn’t have a single guy take more than eight shots. [We] had four guys in double figures,” Larrañaga said. “We shared the ball very well, 19 assists. Had a few too many turnovers but I think the pace of the game is what we wanted.”
The game lasted the regular 40 minutes, but the Canes (7-1) only needed the opening 20 to put the 49ers away. Miami went on a 26-4 run in the middle of the first half to take a 40-10 lead with 4:14 left on the clock. The Canes shot 15-of-29 from the floor in the first half compared to 7-of-35 shooting for the 49ers. Eight different Canes scored at least five points in the first 20 minutes, while senior center Joseph Uchebo was the only 49er with a made field goal until the 1:05 mark.
The Hurricanes were 5-of-7 from deep at one point, and finished the half 5-of-10 on threes while Charlotte shot 1-of-10 from behind the arc. The Canes regularly got wide open looks from behind the three-point line thanks to some savvy ball movement and poor defense by Charlotte.
Senior center Tonye Jekiri sealed off the paint when he was on the floor, allowing Miami’s other players to aggressively defend their man on the perimeter. When the 49ers did manage an open look, they usually missed. Charlotte (1-7) took advantage of freshman center Ebuka Izundu when he spelled Jekiri for one minute early on, scoring two quick layups. Izundu didn’t play the rest of the half.
Newton started the game in place of redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan, who missed practice on Friday with a lower extremity injury. Newton led Miami’s balanced scoring attack with eight points in 18 minutes at the half. McClellan, Miami’s leading scorer coming into Saturday’s matchup, chipped in with five points in nine minutes off the bench. Miami led 46-21 at the break.
The 49ers never got within 20 in the second half, and trailed by at least 30 most of the final 11 minutes of the game. Junior guard Davon Reed put the Canes up 36 – the largest lead of the game – on a smooth jumper from the right wing with 8:50 remaining.
The Gators await the Canes on Tuesday, but Miami made sure not to overlook Charlotte first.
“We just take each game one at a time. Charlotte was first and then Florida is next,” Newton said. “On Tuesday we’ll be ready.”
The Canes play Florida at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the BankUnited Center.