Basketball, Sports

No. 8 men’s basketball gears up for deep postseason run

Redshirt junior Kamari Murphy (21) blocks a Dowling defender during the Fall exhibition game at the Bank United Center. The No. 8 Hurricanes men’s basketball team is currently ranked in the AP top ten for the first time since March 2013. Nick Gangemi // Editor in Chief

Redshirt junior Kamari Murphy (21) blocks a Dowling defender during the Fall exhibition game at the BankUnited Center. The No. 8 Hurricanes men’s basketball team is currently ranked in the AP top ten for the first time since March 2013. Nick Gangemi // Editor-in-Chief

The BankUnited Center has been sold out game after game this year, and for good reason. The men’s basketball team has had an impressive season thus far.

Head Coach Jim Larrañaga’s squad came into the year with high expectations. The team has met them to this point, starting off the season with a record of 13-2 and a top-10 ranking. The No. 8 Canes have played unselfish basketball and clearly have adopted the concept of “wins over statistics.”

Miami had key victories early on, particularly over then-No. 16 Utah and then-No. 22 Butler in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The team also has quality victories over Florida and Syracuse as well. The Canes’ only losses have come from Northeastern on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater and No. 13 Virginia on Tuesday night.

The seniors have led the way on this team just as they were expected to do. Redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan is Miami’s top scorer, averaging 16.1 points a game while shooting more than 53 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free-throw line.

Senior center Tonye Jekiri is averaging about the same number of points, blocks and rebounds as last season, but his field goal percentage has shot up to a career-high 58.4 percent. While already the team’s defensive anchor and leading rebounder, Jekiri has improved his scoring touch around the basket and his mid-range jump shot.

Redshirt senior guard Angel Rodriguez has done well facilitating the offense and is shooting 41 percent from the field, a career-high mark.

Senior forward Ivan Cruz Uceda is not starting, but he continues to affect the game when his team needs him the most. When he is on the floor, he has arguably been the Canes’ most lethal three-point shooter. Uceda is shooting a career-high 54.1 percent from the field and a deadly 49.1 percent from three-point range. He has also improved his defense, which was once a glaring weakness of his.

Miami has benefited from its depth, often having multiple players from the starting lineup and the bench score in double figures. Sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton has played a pivotal role in Miami’s success, averaging over 11 points a game and shooting 52 percent coming off the bench.

The Hurricanes are poised to have their best season since the 2012-13 group that made it to the Sweet Sixteen if they continue to play at this level.

The Canes next face Clemson at 2 p.m. on Saturday in South Carolina.

January 14, 2016

Reporters

Isaiah Kim-Martinez

Isaiah Kim-Martinez can be reached on Twitter at @isaiah_km.


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