The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team beat Division II Barry University 73-62 in an exhibition match on Wednesday evening at the newly named Watsco Center.
“My major thought is that our defense in practice, we’ve worked very hard, but we don’t see the results as much as I would like to at this point,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said after the game. “We’re not that deep. We’re young. We have a lot of inexperienced guys. We can’t have our veterans sitting on the bench in foul trouble. We’re working on the man-to-man and hopefully we can improve on that in the next week because we’re going to have to be better next week.”
The Canes got off to a quick start, pulling ahead 8-0 behind their five returners in the starting lineup.
At the 15:46 mark, Miami subbed in a completely different group that featured freshman All-Americans Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell.
“I want to be able to platoon early in the game so I can see who is in good rhythm and playing pretty well,” said Larrañaga, who was inducted into the Iron Arrow Honor Society just hours before the tip.
The Buccaneers quickly answered with a run of their own, cutting the Canes’ lead to 10-7.
While the Hurricanes were able to extend their lead to as many as 15 in the first half, the Buccaneers hung around and continued to chip at the lead. Miami went into the locker room up 38-31.
The Canes had eight turnovers and only two fast break points in the first half.
“We need to be much better in the open court,” Larrañaga said. “We had a travel called against Ja’Quan Newton. We had a pass Davon overthrew D.J. Murph had a charge. We had plenty of opportunities, but we just didn’t convert.”
Senior guard Davon Reed headed Miami’s charge in the first half with 13 points on five of seven shootings, including three of four from behind the arc.
Coming out of the intermission, Barry made things interesting behind hot shooting performances from guards Elvar Fridriksson and Sawyer Glick. The Buccaneers were able to trim down the Hurricanes’ advantage to a mere two-point lead, with the score being 55-53, leading to a timeout called by Larrañaga.
The Canes responded and didn’t look back after back-to-back triples from Reed and Brown, as Miami pulled away and held on to win by an 11-point margin.
“I liked what we did,” Larrañaga said. “I liked how the team pulled together at the end when they pulled to within two, but we have a lot of work to do defensively.”
Miami shot 25-48 (52 percent) from the field but allowed Barry to connect on 13 triples.
Reed led the charge for the Canes and finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds and two assists.
“I thought he was very good,” Larrañaga said of Reed’s performance. “He got himself in a little bit of a hurry a couple of times, but I thought he played a great floor game.”
Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton ran the show for Miami and finished with 18 points and four assists.
“A point guard is like a quarterback,” Larrañaga said. “He’s got to know when to pass, when to run and when to hand it off to somebody else. We want him to get that assist to turnover ratio to 2:1.”
The Hurricanes also got strong contributions from big men Ebuka Izundu and Kamari Murphy, who combined for 16 points and 13 boards.
“One of the things – whether it is basketball or life itself – it’s about balance,” Larrañaga said. “You want good balance in your life, and our players need good balance in our offense.”
Miami got a solid performance from highly-touted freshman combo guard Brown, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
“It was great,” Brown said about his debut. “The guys gave me confidence to shoot the ball and make plays.”
While the Hurricanes were able to salvage a victory in their first action since being bounced by the national champion Villanova Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament last March, they believe they can improve with the regular season just around the corner.
“I think the new guys have taken some good steps in scrimmage and today in the exhibition,” Reed said. “As a team, not just the new guys, we’re a work in progress as you can see.”
Miami tips off regular season action against Western Carolina at 7 p.m on Friday at the Watsco Center.