The Hurricanes opened their season with a crushing 49-point victory over the Western Carolina Catamounts, and while it was just one game against a clearly inferior opponent, the contest clearly showcased some strengths and weaknesses of the UM basketball team.
Let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives from Miami’s first regular season outing.
Defense – Miami dominated on the defensive end from the opening tip on Friday night. They surrendered just 18 points in the entire first half.
“I was very pleased with our defense,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said in the press conference following the game. “Right from the very start, we showed a lot of focus, intensity and teamwork on that side of the ball.”
Redshirt senior forward Kamari Murphy was impressed with the effort his teammates put forth on defense.
“Defensively, I think we were great today,” Murphy said. “We didn’t let them get any second shots and really just did our job.”
Larrañaga has been echoing that defense is an area in which the team has struggled during practice, but the Hurricanes showed up in that category against the Catamounts. Now, the team must sustain it.
Balance – Much like last season’s Sweet Sixteen team, Miami spread the scoring around. It had five different players score in double figures, and no single player scored more than 14 points, even though the team racked up 93 in total.
“We didn’t just have balance in scoring; look at the rebounding and assist numbers as well,” Larrañaga said. “If everyone is chipping in, that’s a good thing.”
Murphy talked about how sharing the ball is the brand of basketball that the Canes are always trying to play, and it will continue to be a focus as the season moves on.
Inexperience – It is no secret that this year’s team is young. It returns just two starters from last season’s team and is rotating four freshmen in and out of the lineup. The newcomers played well in the lopsided win, combining for 36 points on 41 percent shooting, but there were moments in the game when the players showed lapses of concentration, specifically on defense.
“When we went to the zone late, they made three threes in the final three minutes,” Larrañaga said. “Had we taken our foot off the accelerator earlier, it could’ve been a very different second half.”
Growing pains are to be expected with a roster that lost four seniors in the offseason. The only question is, how long it will take to for the team to adjust?
The Canes will look to build upon the strengths and improve upon the weaknesses as the season moves on.