The Miami Hurricanes entered Monday night’s game against Florida Atlantic with an unblemished record, but at a terrible rebounding disadvantage.
But as the schedule gets tougher for Miami, players are changing many things about their play to become a top-tier team.
The Hurricanes (5-0) grabbed 60 rebounds – 31 on the offensive end – en route to a 74-48 win over FAU at the Miami Arena. It was only their second game all season (Eastern Michigan) in which they out-rebounded their opponent.
“Our team is so talented offensively, it’s hard to change the mindset of a player and get him to want to crash the boards,” said forward James Jones, who had a team-high 15 rebounds. “That’s something that personally and as a team we’ve been working on – doing those things that we aren’t comfortable with that we need improvement.”
Four UM players scored in double figures, led by Jones (15) and Darius Rice (14).
FAU, on the other hand, shot only 28 percent, including a dismal 2-for-27 from three-point range.
The Owls jumped out early, however, going on a 7-0 run to start the game. The Hurricanes came right back, cutting the lead to one, and most of the first half went back and forth. But Miami closed out the half on a 12-2 run and took a 38-25 lead.
Then four minutes into the second half, the Hurricanes went on a 15-2 run to break the game open. Miami took advantage of 22 FAU turnovers, converting them into 26 points.
The Hurricanes finish off their homestand against FIU on Monday before heading to College Station, Texas for a Dec. 8 matchup with Texas A&M.
The Hurricanes have had several players help them to their best start since the 1997-98 season. John Salmons was named the Most Valuable Player of the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, leading Miami to victories over Eastern Michigan, UAB and Clemson. Salmons averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds over the three games.
Rice has led the team in scoring and rebounding for the season, averaging 16.2 points and 7.8 boards per game.
Over the past two games, Michael Simmons has come off the bench to give Miami a spark. Against FAU, the red-shirt junior scored a career-high 13 points, two days after scoring 11 against Lafayette.
The oft-injured guard is helping the Hurricanes step up their game, while finding new life as UM’s sixth man.
“I think he sacrificed a great deal,” Clark said. “He put aside his ego for the good of the team.”
Many players have done that for the undefeated Miami Hurricanes.