It was a tale of two halves when the Hurricanes opened their season with an 87-79 victory over the Stetson Hatters at the BankUnited Center Friday night.
The visitors led for most of the first half, shooting 46.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and holding the Canes to a 39.3 field goal percentage. The teams went into halftime tied 34-34, but Miami’s defense was unable to contain the Hatters’ long-range shooters.
“They’re an excellent 3-point shooting team,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “As strange as it seems, we can’t prepare for that because the guys who are starting are our best 3-point shooters, and the guys they go against are guys that don’t shoot the 3.”
The Canes turned the tide in the second half, shooting a whopping 63.6 percent from the field. Miami also clamped down on defense, holding the Hatters to 37.5 percent from long range.
Miami’s big men exploited their height advantage; centers Reggie Johnson (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Kenny Kadji (12 points, 12 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles.
“Their size gave us a lot of problems tonight,” Stetson coach Casey Alexander said. “All of the toughness stats, offensive rebounds for each team, the number of free throws that are taken for each team, you know, they kicked us by a large margin there. And size alone has a lot to do with that, but I think in the second half they wanted the ball more than we did.”
Sixth-year Hurricanes senior Julian Gamble, who played in his first regular season game under Larranaga after sitting out all of last year with an ACL injury, thinks the difference in the second half boiled down to execution.
“We talked about kind of buckling down and just getting back to what we know how to do, and sharing the ball more and just playing more of an up-tempo game,” Gamble said. “We had to try to keep them off the glass.”
With Durand Scott missing the game due to suspension, the Canes relied heavily on guard Bishop Daniels to fill the void. In his first game as a Hurricane, the North Carolina native played 21 minutes and contributed defensively with a game-high three steals.
“He did OK,” Gamble said. “I spoke to him before he got in. I told him that the game’s a lot faster than you think it is, and Bishop’s a fast dude. When we got in the game, the first dead ball, he’s like ‘Yo, this game is fast’. But after that he settled down.”
Miami is now 49-14 in season openers and has won 20 straight home openers. The Canes will travel to Fort Myers to face Florida Gulf Coast University at 7 p.m. Tuesday.