When Miami (2-1, 0-0) was down 12-0 nearly six minutes into its matchup with the visiting Texas Southern Tigers on Thursday, all signs pointed towards another tough battle for the Canes, who played in two overtime games to start the season.
“At that point, I think three shots had been blocked and we shot an air ball and missed a couple of easy ones,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga after the game. “But after that first timeout, our defense started to play a little bit smarter. That made it a little bit more difficult for them and our offense. We started to share the ball more.”
The Hurricanes would eventually end up with 21 assists during their first win in regulation. Miami blew out the Tigers, 84-69.
“I think we’re probably the only Division I basketball team that’s played two overtimes already so it was nice to get out of here early,” said senior guard Rion Brown, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Former junior college forward James Kelly had his coming-out party for Miami. He scored 17 points and added seven rebounds. The Canes’ leading scorer got started with a 3-pointer after teammate Donnavan Kirk broke the Canes’ scoring drought to spark a 17-4 run that would give the Canes their first lead of the game with 8:43 left in the first half.
The Hurricanes’ comeback was further fueled by their two freshman guards Davon Reed and Manu Lecomte, who combined for 23 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Reed was especially efficient, shooting 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from 3-point range.
“I think Davon was the catalyst tonight,” Larranaga said. “He was the one that really got things started. He was aggressive looking for his 3-point shot and he made some nice passes.”
After the fire was lit, the Canes turned to a team effort on offense to complete the rout, shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3.
“I think just once everybody calmed down and played their game, like I said, everything took care of itself,” Brown said. “Nobody was in a rush. Nobody was trying to do too much. You know, we were just looking for the open man and everybody was getting shots. I think we had six people in double digits. That’s good basketball.”
Miami’s offense also helped ignite a stronger defensive effort with many Canes jumping the Tigers’ passing lanes for a total of 12 steals.
“You also play better defense when you’re scoring the ball,” Larranaga said. “Because when the opponent has to take the ball out of bounds and doesn’t have a chance to just get a quick fast break, you’re able to set your defense.”
The Hurricanes hope to keep the momentum going as they face their first away game of the season. Miami faces the College of Charleston at 7:30 p.m. Monday. It is unclear if the Canes will be without starting center Tonye Jekiri, who left with a knee injury and did not return to the Texas Southern game.