The Miami Hurricanes charged to a 84-49 win over Howard University Friday night. Redshirt juniors Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez combined for 35 points.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” said Rodriguez, who went for 16 points on the night. “Teams like that – you can’t give them any hope. They’re trying to prove themselves.”
Miami jumped on Howard quickly from the start, bursting to a 17-1 lead just over eight minutes into the game, off 7-14 shooting. Howard shot 4-21 in that span, unable to penetrate off Miami’s perimeter, led by Rodriguez who tallied 4 steals on the night.
“To get up 17-1 was very much a surprise to me, but a pleasant surprise,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said.
The best the Bison could manage in the first half was a quiet 9-4 run that cut Miami’s lead to 41-19, en route to a 45-21 halftime score. Howard shot just 2-18 from the perimeter for the game.
Perhaps the defining sequence of the first half came with 6:44 remaining. Trailing 30-10, Howard threw a lob toward the basket attempting an alley-oop, only to have starting center Tonye Jekiri knock it away. Rodriguez grabbed possession, and mere seconds later an alley-oop was thrown to McClellan for a score, increasing Miami’s lead to 22 and giving the crowd a show.
“We’ve got good chemistry,” Rodriguez said. “If you throw it up, he’ll go get it. You guys will be seeing that a little bit more.”
Perhaps the biggest concern for Miami going forward will be their ability to rebound against teams with a strong frontcourt. Miami finished even with Howard on the boards, 43-43, leaving Larrañaga cognizant of the challenge ahead for Miami.
“We’re small. We’re missing two big rebounders,” he said, referencing Ivan Cruz-Uceda and Davon Reed. “Our real issue is on the boards.”
Two of Miami’s returners made their impact of the game. Jekiri showed good hustle on the glass before fouling out, notching 11 rebounds in 26 minutes played, while sophomore Manu Lecomte quietly scored 14 points on 5-9 shooting. The freshman class for Miami combined for 23 points; after the game, Rodriguez was adamant about the role they will play moving forward, with a road game at Florida looming Monday night.
“It’s a great challenge for the team early in the season,” Rodriguez said. “We have to make sure we stay calm – we have to talk to the young guys. Usually in an atmosphere like that guys tend to get excited.”
Florida is ranked seventh in the country. In the words of Larrañaga, it’s a group of “young NBA players.” The Canes will have their work cut out for them, but based on their performance Friday night, should be able to play the Gators tough.
“That’s what you come to Miami for,” said Rodriguez, a grin on his face, knowing his first big test as a Cane after sitting out a season is hours away. “You come to play the best of the best.”