The Hurricanes took care of business against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, earning their second win of the season, 93-77, at the BankUnited Center on Monday night. The Canes controlled the game from start to finish, as they were able to set the tempo early on.
Miami (2-0) maintained balanced scoring throughout the game, as six players scored in double figures for the Canes. “The balance will make us harder to guard,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said.
Junior guard Davon Reed led the way with 19 points. Redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan was another key contributor to the victory as he got the Canes off to a strong start. The Houston native scored 16 points, 12 of which came in the first half. The team shot a blazing 56.4 percent from the field.
Coming into the game, the Canes keyed in on the Ragin’ Cajuns senior center Shawn Long, who averaged 16.4 points per game last season.
“They have an NBA center, a guy who will get drafted,” Larrañaga said of Long.
Long did his work on the inside as eight of his 13 points came in the paint. But his most significant damage was his ability to keep senior center Tonye Jekiri in and out of the game due to foul trouble.
“Shawn Long is such a powerful player inside, he got Tonye in foul trouble early,” Larrañaga said.
As a result of Jekiri’s foul trouble, Larrañaga played senior forward Ivan Cruz Uceda, a stretch forward, at the center position more often than expected. The Canes did not falter too heavily with this lineup change, as the team’s plus/minus when Uceda filled in for Jekiri was plus-2.
Uceda was vital to the team’s success. He not only played more minutes at center, but he also scored the ball efficiently. Uceda shot well from deep, going 3-of-5 from distance.
Freshman Anthony Lawrence Jr. also contributed after receiving more minutes from Larrañaga. The forward from St. Petersburg played an all-around impressive game with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. He showed hustle and tenacity throughout the contest. Midway through the first half Lawrence scored easy layups on back-to-back possessions as teammates saw him open after he made strong cuts.
“[Lawernce] is a very versatile player,” Reed said.
Redshirt senior point guard Angel Rodriguez added to the balanced scoring with 11 points. However, he was most effective on defense. Rodriguez forced Ragin’ Cajun guards into mishaps on multiple occasions. Early in the first half he forced turnovers on two consecutive inbounds plays.
“I thought Angel got us off to a good start defensively pressuring the ball,” Larrañaga said.
The Canes will next be in action Thursday night against Mississippi State as part of ESPN’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. Rodriguez, a native Puerto Rican, is excited about playing in his home country.
“I am very excited playing with this group of guys in front of my people, against very good competition early in the year,” Rodriguez said.
The tournament will also serve to expose the Hurricanes to some of the top talent across the NCAA.
“The reason we play these ESPN events is to find out early in the season how we match up with some of the best teams in the country,” Larrañaga said.