On Tuesday afternoon, head coach Jim Larrañaga called Bruce Brown Jr. “the face of the program.”
However, with the sophomore guard sidelined due to a foot injury, freshman phenom Lonnie Walker IV stole the spotlight on Wednesday evening at the Watsco Center.
The reigning ACC Co-Rookie of the Week notched 16 points and five rebounds, while shooting a perfect 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, to lead Miami past Pittsburgh 69-57.
“He’s got himself in a really good place mentally,” Larrañaga said of Walker. “I think his teammates are recognizing that and are trying to get him the ball. I’m real proud of him for the way he is growing as a player and as a teammate.”
Junior Anthony Lawrence II finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. Freshman point guard Chris Lykes, who made his second career start, tallied 13 points, including 10 points after halftime, and five assists. Sophomore forward Dewan Huell registered 11 points and six rebounds.
“When people talk about Chris [Lykes] and they’re surprised at what he’s doing, I tell people every day, ‘That’s a lifestyle for that kid,’” Walker said.
— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) February 1, 2018
Miami (16-5, 5-4 ACC) led by as many as 13 points, but Pittsburgh (8-15, 0-10 ACC) used a 14-0 run to take its first lead of the evening, 44-43, with 10:43 remaining in the contest.
That’s when Larrañaga and the Hurricanes took a timeout to make a crucial adjustment – to change to a zone defense.
“The guys were very active in the zone,” Larrañaga said. “With the emergence of Lonnie and Sam [Waardenburg], it gave us good size in the zone. I thought that was the difference in the game. We did a really good job of limiting them.”
After going scoreless for more than five minutes, the Canes responded offensively, led by Walker who rattled off seven-straight points on his own to spur a 14-2 run.
Miami never looked back from there.
Pittsburgh finished with three players scoring in double figures. Jared Wilson-Frame registered a game-high 17 points, including five three-pointers. Marcus Carr chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds, while Parker Stewart tallied 11 points.
The Hurricanes have won three of their last four games.
The Panthers have dropped 10-straight games and have yet to register a win over a Power-Five opponent, falling to 0-8 on the season against such teams.
“I don’t like trailing – I don’t like losing at all,” Walker said. “I kind of got into my tunnel vision mode to the point where I just felt like I had to take over.”
All eight Miami players that logged minutes registered points.
Senior guard Ja’Quan Newton came off the bench for the first time since Feb. 27, 2017. He scored just three points and was called for a technical foul midway through the second half, after which he was taken out of the game and didn’t return.
The Panthers took only three free-throws compared to 23 taken by the Canes.
“I thought a big thing in the game was we got into the bonus with 11 minutes to play and never got to the foul line except for a technical foul and an and-one,” Pittsburgh head coach Kevin Stallings said. “We had it in a great spot, and then we stopped creating fouls.”
Miami next plays Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Feb. 3 at Cassell Coliseum.
Pittsburgh returns home to host No. 19 North Carolina at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Peterson Events Center.