For the first 10 minutes of the game, it looked as though Miami stood a chance against the fifth ranked Louisville Cardinals.
But with a combination of poor defense and difficulty making shots, the Hurricanes were unable to overcome the offensive power of the fifth ranked Cardinals, losing their season opener 87-74 Tuesday night at the Watsco Center.
“I thought our guys actually played the first ten minutes like we wanted to,” said Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. “But the last ten minutes, we just turned the ball over and gave them some easy opportunities, which gave them the big lead.”
Up 8-7, Miami held the lead for almost four minutes, until Louisville guard Ryan McMahon hit back-to-back three pointers to give Louisville the lead at 18-16.
From that point on, Louisville remained in front of the Hurricanes and went into halftime with a 45-26 lead.
“One of the things that we’ve been talking about right from the start of practice is that we need to improve defensively,” Larrañaga said. “When you make mistakes defensively, the best thing you can do is learn from them so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Junior guard Chris Lykes, a preseason Second Team All-ACC member, didn’t score his first basket until a little over six minutes before the end of the first half. But the guard was able to overcome his first half shooting struggles and finished the game with 18 points and five assists.
“I think I missed some easy shots that I know I can make,” Lykes said. “It took me a minute to really start feeling like myself out there and that’s nerves. It’s a big game.”
Lykes led Miami in scoring, followed closely behind by senior guard DJ Vasilijevic, who had 16 points and went 4-7 from the three point line. Transfer guard Kameron McGusty also scored 13 points.
Freshman guard Harlond Beverly came off the bench early in the first half and immediately made an impact, scoring on two consecutive contested layups. Beverley and freshman forward Anthony Walker both contributed nine points.
Miami finished the game with a 43.5 field goal shooting percentage.
“I thought our whole team offensively struggled a little bit at the offensive end,” Larrañaga said. “We turned the ball over too much. We lost a little bit of our patience and tried to do some things that we couldn’t do.”
In the second half, two lay-ups from center Rodney Miller and a three pointer from Vasilijevic should have cut the lead down, but Louisville reciprocated the offense and scored three consecutive baskets of their own.
Louisville hit back-to-back three pointers with 13 minutes to go in the second half, forcing Miami to call a timeout as the Cardinals extended their lead to 28.
A jumper from Darius Perry at the midway point of the second half gave Louisville their largest lead of the game at 32.
The Canes were able to find some offensive rhythm in the waning minutes of the second half and went on a 16-2 run for the last three and a half minute of the game, but it was not enough to overcome Louisville’s lead.
“In the second half, it kind of just seesawed back and forth for a little while and we played much better late in the game to cut the lead and make the score a little more respectable,” Larrañaga said.
The Hurricanes will next play Florida Atlantic University on Friday at the Watsco Center.