The shorthanded University of Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team lost their ACC opener, 70-55, to the Pittsburgh Panthers, Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
Despite entering the game with only seven available scholarship players, Miami (3-2, 0-1 ACC) were able to keep the game close before a late Pittsburgh (5-1, 1-0 ACC) run put the game away.
The Hurricanes were without regular starters Chris Lykes, Kam McGusty and Rodney Miller, all out with injuries, in addition to Sam Waardenburg, who is out for the season, and freshman Earl Timberlake.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong led the Canes with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Anthony Walker also added 12 points and 10 rebounds in his first start of the season for Miami.
The Canes offense struggled to score for most of the night though. Miami finished the game shooting only 32.7 percent from the field, 20.8 percent from 3-point range, and 51.6 percent from the free-throw line.
“Our man to man defense was solid for most of the game. We just can’t make any shots, can’t make free-throws, can’t make threes,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said after the game. “We ended up going 5-for-24 from three, 24 percent. You just can’t win games when you can’t make open threes and free throws.”
Miami is still down five scholarship players due to injuries. The absences of these players have hurt the team’s ability to practice, which coach Larrañaga said could be the reason the team is having a hard time finding their shot.
“I would say some of it has to do with the lack of practice, Like legitimate practice. Monday, we did not have six guys and then yesterday Matt Cross had to have this shoulder looked at, so he was not in practice,” Larrañaga said “If you think about our team coming into the season, we had five starters returning and four of them are injured; not playing and haven’t played in the last several games”
It was a back-and-forth first half as both teams struggled to find their shot. After falling down by nine with just over three minutes to play in the first half, Miami went on a 9-2 run to cut the Panther’s lead to 27-25 at halftime.
The Panthers came out strong to start the second half, going on a 7 to 2 run to open their lead back up to seven points but again Miami responded with an 8-0 run to take a 35-34 lead. The Canes didn’t hold on to that lead for long though as the Panther went on a 19-2 run to take the lead back. During that run, Miami was without freshmen forward Matt Cross who left the game with a leg injury and did not return. Wong also left the game briefly with cramps before returning to close out the game.
Miami tried to fight their way back into the game the rest of the way but ultimately came up short losing 70-55.
“I feel like as a team we put more pressure on our self that we don’t need to put pressure on,” Wong said after the game. “Sometimes it affects our game but in reality, we all have a role to fill and sometimes that role is just play some defense and hope that we could win games and make shots and just play good defense as a team, it’s all about team effort.”
The Hurricanes next game will be a non-conference match-up with the Jacksonville Dolphins Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Watsco Center.