Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong scored a game-high 40 points, redshirt senior guards Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore combined for 47 points, and the Miami Hurricanes defeated Division II school Nova Southeastern 106-95 on Wednesday.
Nova Southeastern started the game with intensity, drawing a couple of loose balls against UM’s backcourt. Breaking the full court pressure, the Hurricanes shot 60% inside the first six minutes, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Wong.
“I know it would be great preparation for us,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They exposed a lot of our weaknesses, things we can work on heading into the regular season … A lot of the turnovers were careless errors, not bad plays but bad effort.”
After a couple of early timeouts, Larrañaga put the ball into the hands of the experienced transfer guard Charlie Moore. Moore, at his fourth school of his collegiate career, helped spark a 13-0 UM run midway through the first half.
“I felt pretty comfortable. My teammates set me up pretty well,” Moore said. “I feel like we followed the game plan pretty well, so I feel like it was easy for me to transition into the game and just play my game.”
Two 3-point field goals from the Chicago native, mixed with a timely assist to McGusty helped the Hurricanes open up a 20-point lead inside of 13 minutes.
“He makes the game a lot easier for me,” Wong said on Moore’s impact. “He gave me a lot of good looks tonight.”
The Hurricanes’ sloppier play became evident towards the back end of the half, with Nova Southeastern scoring 15 out of 17 points during UM’s four-minute dry spell to cut the deficit to nine. Moore’s right-handed layup ended the half on a high note, nonetheless, beating the buzzer to put Miami ahead, 45-33, at the break.
McGusty led all first half scorers with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Moore added 13 points in his first unofficial half as a Hurricane, while UM shot 50% overall.
The second half opened with the Sharks exploding out of the gate. A run that saw NSU drill five out of six attempts sliced the Miami lead down to single digits. More frustration ensued after an inbound turnover led to an easy slam dunk to reduce the lead down to seven.
When the Hurricanes needed a leader to step up, they looked to their leading scorer from last season. Preseason All-ACC guard Isaiah Wong was fifth in the conference in points per game and electrified in the second half. Wong scored 16 points inside the first eight minutes of the half, drilling four 3-pointers to help UM restore an 18-point lead.
“Oh man, that boy [is] good. [Isaiah Wong] was on fire from the three-point line tonight,” Moore said. “He was unstoppable.”
Wong produced 30 points in the second half alone, finishing with 40 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including an 8-of-14 mark on 3-point field goals. The performance would have set Wong’s career-high in points and 3-pointers made.
“He can put the ball in the basket. He can make some incredible layups, threes and free throws. And, his teammates got him the ball,” Larrañaga said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Charlie, Kam and his teammates for finding him in the open court and giving him a chance to go to the rim.”
The game’s conclusion teetered back and forth after both teams got into the double-bonus with plenty of time left. The Hurricanes were able to close the game, making their last four shots, sealing a double-digit win.
Wong’s 40 points, Moore’s 25 and McGusty’s 22 combined for approximately 82 percent of UM’s scoring. The team’s next highest scorers were third-year sophomore Harlond Beverly with eight points and true freshman Wooga Poplar’s five.
The Hurricanes were incredibly efficient from both the 3-point line and the charity stripe, having shot over 45 percent (15-of-33) from beyond the arch, including Wong’s eight triples, while making 27-of-31 free throws. The impressive foul-shooting performance would have been crucial for Miami last season, which lost three consecutive games by a combined five points.
Despite their 106 total points, the Hurricanes experienced frustrating plays. Miami turned the ball over 18 times, losing the turnover battle by five. The Canes committed an average of just over 13 turnovers per game last season to remain in the middle of ACC rankings.
The Hurricanes were also outmatched on the glass. The Sharks, fueled by 26 points and 14 rebounds from guard Sekou Sylla, out-rebounded Miami 48-41, with an 18-2 result on the offensive boards. Larrañaga was visibly frustrated in Miami’s effort on the glass against Nova Southeastern after the game.
“They were able to go the basket and score. And when they did miss a shot, they just flew to the offensive boards, and our guys were basically spectators,” Larrañaga said. “We will watch the video and learn from it.”
Sylla, in addition to NSU guards Eddie Puisis and Kobe Rodgers, fouled out down the stretch of the second half. Puisis tallied 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half to keep the Sharks alive.
Miami has 20 days to dissect its preseason performance game and get ready for its true season opener. The Hurricanes open their 2021 season at home against the Canisius Golden Griffins on Tuesday, November 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.