Despite a valiant effort by Miami to cut what was once a 17-point lead by the University of Central Florida to just three points, the Hurricanes lost to the Knights on Saturday and suffered their first loss of the season.
“I think we did a good job being scrappy and chipping away at that score,” Miami forward Sam Waardenburg said. “The end of the game reflects the things we didn’t do early on in the game. We got to come out with a better mindset. We got to come out with more energy.”
Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong led the Hurricanes’ second half comeback, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes of play. Sixth year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty led Miami in scoring with 28 points, tying a career high.
In the first half, the Hurricanes (1-1) struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 2-for-15 from 3-point range to start off the game.
“We missed some, what I consider, wide-open threes from guys who could really shoot the three,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We ended up digging ourselves in a double-digit hole and spent the rest of the game trying to fight and make a comeback.”
Guard Darin Green Jr. led the Knights (2-0) in scoring with 23 points. He was sensational from 3-point range, making 5-of-9 attempts.
Rebounding was a major issue for the Canes, as they were out-rebounded by UCF 43 to 23.
“I’m afraid we have a few weaknesses and rebounding is one of them,” Larrañaga said. “[UCF] was all over the glass and we couldn’t keep them off the boards.”
Redshirt junior forward Deng Gak and freshman guard Bensley Joseph made their season debuts against Central Florida. Joseph, a 6-foot-1 lefty from Arlington, Massachusetts, had a strong first appearance, scoring three points and playing tough defense off the Canes’ bench.
“Bensley’s been practicing very hard,” Larrañaga said. “Once Bensley went in, you saw how hard he played defense. That’s really the key for any freshman: to come in and play very hard at the defensive end of the floor.”
The Knights were dominant on offense, surpassing the Hurricanes in field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and assists.
“Tonight [was] not a very good defensive game for us,” Waardenburg said. “[Defense] is something that we really need to work on. We are an undersized team; [we] are going against guys who are usually a lot heavier than us, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for us.”
Miami will look to bounce back on Tuesday against FAU in Boca Raton. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We really need to learn to play under the circumstances we’re dealing with,” Larrañaga said. “If a team can really shoot the three, like Central Florida, we’ve got to help each other to make them miss.”