Miami shows ‘poise down the stretch’ against Florida Atlantic in 68-66 win

Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty shoots a 3-point shot during Miami's game against UCF on Nov. 13 at the Watsco Center.
Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty shoots a 3-point shot during Miami's game against UCF on Nov. 13 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Josh Halper

After a late Florida Atlantic run tied the game at 66, guard Isaiah Wong made a contested lay-up with 0.7 seconds remaining to give the Hurricanes a 68-66 victory.

“I told everybody to just get out of [Wong’s] way and Isaiah just go ahead and score,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I think he was either going to score or get fouled in that situation.”

Wong led the Hurricanes (2-1) in scoring on Tuesday night with 18 points on a 7-of-15 shooting mark.

“[Wong] is a very hard guy to keep from scoring,” Larrañaga said.

Larrañaga praised his team’s resiliency and composure in the game’s waning moments that prevented the Owls from achieving what would have been one of the more monumental victories in program history.

“We use an expression ‘poise down the stretch,’ and it’s on every game plan because we know we’re going to be in a lot of close games,” Larrañaga said. “The poise is just understanding that you got to keep attacking and keep playing defense. You got to keep executing the game plan.”

In the second half, Florida Atlantic (1-2) dominated the Hurricanes, outscoring them 46-34 in the last 20 minutes. The Owls’ defense suffocated Miami, as they shot 36% from the field and 20% from beyond the 3-point line, both of which are season-lows.

“I thought Florida Atlantic’s defense on us was actually very good,” Larrañaga said. “I’m just pleased we were able to squeak out a two-point victory.”

Freshman guards Bensley Joseph and Wooga Poplar received minutes off the Canes’ bench against the Owls, with Poplar scoring 12 points on an efficient 80% shooting clip from the field.

Wooga has that capability to make shots and score the ball,” Larrañaga said. “He’s got to earn some playing time through his defense. He’s been practicing harder and trying to get better defensively.”

For the first time this season, Miami changed its starting lineup, swapping junior guard Jordan Miller for redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr. This move was prompted by the stature of Owls’ starting center Vladislav Goldin, who stands at 7-foot-1 and weighs 240 pounds.

Despite appearing off the bench for the first time this season, Miller played an integral role for the Hurricanes, finishing the game with a team-high three offensive rebounds.

“[Miller] was in the game down the stretch,” Larrañaga said. “He got a terrific offensive rebound and made a couple free throws.”

After being rebounded 43-23 by Central Florida in last Saturday’s loss, the Hurricanes responded, tying a very tall Owls team in rebounding at 36 apiece.

“Rebounding was a real point of emphasis in the last couple of days,” Larrañaga said. “We still have to improve dramatically; it’s not where we need to be.”

Miami has a prime opportunity to refine its rebounding on Sunday against Florida A&M, which ranks in the bottom half nationally in team rebounds per game. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.