Miami surges in second half for 69-63 win over North Texas

Stuck in a 12-point halftime deficit, Miami didn’t roll over Friday.

The Hurricanes outscored North Texas 41-23 after halftime behind 14 second-half points from third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong. Sixth-year senior guards Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore combined for 34 points in Miami’s 69-63 win in the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida.

“I thought our physical effort in the first half just wasn’t good enough at the defensive end of the floor to stop them. They had 40 points, they shot the ball great from three, they shot it great from two,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “But at halftime, we just talked about how important pure, physical effort is. We did a fantastic job in the second half holding them to 23 points after giving them 40 in the first half. At the same time, our guards really started to share the ball and get some better looks.”

Wong, the Hurricanes’ only double-digit scorer in the team’s 16-point loss to Dayton Thursday, finished with a game-high 21 points. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s fifth-leading scorer scored five points in the first 3 ½ minutes of the second frame, while McGusty and Moore added two quick layups to help fuel a 13-3 Miami run.

“Coach [Bill] Courtney, who is our offensive coordinator, had mentioned a few things that he had observed,” Larrañaga said. “So, we ran a couple of plays to get Isaiah a basket, to get Kam McGusty a basket. Every time one of them worked, our confidence grew.”

North Texas (2-3) only managed to tally eight points in the second half’s first 9 ½ minutes, while the Hurricanes (4-2) gained a four-point advantage. Guard Tylor Perry and forward Thomas Bell then drilled back-to-back 3-point field goals to alleviate the Mean Green scoring drought, putting North Texas back ahead by two.

Wong took over the back-and-forth battle, thereafter, scoring nine of Miami’s next 11 points, as the Hurricanes scored 13 transition points in the half. McGusty and Moore registered UM’s final six at the foul line, while holding North Texas to six in the final seven minutes and without a lead.

North Texas nailed nine 3-pointers in the first half and out-rebounded Miami 14-7. George Mason transfer guard Jordan Miller contributed six second-half points and sixth-year redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg scored four. Miami received no points from its reserves, however.

Without forcing 12 North Texas turnovers, the Hurricanes may have not garnered their first win of the multi-day event. McGusty, the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, grabbed a season-most 12 rebounds, and made 10 of 13 UM foul shots.

“I thought yesterday Kam struggled a good bit and he didn’t play much in the second half because of it, whereas today I didn’t even want to take him out,” Larrañaga said. “He had to ask to be taken out two different times because he was going so hard. That’s what you want from your leaders. You want their effort to be so good that they need a rest and then go back in and sustain it again.”

Bell provided the Mean Green with 18 points, yet North Texas relinquished 34 points in the paint.

Up next, the Hurricanes play the winner of the matchup between No. 10 Alabama and Drake. Tip-off is scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 p.m.