Miami prepared for ‘very physical game’ against Pittsburgh

Head coach Jim Larrañaga yells at players on defense during the second half of Miami's win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Watsco Center.
Head coach Jim Larrañaga yells at players on defense during the second half of Miami's win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Miami men’s basketball will conclude its regular-season slate with three of its four games away from the Watsco Center, starting with a trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on Pittsburgh.

The Panthers (11-17, 6-11 Atlantic Coast Conference) welcome the Hurricanes amid playing their best basketball of the season, winning three of their last four games, including road wins against both Florida State and North Carolina.

“I think we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on,” Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel said. “We’ve continued to show up, and we’ve continued to try to get better, and because of that I think we have gotten better.”

Pittsburgh will present a contrasting playing style to that of Miami (19-8, 11-5 ACC). The Panthers have branded themselves on playing with physicality and punishing teams in the paint, ranking 19th nationally in free throws attempted per game.

“Pittsburgh is a hugely physical team,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Their guards are very physical. This is going to be a very physical game.”

Leading the Panthers’ imposing offensive attack is sophomore forward John Hugley, who is averaging 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season, leading Pittsburgh in both categories.

“We’ve got to put enough pressure on their guards and enough guys in the lane to limit the amount of space [Hugley] gets to work with,” Larrañaga said. “We’ll try to front him. We’ll try to help from behind and maybe trap him at times and really pay him a lot of attention.”

One Hurricane who will likely draw the assignment of guarding Hugley is fourth-year guard Jordan Miller, whose defensive versatility has had him guarding players of various positions throughout the season for Miami.

“Defense for me was something that I wanted to improve on in the beginning of the season,” Miller said. “I’m usually going up against someone who’s taller than me … I just want to do whatever I can do to help my team win.”

Miller is one of the numerous collegiate veterans leading Miami to the season it has been having. With an average age of 21.38 years old, the Hurricanes are the oldest team in the ACC and the ninth oldest in Division 1.

“[Miami is] an older team, they’re an experienced team,” Capel said. “All of them have the ability to dribble, pass and shoot … They have had a really outstanding season.”

Tip-off between the two ACC foes is on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.