After a convincing 73-58 win to open the Diamond Head Classic against Hawaii, Miami lost their next two games to #3 Arizona by 19 and Indiana State by two, in overtime. While the results were certainly disappointing, it's worth noting that the Canes weren't on their "A" game in those last two games, and were missing starting Center Reggie Johnson. It seems safe to say that we can expect the team to shoot better than 35% going forward, which is what they averaged in those last two games in Hawaii.
Miami now returns to the continental United States to take on the Atlantic 10's La Salle Explorers. The Explorers enter the game 9-2 on the season, including winners of three straight and 8 of the last 9. On Sunday, the Canes received some bad news: Starting Center Reggie Johnson was ruled out not only for tonight's game, but also for the next six weeks with a broken thumb. While this is certainly a big loss for UM, he should be back in time to finish off the regular season and be 100% by NCAA Tournament time.
La Salle Scouting Report
La Salle is a team dominated by guards. On ESPN's roster for them, they have 7 guards, 1 forward, and 2 centers. One of those is a guard/forward, but still. You get the point. Since this team is so guard oriented, you can expect them to push the pace. According to statsheet.com, they averaged 68.5 possessions per game, while Miami averages 65.3 per game. It's not a huge difference, but it's at least notable. The Explorers have four players who averaged at least 10 points per game, and they're led by senior guard Ramon Galloway, who averages 18.4 points per game. Galloway is a dynamic player - he shoots 46% from the floor, 45.6% from beyond the arc, and contributes 4.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.5 steals per game for LSU. In his last five games, Galloway is averaging 22 points and 7 assists.
Key For The Canes
Attack the basket early and often. As I mentioned before, La Salle's roster is dominated by guards. Here's a box score from their recent game against Iona. I put that in there to show one thing: Outside of starting Center Steve Zack, there is no size on the bench. If Miami can get Zack in foul trouble early, they will have a huge size advantage inside. I'd expect Shane Larkin and Durand Scott to come out looking to penetrate from the outset. If Zack plays soft in an attempt to avoid foul trouble, Larkin and Scott are creative enough to find ways to finish around the rim. If La Salle collapses the defense, everybody on the Canes is a capable shooter from beyond the arc.
Projected Starting Lineups
Center - Julian Gamble, 6'11, 250, SR
Forward - Kenny Kadji, 6'11, 242, SR
Guard - Trey McKinney-Jones, 6'5, 220, SR
Guard - Durand Scott, 6'5, 203, SR
Guard - Shane Larkin, 5'11, 176, SO
Center - Steve Zack, 6'11, 245, SO
Forward - Jerrell Wright, 6'8, 240, SO
Guard - Ramon Galloway, 6'3, 180, SR
Guard - Sam Mills, 6'2, 200, JR
Guard - Tyreek Duren, 6'0, 185, JR
La Salle isn't exactly a sexy opponent, but don't expect the Canes to come out and destroy them from start to finish. The Explorers have some dynamic guard play that could potentially give the Canes trouble. Ultimately, however, I expect the Canes to win this one. After a disappointing showing on the offensive end in the final two games in Hawaii, I expect Miami to correct things in this return home. If I had to guess, I'd say that we get a big performance out of Kenny Kadji, as he will be the biggest and most talented big guy on the court at all times. Final score prediction: 75-64.