Hurricanes Hoops look to keep Momentum Vs UMass

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Miami (4-1) returns to action this afternoon with a trip up to Amherst to take on the Massachusetts Minutemen (3-2), 2PM EST (CBS Sports Network, WQAM).

Coming off of one of the biggest wins in program history Wednesday night against Michigan State, the University of Miami Hurricanes will look to build off the monumental victory against Chaz Williams and UMass.

Coach Jim Larranaga knows there is still work to be done.

"This was November's highlight,'' he said. "Now we need to get some December highlights."

The diminutive but spectacular Williams leads the Minutemen with 16.2 ppg and 6.8 apg. He also scored the game winning layup with 4 seconds left in Massachusetts last game, a 64-63 win over Siena.

In the 'Canes Shane Larkin (16.8 ppg, 4.0 apg), he may face one of the few players in the country as quick if not quicker then himself. But Larkin is not the Hurricanes only weapon. All 5 of Miami's starters are averaging in double figures. Trey McKinney Jones (18 points, 5-7 from deep) and Durand Scott (15 points and 6 rebounds) were tremendous against MSU. Reggie Johnson (10 points 11 rebounds 3 blocks against Michigan State) has also been very effective this season. Johnson missed last season's game with UMass, a 83-75 UM win.

UMass Scouting Report:

It all starts with Williams. UMass' heady and lightning fast PG is equally adept at creating his own shot, as he is distributing. Joining Williams in the backcourt is high volume shooter Jesse Morgan (15.8 ppg). Morgan has scored in double figures in every game but one this season, but has done so by taking over 15 shots a game. The Minutemen like to play fast and push the pace, and in Terrell Vinson and Raphiael Putney they have a couple of wings who can get it done. Freddy Riley is a guy who has seen his role shrink this year, but at one time was also a very capable scorer. Overall this is a team that was expected to compete in the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10 based on the their scoring punch and feisty style. They have not shot the ball well as a team thus far (40% FG% 30% 3P%) but have the talent to improve that. For more on UMass check out our very own Charlie Strauzer's scouting report.

Series: Miami leads 3-0
Last meeting: Dec. 3, 2011. Miami won, 83-75, in Coral Gables

Best Match-up:

Williams Vs Larkin. The resemblance of their games is uncanny. It is a testament to Larkin that his improved play now makes it possible for him to draw comparisons to some of the better PGs in the country. Larkin's defense will be put to the test, as Williams has the green light to shoot anytime he touches the rock. UMass as a team will press some, and force a fast-paced contest. Thus, Larkin will also need to take care of the ball. Williams may end up with the better numbers by game's end, but my guess is Shane ends up the more efficient of the two because he has better weapons around him to distribute to.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Miami

C Reggie Johnson 6'10 290 SR.

F Kenny Kadji 6'11 242 SR

G Trey McKinney-Jones 6'5 220 SR

G Durand Scott 6'5 203 SR

G Shane Larkin 5'11 176 SO

UMass

F/C Cady Lalanne 6'9 250 SO

F Raphiael Putney 6'9 190 JR

F Terrell Vinson 6'7 220 SR

G Chaz Williams 5'9 175 JR

G Jesse Morgan 6'5 190 JR

Prediction:

Miami will have the clear edge inside with Johnson and Kadji. It was last year's game against UMass that began a stretch of spectacular play for Kadji, after a slow start. Perhaps seeing the Minutemen again will get him going. The game is on the road, and Massachusetts is going to play hard, so don't expect a blow out. This is third consecutive game where the 'Canes face a team who relies heavily on their lead guard. UM did a great job slowing down Detroit's Ray McCallum and MSU's Keith Appling. Larkin and Scott will need the same type of effort to keep Williams from going batty. Look for Miami's guards to bottle up Williams just enough, and Miami's advantage down low, to carry the day in a harder then expected victory 77-70.

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