Miami has started off strong out of the gate, winning their first 2 games of the season by 32 and 34 points respectively. The #11 ranked Canes have taken care of business on both ends of the floor, which was to be expected, but while usual suspects Bruce Brown and Ja'quan Newton have held their own, it's Miami's pair of centers, Dewan Huell and Ebuka Izundu that are pushing the team to new heights.
In the first game of the season against Gardner-Webb, Huell and Izundu led all scorers with 14 points a piece, while Huell added 8 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks, and Izundu completed a double double with 10 boards, an assist and a block. In Sunday's game against Navy, it was Huell this time who had a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Izunda added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Both players have found plenty of success despite playing the same position, but the way in which they are getting the job done is what should have Canes fans excited about our end-of-season prospects.
Let's take a look at this sequence of plays by Dewan Huell vs Gardner-Webb:
Huell starts off the sequence with timely help-defense as he slides across the lane to come up with a big block. He then chases down a loose ball and immediately puts the ball on the floor to start the break. He gets the ball out of his hands before he's engaged by a defender to make sure the play doesn't end in a senseless turnover due to the tallest player on the floor because he's trying to dribble the length of the court. Huell doesn't stop there, as he continues running the floor, finishing the play by catching an alley-oop that causes a timeout by the visiting coach. This play is a quality representation of the work Miami's best big men have been putting in so far.
Huell and Izundu have been Miami's most active players on both ends of the floor this season. Their hustle plays have helped Miami outscore their opponents in second chance points 24-10, and in points in the paint 92-56. Not only are they outhustling their opponents, but they are converting their chances at a staggering rate, shooting a combined 23 of 30 (77%) from the field. Guarding the pick and roll involving either player has been impossible for opposing defenses, as their combination of size (Huell and Izundu are both 6'10") and athleticism have given both centers easy bucket after easy bucket. Miami has even rolled out a lineup with both players on the floor at the same time, which gave Navy fits in the second half as both Huell and Izundu showed an ability to throw quality passes over the top of the defense.
Having a pair of bigs that clean up the glass, protect the rim, run the floor, and score efficiently is a luxury usually reserved for teams built for a long postseason run. The work rate of our centers has the potential to wear out opposing big men and and force teams to rely on shots from the perimeter. We can only hope that this level of play continues as the season rolls on, because if it does, we'll see the Canes playing well into March and April.