The 6th-ranked Canes Hoops took care of business again this past Saturday in DC, knocking off George Washington 59-50. In a game where Miami held their opponent to an astounding 30% from the field, the Canes struggled to put a middle of the pack Atlantic 10 team away, holding only a single-digit lead for the majority of the second half. While a 9-0 start to the season is commendable, early season games against lesser opponents are not where you want to see close calls if you are a top-10 team. One could argue that learning how to win close games is also important, but the level of play on the offensive end on Saturday will not get the job done when ACC opponents start showing up at the Watsco Center. Lonnie Walker IV’s emergence over the last 3 games has many Canes fans excited, but Miami has failed to reach Coach Larranaga’s goal of 75 points per game in their last 2 contests. Bruce Brown Jr returned earlier than expected from his wrist injury, but struggled despite playing all but 2 minutes of the game, finishing with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Not every player can be on every single night, but there have to be some constants in order to breed some consistency in Coral Gables. When you’re looking for consistency, you typically turn to your experienced players first, which is why it’s time for Ja'Quan Newton to step up for the Canes.
The senior guard from Philadelphia has been trying to rediscover his role on this team, as the addition of two talented freshman guards has cut into his minutes. Walker and Chris Lykes have not folded under the pressure, providing crucial minutes ensuring that the level of play doesn’t drop off with the second unit. Newton has produced well overall this season, shooting a career best 47% from the field, while also committing one less turnover per game. The issue has been how Newton seems to disappear in certain games. In the 3 games where the Canes have failed to score 75 points, Newton is averaging 7 points on 36% shooting. In the 6 games where the Canes have surpassed 75 points, Newton is averaging 11.6 points on 52% shooting. Compared Brown and Walker, Newton has less of an effect on other facets of the game, so it is crucial for Newton to establish himself on the offensive end to set the tone each game. His ability to score from anywhere on the floor and to create his own shot should give any team headaches, and opposing defenses don't have the luxury of keying in on Newton defensively due to Dewan Huell’s strong play on the inside, and the Canes bevy of options on the perimeter. That places the onus on Newton to force the issue each game, and not differ to his teammates. If the Canes elder statesman asserts himself and leads by example, the young talent on this team will be in the best position to flourish going forward.