Last week at this time, Canes Hoops was coming off of 2 straight conference defeats, the first at the hands of a Clemson team that led Miami for the majority of the game, and the second at the hands of a Duke squad that trailed Miami by 13 with 9 minutes left only to pounce on a Canes collapse and steal a game in Coral Gables. With the season hanging in the balance, the Canes needed a quick turnaround. Now, a week later, Miami has won back-to-back matchups over NC State and Louisville, 2 gritty teams that have had success in the ACC so far. Credit should be given to Coach Larranaga, for finding ways to win in back-to-back games that looked very different. Let’s look at how the Canes came out on top in both games:
Miami 86-NC State 81
The Canes used one of their highest scoring outputs of the season to take down NC State in Raleigh. Miami was led by Bruce Brown Jr., who scored 19 points and tallied 9 assists. Coach Larranaga made an adjustment to the starting lineup for this game, moving freshman Chris Lykes up with the starters in exchange for fellow freshman Lonnie Walker IV, who was dealing with a nagging injury. Both teams were on fire in this game with Miami shooting 58% and NC State 54%. Despite the offensive success, leading-scorer Dewan Huell struggled to get involved, finishing with 8 points, 2 rebounds and a block. Picking up the slack was Ebuka Izundu, who was perfect from the floor finishing with 15 points (7 of 7 shooting) and 3 rebounds off of the bench. To win a high-scoring game when your leading scorer has an off night shows that Coach L has the ability to adapt and alter his gameplan. It was an encouraging bounce back after the previous week.
Miami 78-Louisville 75
Lonnie Walker IV. The highly-touted recruit has been on a recent tear of quality games, however, Wednesday night was the type of performance we were hoping for when we signed the 5-star prospect out of Reading, PA. Walker finished the night with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, a block and only 1 turnover. He was all over the floor, affecting every aspect of the game. Coach Larranaga’s best move in this game was getting everyone out of Lonnie’s way. There were some questionable play calls and shot choices by Ja’Quan Newton, and Bruce Brown Jr. had a tough showing that normally doomed the Canes, but when the game was on the line, and Miami needed a play, LW4 was there to put the team on his back. We did see a return of two Canes mainstays, Dewan Huell and the defense. Huell bounced back from his rough performance Sunday with 18 points and 12 rebounds, and the defense locked down the Cardinals in the second half, allowing the Canes to make a late comeback to force overtime. It was great to see resilience out of the players and Coach Larranaga.
The Canes have proved that there are multiple recipes for success in the ACC. It’s up to the coaches to identify which gameplan is best suited to bring home a W each night, and up to the players to execute. We are starting to see Coach Larranaga make some moves, such as playing through Lonnie more, giving Chris Lykes more minutes (and hopefully Newton less soon), and even throwing Sam Waardenburg back into the lineup to deal with some matchup deficiencies (he played some quality minutes Wednesday night). Miami is still a work in progress, but through seven games, the Canes are sitting 6th in the ACC only 3.5 games back of ACC-leaders Virginia. This past week could have derailed the season for Canes Hoops, but thanks to some great adjustments, Miami looks to be back on track. Was there anything else you noticed during the last two games? Let us know in the comments.