Canes Hoops stopped the bleeding early in their ACC schedule by taking down Florida State 80-74. The Canes were led by strong performances by Bruce Brown Jr. (23 points) and Dewan Huell (20 points, 8 rebounds), but what everyone was talking about after this game was the breakout performance of freshman guard Chris Lykes, whose 18 points off the bench put the game out of reach early and continued to steal the momentum from the Noles throughout the contest.
Lykes isn't usually regarded as even the top freshman in Miami's lineup, thanks to the presence of Lonnie Walker IV, who made his second start of the season on Sunday. For much of the game, however, you could argue that Lykes was the best player on the floor. Florida State is an athletic team that pressed the Canes for much of the game, causing Miami to commit 15 turnovers, most of which were in the first half. Both teams had a sloppy start to the game, until Lykes came off the bench and steadied the ship. While Miami hit 4 out of their first 5 shots, Lykes presence in the lineup helped Miami continue their hot shooting, as they ended up hitting their next 8 shots. Despite many believing Dejan Vasiljevic and Lykes would never be on the court together due to matchup issues, the two guards were one of the more effective combinations in this game, with DJ rebounding from his poor performance against Georgia Tech.
It's hard to miss Chris Lykes when he enters the game, as the 5'7" freshman stands out in a sport marked by the tallest athletes you've ever seen. When my wife "watches" the Canes' games with me, Lykes is the only player she asks about. He is so captivating because he plays full throttle at all times, and seeing a player with such a marked difference in size fly around the court gives off a video game feel. At the start of the season, Lykes inclusion in the lineup felt like more of a novelty, as he had little control over his game, constantly jacking up threes from ridiculous range and dribbling himself into double trouble, usually resulting in a turnover. As the season has progressed, Lykes has started to figure out his game more and more. Players that lack in size have to play with sniper-like precision, and you could see that displayed on this play against the Noles:
The first thing I notice about this play is Lykes' maturity in differentiating transition from a fast break. At first glance it looks like Lykes should attack the basket, but he quickly notices that Florida State did a decent job of getting back on defense, so he slows down the advancement of the play, while still surveying for his opportunity to strike. He brings the ball back towards the top, but spots the tiniest passing lane out of the corner of his eye and shoots a perfect pass over the shoulders of the defenders to Huell for a wide open dunk. The old Chris Lykes would've forced the fast break into the defense and turned the ball over. Inbetween Chris Lykes would've brought the ball back up top and shot an errant 3 off the dribble. The new, lethal Chris Lykes gives you the beautiful play you see above.
Lykes' 18 point performance featured a little bit of everything on offense, hitting shots from behind the arc, knifing through defenders to get to the basket, pinpoint passes, and even finishing through contact. The tiny freshman even held his own on the defensive end, drawing a charge to kill a run that Noles were building in the second half. Coach Larranaga could be seen regularly coaching up his freshman guard, and turning to him for crucial minutes down the stretch. More performances like this will be sure to fire up Canes fans, as well as provide the needed spark to the Canes offense that results in big wins. Miami gets another top 25 opponent on Saturday when they travel to #19 Clemson. Let's hope for another edition of the Chris Lykes Show. What did you think of Miami's performance? Let us know in the comments.