The Miami Hurricanes dropped their second straight game, in the ACC/Big 10 challenge to the visiting Rutgers Scarlett Knights at the Watsco Center on Wednesday night by the score of 57-54.
It was a night where the shots just didn’t fall for the Canes. Miami hadn’t scored less than 78 points in a game coming into tonight, but were held to 54 by the Big Ten opponent.
In a season so far when the Hurricanes have relied on the 3-point shot as a large part of their offense, Miami went dry in key moments.
Chris Lykes, the gatekeeper of UM’s speedy attack, was held quiet for large swaths of the game. The point guard finished with 8 points, but was inconstant at times.
Coach L said Chris Lykes needs to improve his assist/turnover ratio-- so far Lykes has 5 TO and after being pickpocketed for easy RU layup @RutgersMBB leads 28-22— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
DJ Vasiljevic, through, was even quieter. The three point specialist went 1-8 from his haven beyond the arc, totaling just three points exactly.
Because Miami’s guard play was sporadic, the Canes were reliant on their big men for much of the evening’s production. Ebuka Izundu was UM’s leader for much of the night, achieving a double-double, with 12 points and an equal number of boards.
However, the center left the game with cramps midway through the second half and did not return.
“He played 26 minutes, but tonight was a night he could’ve played 34 minutes and helped up down the stretch,” said coach Jim Larranaga.
Jim Larrañaga says cramps kept Izundu out of the game for the last ten minutes, saying that high amount of travel may have played factor pic.twitter.com/a2PDfVFUyv— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
“We’re going to need it” said Larrañaga on break from action on the horizon— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
The lack of depth, and the increased travel lately, would rear its ugly head with a man down for the Canes. Larranaga stressed that the increased load my have played a factor, especially after the Wooden Legacy Tournament in California.
“The fight over is 3,000 miles, the flight back is 3,000 miles. You play three games in four days, [and] we have a very short bench,” said coach Jim Larranaga. Anthony Mack, another bench contributor, was sick tonight, further thinning Miami’s depth.
Larranaga said all players could have used a break at times in the heat of the game, but “[we] just don’t have the bodies.”
Anthony Lawrence filled many of the voids Miami was missing down the stretch, with the converted-guard scoring 16 points—a team high—with the help of four 3FG, more than half of the team’s total.
Lawrence says his transition to guard has been seamless. “I always played guard my whole life,” said the senior, adding that extra responsibilities include increased ball handling.
Miami started hot, taking an early 13-4 lead before a 9-0 Rutgers run flipped the script on what appeared to be a good beginning.
But a 24-9 extended run from Rutgers gave them a four point lead going into the half.
Miami started out on a 13-4 run before a 24-9 extended Rutgers run. over last 13:24 of half— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
Miami went just 9-29 on FGs while going a paltry 4-15 from long range.
Izundu leading in both points (8) and rebounds (9) for @CanesHoops with Lawrence adding another six points. Johnson and Lykes struggling with just two and three points— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
Larranaga challenged his team at halftime, according to Chris Lykes who said his team looked “lethargic” in the first half.
It was a struggle for the Hurricanes after the break as well, with the first Cane points coming just before the under-16 break.
Since the midpoint of the first half, the Rutgers defense has clamped down and allowed few passing lanes down low. Looking like the team that gave up just 44 points against Boston University.— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
Zach Johnson makes a basket with a foul--free throw after under-16 break @RutgersMBB leading 32-26— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
Another basket for Buka--game tied at 32--is the key tonight winning the battle down low, especially on a dry shooting night?— Austin Pert (@AustinPert98) November 29, 2018
Izundu put Miami back into the game, before his injury sidelined him and rendered his ability to close the game moot.
Down the stretch without Izundu, the Hurricanes made several pushes, leading by as many as three with over seven minutes left.
But Miami “did not have an inside game,” according to Larranaga and couldn’t finish, as a hail marry from Vasiljevic bounced off the rim and Rutgers could breathe a sigh of relief as the clock struck zeros.
The Canes will look to break their two-game loosing streak on Saturday at 7:30 against Yale at the American Airlines Arena.