Things were not going well in Coral Gables, as the Canes, after returning to the top 25, immediately began a late season freefall that looked to possibly knock the Canes out of the tournament. 3 straight losses to Boston College, Virginia, and Syracuse left a bad taste in the mouth of Miami basketball fans, especially after blown leads late in two of the games. As we’ve seen multiple times this year, Coach Jim Larranaga needed to make adjustments to shock the system of Canes Hoops, and he delivered once again. Let’s take a look at the biggest moves Coach L made Monday evening, and how they worked out for the Canes (aside from winning the game, obviously):
The Canes went big to start
Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of making adjustments in basketball is changing the starting lineup, which is exactly what Miami did. Although this wasn’t the first time this year that there was some shuffling of the starters, this was the first time that Ebuka Izundu was on the court when the clock began, and he made the coaching staff’s decision look very smart, scoring 14 points on 7 of 8 from the field, including a block and 2 offensive rebounds followed by and-1 putbacks down the stretch (in the video below starting at 2:11)
Removed from the starting lineup were Chris Lykes and Dejan Vasiljevic, arguably the Canes’ two best players in the last couple games. If the change didn’t work out, it likely would have been highly criticized for that reason, however the other new starter, Ja’Quan Newton, also delivered with a 12 point 4 assist performance. This bold move reaped immediate benefits.
The Canes stayed big
The Canes main options off of the bench were Lykes and Sam Waardenburg, as DJ didn’t fit into the gameplan Miami was implementing against Notre Dame. Waardenburg has been giving Miami consistent minutes off of the bench lately, and was big again against the Irish hitting 2 big threes that killed the momentum Notre Dame was building. Coach Larranaga gambled on sacrificing DJ’s recent hot shooting (Vasiljevic played 5 minutes against ND) for the inside presence of Izundu, Waardenburg, and Rodney Miller Jr. While I doubt DJ will play 5 minutes per game going forward, Izundu and Waardenburg deserve to continue playing a bigger role.
The Canes didn’t shoot as many 3’s
While Lonnie Walker IV had a huge game from the perimeter, hitting 5 shots from behind the arc, the Canes only attempted 19 3-pointers in the game, down from 31 against Syracuse, 21 against Virginia, and 27 against Boston College. Miami scored more points Monday than they did in any of those 3 contests, and they hit at a higher percentage. The shift to a bigger lineup led to a shift in shot selection, which led the Canes to a victory. With only a 3 point margin of victory, it would have only taken settling for a bad shot on 1 or 2 possessions to change the outcome of the game. By no means should Miami completely abandon the 3, as they are a above-average to great outside shooting team, but their emphasis on finding better shots and taking care of the ball need to be carried forward.
What do you think helped the Canes end their 3-game skid? What do you think this win means moving forward? Let us know in the comments.