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Canes Hoops: Veteran Core Propels Miami to Win Over Alabama A&M

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Five players scored in double-figures as Miami pulled away down the stretch.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Miami-Florida vs Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

After more than a week off to take final exams, the Miami Hurricanes returned to action at the Watsco Center on Saturday, picking up where they left off 12 days ago and taking down the Alabama A&M Bulldogs 88-74.

“We were able to outscore them,” said assistant coach Chris Caputo after the game, filling in for head coach Jim Larrañaga due to back spasms. “I don’t think we defended them well enough at any point in the game.”

It was the second consecutive game where UM (6-3) scored more than 80 points, following their December 2 win at Illinois. It’s the highest scoring outing by any Hurricane team since their 95-point showing against Stephen F. Austin on November 13 a season ago.

Miami’s offensive performance was spearheaded by five players in double-figures, led by Kameron McGusty’s game-high 21 points.

DJ Vasiljevic, Chris Lykes and Harlond Beverly followed with 17, 13 and 12 points respectively—with Vasiljevic’s 5-6 three-point showing leading both teams—while Sam Waardenburg was the closest player to achieving a double-double, recording 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

While both teams finished in a statistical tie in field goal percentage (52%), Miami won the three-point shooting contest (42-33%), rebounding battle (33-29) and used the free throw line much to their advantage as well, going 22-30 from the charity stripe compared to the Bulldogs 5-8.

And still, the visitors were very much in the game for most of the way, in part to their advantages in bench points (25-20) and points in the paint (40-38). Alabama A&M cut the deficit to as little as five points with just under four minutes remaining. The Canes responded with a 10-0 over the ensuing two minutes to put the game out of reach from their opponents.

“I thought we executed a couple of things [down the stretch] where guys did a pretty good job playing downhill,” said Caputo on his team’s finish. “As usual, you win the game playing inside out, and by your defense. For us, it’s no secret, it’s a struggle for us. Our size across the board is a little bit of a problem...today we just couldn't get enough stops through the game to get any sort of comfortable lead.”

For Alabama A&M, forward Jalen Johnson led the way with 14 points, while teammates Garrett Hicks, TJ Parkham and Cameron Alford finished with 12, 11 and 10 points respectively. The latter trio also shared the Bulldogs’ rebounding high, with five boards each.

Lykes and McGusty went into halftime with eight points each, sharing a team-high to that point. Beverly and Waardenburg’s four first half rebounds also equaled team-highs.

Miami entered the locker room up 44-35, after a slower start to the first half and trailing by as much as three points with just over seven minutes gone by in the contest. UM retook the lead at the 11:35 mark in the opening half and never relinquished the advantage.

The Hurricanes return to the court Tuesday night, taking on the Temple Owls at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.