The first important part of the night was finding out Miami’s first starting lineup of the season. Chris Lykes and Isaiah Wong started in the backcourt as expected, with Kameron McGusty playing as another guard/forward hybrid that allowed him to interchange with Wong. Interestingly, the lineup was completed with Matt Cross and Nysier Brooks, who seem to have won the battle to start at power forward and center respectively. That left Rodney Miller as a bench option for Jim Larrañaga, which could be a huge benefit for Miami this season.
Unfortunately, a piece of bad news came out for Miami an hour before the game started. Freshman Earl Timberlake, a highly-rated recruit who was going to be a key piece of the bench this season, will miss the first 3-5 weeks of the year with an ankle injury.
Miami freshman guard Earl Timberlake will miss the first 3-5 weeks of the 2020-21 season due to a right ankle injury sustained in practice.— Canes Hoops (@CanesHoops) November 29, 2020
Miami got off to a quick start, running out to an 8-0 lead finished off by an acrobatic layup by Isaiah Wong to force UNF into a quick timeout. The Ospreys responded after the timeout though, making the game 13-8 by playing quick in transition.
Much of the first half was a similar story; the Hurricanes would look ready to get out to a 15 or 20 point lead, only for UNF to respond with a few quick threes in transition to keep the deficit to around 10 points.
The Hurricanes defense was the strongest when they forced the Ospreys to slow down. Miami forced bad shots for the entire first half when they could play half court defense. Despite that, and a consistent closing down of UNF’s three-point shooters, the Ospreys still shot 43% from beyond the arc in the first half, making some incredibly tough shots in the process.
Miami played incredibly well offensively in the first half to respond. The Hurricanes had 24 points in the paint in the first half, and sophomore Isaiah Wong looked unstoppable, scoring 12 points to lead Miami through 20 minutes.
Sophomore Harlond Beverly also had a good first half, scoring 9 points and looking much more engaged on defense than he did last season. At one point he used that defense for a highlight reel transition dunk to make the score 29-17 at the under eight minutes in the half media timeout.
After an even run of play following Beverly’s dunk, Nysier Brooks blocked a shot that resulted in a layup for him in transition to make the score 35-23 with four minutes left in the half. The Hurricanes looked set to build the lead, but a series of Ospreys’ threes and second-chance points brought them back in the game as the half was closing out. The Hurricanes starting lineup came back on the court and helped stop the run, but a buzzer-beater three-point shot by Josh Endicott to end the half made it just an eight point game at 42-34 during the break.
After halftime UNF continued to shoot well. The Ospreys got a three-point shot out of half to make it a five point game at 42-37. Miami stretched the lead back to seven only to have UNF respond again to make it 46-41, forcing Jim Larrañaga into a timeout.
Miami was not playing badly on defense, but UNF was consistently making contested shots from deep, leaving the Hurricanes with just a seven-point lead at 51-44 with under 15 minutes left in the half.
Carter Hendricksen, in particular, gave Miami trouble all night, the junior made five threes and had 21 points. He helped keep UNF in the game along with the rest of the Ospreys team that kept shooting well from distance and never really let Miami run away with the game.
Nice plays by Matt Cross and Kameron McGusty got the lead back out to 11 for the Hurricanes. Cross had a nice first game as a Hurricane scoring 10 points and adding seven rebounds. McGusty also had a great game, also scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds, showing the improvement he’s made and the benefits he’s gained by being completely healthy this season.
Those two plays helped Miami start to take control of the game. UNF struggled on offense afterwards, and the Hurricanes took a 59-44 lead off of a steal by Anthony Walker leading to a Matt Cross layup with 12:30 left to play.
The Hurricanes did a much better job of disrupting UNF at the three-point line which played a key role in Miami starting to pull away. Halfway through the second half, North Florida’s shooting percentage from deep had dropped from 47% at half to 35%.
Harlond Beverly and Isaiah Wong continued their great play in the second half. Beverly had his first double-double as a Hurricane; scoring 11 points and adding 11 rebounds. Wong was Miami’s best player all night, scoring 20 points to lead the Hurricanes.
With 7:30 left in the game the Hurricanes had maintained their 15 point lead. Miami looked more comfortable in their second half of the season, especially on defense, and after UNF cooled off from three-point range they struggled to get consistent offense going throughout the rest of the game.
UNF started to make a final run to get back into the game with just under five minutes left. Two free throws made the game 67-55, and then Chris Lykes fouled Carter Hendricksen to send him to the line where he made both free throws to make it a ten-point game. He followed that up with a nice layup to make it an eight point game with three minutes left.
Miami stopped the bleeding with a Chris Lykes free throw and layup in transition to make it 70-59 with 1:30 remaining in the game. Lykes didn’t have a great night offensively, going 3-13 from the floor, but he contributed with four rebounds and five assists.
A Nysier Brooks alley-oop dunk essentially ended the game and after a few free throws and a Chris Lykes three-pointer Miami won 77-59 to get their first win of the season.
Interestingly, Deng Gak didn’t play a single minute for the Hurricanes all evening and Rodney Miller played just five. Most of the game was spent with Miami going small. Anthony Walker actually played center for most of his 20 minutes on the court, even though he stands at just 6-9. Guards Isaiah Wong, Harlond Beverly, Chris Lykes, and Kam McGusty all saw more than 20 minutes; with Wong, Lykes, and McGusty all above 30 minutes.
The Hurricanes first win of the year wasn’t perfect, but it showed the potential Miami has this year. The ‘Canes didn’t need to rely on Chris Lykes to score, and despite him not playing well had a good offensive performance. Additionally, the Hurricanes played solid defense, and showed an ability to make adjustments as they were able to neutralize UNF’s three-point scoring in the second half.
Miami’s next scheduled game is against Stetson on Friday at 8:00 as the Hurricanes get the week off for exams, before facing Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge next Tuesday in their first tough game of the year.