A combined 33-point performance from guard Caleb Catto and forward Dakota Rivers carried Florida Gulf Coast of Fort Myers, Fla., to victory over the Miami Hurricanes at the Watsco Center on Saturday afternoon, 66-62.
The Miami loss came after redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty and redshirt senior center Rodney Miller exited the game with leg injuries in the first half, as neither would return. The team was already without the help of senior guard Chris Lykes, who suffered an ankle sprain against Stetson on Dec. 4.
Florida Gulf Coast (3-1) converted on 13 3-point field goals, with three of them coming from Rivers in the final six-and-a-half minutes to keep the Eagles ahead. Miami (3-1), on the other hand, shot just 1-of-17 from downtown until the final minute of action, similar to their comeback win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge versus Purdue.
“A very frustrating game for us,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “A lot of credit goes to Florida Gulf Coast. The way they shot the three, outscoring us by 30 points from the 3-point line. With Chris Lykes out and then Kameron McGusty pulling a hamstring early in the game, we really had no backcourt starters but [also] no subs and had to use Anthony Walker totally as a three man, when normally he’s been playing the four.”
Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong totaled 20 points, while senior center Nysier Brooks had 13 while grabbing 15 rebounds, but the lack of consistency offensively was where the Hurricanes suffered the most.
“I think what’s happened to us mentally is when we miss a few shots, guys hesitate,” Larrañaga said. “When you’re a shooter, it’s basically like tying your shoe. You don’t think about it, you just tie your shoe and move on. With shooting, it’s the same way. If you start thinking about should I shoot it or should I not shoot it, then it’s very hard to make that shot. Shooting is rhythm. So, right now we’ve got nobody making threes [and] you can’t be that inefficient from the 3-point line.”
Florida Gulf Coast was tied with Miami at halftime at 28 apiece, and eventually took a five-point lead by the 13-minute mark of the second frame. The Hurricanes would tie the game at 42 but the Eagles kept answering with baskets from graduate transfer forward Eli Abaev and Rivers, eventually stretching their lead to six with 42 seconds remaining.
UM led FGCU 40-8 in points in the paint, but that interior attack did not suffice for the Canes as they were held to 34 points in the second half, while allowing the Eagles to get hot from outside.
“It’s really just going to take for us to be on the same beat defensively,” Brooks said. “Not giving up the split-second, open shots to the [outside] shooters. We were a little shorthanded, they played very well tonight. But just not sharing the ball as much as we like as a team and we shot six percent from three. It’s very hard to win like that.”
Freshman forward Matt Cross was limited in his contributions on the afternoon, only scoring two points on just 1-of-5 shooting, after helping will Miami to victory in the second half on Tuesday.
“Matt Cross really couldn’t function [today],” Larrañaga said. “His right arm has been bothering him for the last ten days, and because of that he has not been able to shoot the ball. He’s been very hesitant to shoot because of the pain it causes.”
Larrañaga instead decided to insert a lineup for the majority of the second half that included Wong, sophomore guard Harlond Beverly, sophomore forward Anthony Walker, Brooks, and redshirt junior Deng Gak. A lack of productivity arose out of that decision, however, in spite of lacking bodies available.
“That team has never played together,” Larrañaga said. “We just didn’t shoot the ball well at all. It was more about the inefficiency of our offense than it was our defense.”
The lead changed ten times throughout the game, with the Eagles eventually taking the dogfight despite getting outrebounded, 43-28, and turning the ball over 13 times. Miami had two additional turnovers.
The Hurricanes will host Pittsburgh (3-1) on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. after the Panthers’ ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over Northwestern. Guards Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty may still be unavailable in the program’s first ACC matchup on the season. The game will be televised on the ACC Network, as both teams split their two meetings last season