The Miami Hurricanes took on the Jacksonville Dolphins in the last non-conference game of their season on Saturday afternoon. Miami had a better performance today after struggling in two games earlier this week and also had some key players return from injury.
Miami had a rough offensive first half. The Hurricanes shot just 37.5% from the floor for the half and struggled even more from long-range. A lot of those struggles came from when Jacksonville forced Miami into half-court offense, which has been an issue for the Hurricanes all season, especially after losing Chris Lykes and Kam McGusty to injury.
Isaiah Wong was fantastic again though, and his 15 first-half points were the main reason the Hurricanes led 37-26 at the half. He made one of the most important plays of the half with about 14 minutes left before the break. Jacksonville had brought the score down to 11-8 and a missed three from Matt Cross looked like it would give the Dolphins a chance to tie the score, however, Wong made a fantastic play to tip it back in to the hoop and Jacksonville could not make the game close again in the first half.
Some other good news for Miami came in the first half. The highly-anticipated debut of Earl Timberlake was made when he entered the game with about 15 minutes left before the break. That was great news for the Hurricanes’ depth, as Matt Cross and Rodney Miller both played as well. However, Miller quickly appeared to reinjure himself and left the game again.
In the second half Miami continued to control the game and sustained an 8-12 point lead until Jacksonville cut the lead to five with 10 minutes left in the half with a Tyreese Davis three-pointer. The Dolphins continued their run with a layup from Bryce Workman that made the score 56-53, forcing a timeout from Jim Larrañaga with 8:59 left in the game.
Miami responded well out of the timeout. Earl Timberlake made a nice move for a layup to make the score 58-53 before Isaiah Wong made a shot while being fouled. He completed the and-one to extend Miami’s lead back to eight.
The Dolphins responded yet again with two tough plays to get within four and the Hurricanes began to really struggle offensively. Two consecutive charges gave the Dolphins the ball back. Miami had 16 turnovers on the game and it was one of the main reasons the Hurricanes never really had a rhythm for the entire afternoon on offense. A foul from Earl Timberlake then let Jacksonville make it a one-possession game again at 61-58.
Fortunately for Miami Dontarius James fouled out for Jacksonville. James had 19 points on the afternoon and the Hurricanes simply could not contain him offensively. Despite being without James Jacksonville traded baskets with the Hurricanes and with four minutes left in the game the Hurricanes led by just seven.
Jacksonville continued to play well as the game neared it’s end. Two more stops led to two baskets at the other end of the court for the Dolphins who trailed by just four with the score at 68-64 with 1:13 left in the game. Earl Timberlake did well to force a foul on the ensuing offensive possession for Miami. The Hurricanes got a stop on the other end, forcing Jacksonville to foul Timberlake again and send him to the line for some important free throws. The freshman went one for two from the line before making an incredible play to get a steal on defense and a basket in transition to give the Hurricanes a 73-64 lead with 34.8 seconds left in the game. Timberlake finished with 12 points and four rebounds in his Hurricanes debut and showed why there was so much excitement surrounding him as he entered the program.
Miami was able to run out the clock afterwards and win 73-64 to move to 4-2 on the season. Anthony Walker and Isaiah Wong were the keys to Miami’s win. Wong had 25 points and nine rebounds for one of his best performances as a Hurricane. He’s stepped up to be the Hurricanes’ best scorer in the absence of Chris Lykes. Walker was key for Miami on the interior, scoring 18 points to go along with nine rebounds.
The Hurricanes are clearly missing Chris Lykes and Kam McGusty, especially on offense where there are still struggles when not in transition. Miami shot just 38.3% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc on the afternoon. The Hurricanes offense will have to improve as the season goes on in order for Miami to compete in the ACC this season.
The Hurricanes will next take the court in 10 days against Virginia Tech in one of the toughest games of the season so far. That will also be Miami’s first road game of the season.