The Hurricanes took on Stetson in their second game of the season Friday night. Miami was looking for their 50th win in program history over the Hatters and a boost heading into an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Purdue next Tuesday.
Miami got out to a quick start with a 12-5 lead with 15 minutes left in the half. With multiple injuries in the front court, including the continued unavailability of Earl Timberlake, the Hurricanes played three guards for most of the game again. Chris Lykes got off to a quick start, scoring eight points in his first five minutes.
Out of a break with 15 minutes left in the half the Hurricanes struggled a bit on offense. Two nice possessions from Stetson made the score 12-9 with 13 minutes left in the half. Fortunately Kam McGusty stopped the bleeding with a nice drive to the basket, and another nice play from Harlond Beverly drew a foul and his free throws made the game 15-9 at the under-twelve media timeout.
The Hurricanes struggled offensively out of the timeout again until Chris Lykes hit a nice shot from deep in transition to make the score 18-9 with 10 minutes left. That helped spark the offense and after a Stetson three-pointer Anthony Walker immediately responded with another three to make the score 21-12.
Chris Lykes continued to play well as the half went on. With nine minutes left in the half the senior guard drew a foul on a three-point shot and hit all three free throws to give Miami a 24-12 lead. That play gave Lykes 14 points in eight minutes on the court.
Miami forced seven turnovers through 13 minutes of the first half which led to nine points for the Hurricanes going the other way. Good, active defense will be key for Miami going forward, especially in ACC play where the Hurricanes consistently lost the turnover battle last season.
The Hurricanes went cold with about 10 minutes left in the half and didn’t make a shot from the field for nearly six minutes. Stetson took the opportunity to get back in the game, and with five minutes left in the half a three from Joel Kabimba made it a four point game at 26-22. Isaiah Wong got the Hurricanes back on the board with a floater, but the Hatters came right back at Miami, this time with a three-point shot from Josh Smith to make the score 28-25. Another bad Miami possession let the Hatters get to within one point with a nice shot from Stephan Swenson.
After that run of play Miami settled back in and started to rebuild the lead. A 12-0 run to finish out the half built the lead back out to 13. Good defense was key here for the Hurricanes, who got quick three-pointers from Isaiah Wong and Matt Cross during the run along with a fast break dunk from Kameron McGusty.
Miami went to the break leading in every statistical category. Chris Lykes led scoring, with 16 points in the first half off of 5-7 shooting from the field. His performance was very encouraging after a rough first game against North Florida when he was 3-13 from the floor. Isaiah Wong was also good in the first half with nine points and six rebounds.
Another encouraging part of the first half was Deng Gak making his first appearance for the Hurricanes this season. The junior was dealing with a minor injury that kept him out of the first game of the year. He’ll be extremely valuable as the season moves forward as another option in Miami’s frontcourt.
The Hurricanes came out of halftime well. Miami immediately continued the run from the first half and stretched the lead to 16 with an Isaiah Wong three. Miami then made it a 20 point advantage with two Nysier Brooks hooks in the paint. That made the run 19-0 for the Hurricanes. Miami followed with their best defensive possession of the game, and then a Matt Cross jumper made the score 49-27 with 17 minutes left in the game.
Stetson finally got back on the board with a three from Keith Lamar. The Hatters got some stops afterwards and managed to keep the score at 49-31 with 16 minutes left in the game. They also managed to get Miami to struggle from the field again, with the Hurricanes not scoring from the floor for nearly seven minutes. Fortunately Miami drew fouls and played good defense to maintain the lead and with 11:30 left in the half the Hurricanes led 57-41.
A scary moment came with 11:30 left in the half when Chris Lykes went down with what looked to be an injury to his left ankle. Lykes was up and moving on the baseline before heading back to the locker room and at the time his return was “questionable”. Lykes didn’t return presumably due to the Hurricanes’ significant lead. After the game Jim Larrañaga said that Lykes had sprained his ankle and was being worked on by the training staff. Hopefully Lykes’ injury is not serious, because he is key to everything Miami will try to do this season.
Miami continued to play well despite losing their star playmaker. The Hurricanes maintained their 20 point lead through a nice drive from Kam McGusty and a nice interior bucket from Matt Cross. With 7:45 left in the game the Hurricanes led 63-43. Miami expanded the lead as the game neared it’s end, with a 9-0 run to make the score 70-43 with six minutes left.
Another injury concern arose for Miami with four minutes left in the game. Matt Cross finished off a layup in transition under the basket, and then Jim Larrañaga called a timeout. Cross came out of the game after looking a little uncomfortable and headed to the bench where a few trainers worked on his left ankle. After the game Jim Larrañaga explained that Cross also sprained his ankle. If he is out for any length of time he would be another damaging injury loss for the Hurricanes who are already relatively thin in the frontcourt.
The Hurricanes finished out the game well on their way to an 82-60 victory. The guard play was again excellent for Miami with Chris Lykes, Isaiah Wong, and Kam McGusty all in double-digits scoring yet again with 20, 17, and 11 points respectively. Wong had 12 rebounds to go along with his points to earn his first double-double of the season.
Matt Cross was also excellent again with 11 points in his second game as a Hurricane. Nysier Brooks accompanied him well in the frontcourt with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
It was a good win for Miami, which looked a lot more comfortable in the second game of the season. However the biggest storyline following this game will be the injury scares to Lykes and Cross. Both appeared to be minor, but the Hurricanes can not afford to lose either player, especially not Lykes, this season.
Miami will next take the court on Tuesday night against Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Hopefully Lykes, Cross, and the rest of the Hurricanes are healthy because Purdue will be the first tough challenge Miami will face this season. That matchup is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on ESPN2.