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Miami Struggles on the Road, Loses to Wake Forest

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The Hurricanes couldn’t find a rhythm for the entire afternoon.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes, dealing with injuries and the loss of Matt Cross, who left the program earlier this week, lost 66-54 to Wake Forest on the road Saturday afternoon. Miami won just two of nine games in the month of January and have lost four in a row after the loss to the Demon Deacons.

Miami played with just seven players against Wake Forest. Despite their lack of depth the Hurricanes got out to a quick start getting up 7-0 with 15:29 left in the first half. Miami maintained a lead until the Demon Deacons got on to a 15-3 run that gave them a lead heading into the last five minutes of the first half that they would never give up.

The Hurricanes got back to within two points of the lead as the first half neared it’s end, but another Wake Forest run gave the home team a ten-point halftime advantage. That ten-point lead largely held steady for the entire second half. Miami kept the game close but could never get the matchup to within one possession. Things got worse for Miami towards the end of the game when Isaiah Wong appeared to go down with an injury, it’s unclear what his status is moving forward.

Kam McGusty had a great game for the Hurricanes, scoring 17 points and adding five rebounds on the afternoon. Isaiah Wong was also excellent again, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Both guards have been Miami’s best two players over the last several games and continued to play well today.

Wake Forest was led by Daivien Williamson who had 16 points on the afternoon. Isaiah Mucius was also excellent for the Demon Deacons, and nearly had a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Most importantly for Wake Forest, they played 10 players to Miami’s seven which gave them a second half advantage that the Hurricanes couldn’t deal with.

Miami shot 56.3% from beyond the arc and was good from deep all afternoon, the Hurricanes also outshot Wake Forest at 43% to 41%. However, the Demon Deacon’s depth advantage proved key, allowing them to outrebound Miami 37-29 with the Hurricanes getting just three offensive rebounds for the entire game. Those extra possessions ended up being the difference, and it shows the challenges facing Miami at the moment as injuries continue to leave the Hurricanes shorthanded.

The path forward for Miami seems difficult. If Isaiah Wong is out for a significant length of time the Hurricanes will be without their best player and be left with just five scholarship players. The injury issues of the last two seasons are beginning to pale in comparison to the crisis facing the current Hurricanes roster. Miami would be without six scholarship players due to injury; Wong, Chris Lykes, Elijah Olaniyi, Earl Timberlake, Rodney Miller, and Sam Waardenburg. The roster crisis gets worse with the loss of Matt Cross, who departed the program earlier this week. Miami came into the season with arguably one of the deepest rosters in the conference. Chris Lykes was a first-team All-ACC selection ahead of the season, and his combination with Wong, Timberlake, Kam McGusty, and Harlond Beverly made up one of the best backcourts in the ACC and possibly all of college basketball. Three of those five players, Lykes, Timberlake, and McGusty, have missed most of the season so far.

No team in college basketball could’ve been prepared for the injuries Miami has faced this season. The loss of Lykes, McGusty, or Timberlake for an extended period would’ve been difficult, especially in the case of Lykes, but manageable for Coach Jim Larrañaga. Losing all three is something that is borderline impossible to deal with. The return of McGusty has helped, but Miami’s issues in the frontcourt, where the injuries have been almost as bad and possibly more damaging, have combined to make a terrible situation nightmarish. There’s some hope that the injured players could return except for Waardenburg and Miller, who are both out for the season, but the damage has been done. It truly would have been difficult to imagine a worse scenario for Miami to face before the season.

The Hurricanes, now 6-10 and 2-9 in the conference, which puts them 14th in the ACC standings, turn their attention to Duke on Monday. The Blue Devils had a rough start to the season, but are beginning to find their footing and have won their last two games. It will be a tough challenge for a Miami team that desperately needs a win. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.