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Canes Hoops: Miami Holds off UCF to Move Above .500

In a chippy affair, a combined effort from Miami’s newcomers created enough separation from a pesky in-state opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A technical foul and an ejection in the second half of the Miami Hurricanes’ win Tuesday night at the Central Florida Knights showed fans how these in-state squads feel about each other on the court.

Whether or not this series can be considered a true rivalry, it’s UM that threw the opening punch, absorbed a response, and fought their way to a hard-fought 79-70 win at the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando.

The Canes (2-1) took care of the ball throughout the matchup, turning the ball over just nine times, and scoring 21 points off 17 Knights giveaways in the win.

Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljecic—Miami’s two most experienced guards—struggled over large segments Tuesday. Lykes shot just 2-6, playing at both the point guard position and off the ball on the wing. Vasiljevic, who’s been UM’s best three-point specialist for much of his career, hit just two of his seven shots from three-point range.

Miami would instead see its backcourt newcomers carry the team through the game, with guard Kameron McGusty recording a double-double by scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, which was also a best among players on both teams. Freshman Harlond Beverly was also impressive, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Among big men, redshirt sophomore Deng Gak was second among Hurricanes in +/- with 11, Rodney Miller shot a team-high 80% from the field and scored eight points, while Waardenburg was limited to just 18 minutes with an apparent lower body injury.

UM was still out rebounded 40-33 in the win, and shot just 25% on three-point field goals. For UCF, senior Frank Bertz and freshman Darin Green Jr. each had a team-high 13 points and three made three-pointers.

The Hurricanes stormed out to a 19-9 lead in the first seven minutes of the contest, but allowed a 20-7 extended run over the next ten-plus minutes and allowed the Knights take a three-point lead, their largest of the half.

In spite of shooting just under 39% overall and 15% from three-point range before halftime, the Canes took a 30-29 lead into the locker room with the help of two McGusty baskets, including one as the clock expired.

McGusty entered halftime with 13 points and five rebounds.

Even while Gak solidified the backcourt with Miller and Waardenburg each on the bench with foul trouble, a 22-12 start to the second half gave Miami an 11-point lead with 12:40 to play, UM’s largest advantage up to that point.

UCF’s Colin Smith was called for a fourth foul with more than 10 minutes remaining in the game, who’s eight points was then tied for a team-high. Smith returned to the contest with just over six minutes on the clock, only to foul out less than a minutes later.

Lykes clapped in the face of the Knights’ Dazon Ingram after the foul was whistled. Lykes was called for a technical for taunting, but Ingram was ejected from the matchup for elbowing the UM guard in retaliation. One possession after the ensuring free throws, the Canes took a 15-point lead, which was their largest of the evening.

The win is Miami’s first in the series since 2012, when UM won 72-50 in Orlando. The Hurricanes now lead the all-time series 8-2. UCF beat the Canes in 2013 in Coral Gables, 63-58.

The Hurricanes are next in action at 2 pm Saturday, playing the Quinnipiac Bobcats at the Watsco Center.