Miami puts perfect mark on line against Hawaii
Miami is one of only four remaining undefeated teams in NCAA Division I competition, but probably the person least impressed by that status is Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga.
“I don’t even think about it,” Larranaga said after the Hurricanes (9-0) ended an 11-day layoff last weekend with a 59-50 victory over George Washington. “What I think about is performance.”
With no home game until Jan. 7 when they host Florida State, the Hurricanes will play their next three in Honolulu in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with the first Friday night against host Hawaii (7-2).
They will get either Davidson or New Mexico State in the second game Saturday. The event winds up on Christmas Day. Teams in the other bracket are Akron, USC, Middle Tennessee, and Princeton. The Hurricanes already have an 80-52 win over Princeton on Dec. 2.
After the Diamond Head tourney, the Hurricanes open Atlantic Coast Conference play at Pittsburgh on Dec. 30 and at Georgia Tech on Jan. 3.
By then Larranaga said he should have a better feel on how his team is shaping up. He looks at this upcoming stretch as an opportunity to correct such areas as breakdowns on defense and rebounding lapses that showed up in the win over George Washington.
“Those will be more critical areas for us,” he said.
That pretty much has been the constant theme all season.
“At the beginning of the year, if you asked me the areas we really needed to focus on, it would’ve been the defense and the rebounding,” Larranaga said. “Especially the rebounding, because we’re a young team and young players tend to spectate when the shot goes up, like it’s somebody else’s job to get the rebound.”
He was pleased to see sophomore forward Dewan Huell step up at George Washington with 12 rebounds to go with his 15 points. As a team, however, the Hurricanes lost the battle on the boards by five.
Junior forward Ebuka Izundu had only three bounds in 14 minutes.
“Those two guys have to rebound for us to be successful, especially when we’re playing against good offensive rebounding teams,” Larranaga said.
The Rainbow Warriors have outrebounded opponents overall with 90 of their 330 boards at their end. Their opponents have 79 offensive rebounds among their 301 total.
Forward Mike Thomas, who missed last season because of a wrist injury, leads in rebounding (6.8 per game) as well as scoring (12.6).
The Warriors have won their last three games after earning what third-year coach Eron Ganot called their “best win of the year” with the 70-69 decision over Utah Valley.
“Certainly our best defensive performance of the year, particularly against an elite offensive team,” Ganot said. “We had our best defensive performance against the best offensive team.”
The Rainbow Classic dates back to 1964 and Hawaii, the host team, has won it 14 times, including two years ago in Ganot’s first season.
This will be Miami’s second appearance. The Hurricanes went 1-2 in 2012, beating Hawaii in their opener and losing to Arizona State and Indiana State.