No. 13 Miami kicks off basketball season full of promise against Gardner-Webb
Time: 8 p.m.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — No. 13 Miami will go into its season opener against visiting Gardner-Webb on Friday with its highest-ever basketball preseason ranking.
However, the Hurricanes showed they may not be ready for prime time yet in their 106-79 exhibition win over Newberry last week. Despite the romp — they led 65-41 at the half and shot 63.6 percent from the field — they also were charged with 30 turnovers against 32 assists.
Even so, coach Jim Larranaga was somewhat upbeat afterward.
“Just what the doctor ordered,” he said. “They’re a team that played very hard and pressured us and forced us into a lot of mistakes. It’s something we’ve been working on, but, obviously, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Tipoff for the opener at the Watsco Center campus home is 8 p.m. ET.
Sophomore guard Dejan Vasiljevic scored 30 points on 8-of-11 shooting from behind the 3-point arc against Newberry. And he was responsible for only two of the turnovers compared to the six of senior point guard Ja’Quan Newton and five for sophomore guard Bruce Brown.
“It’s the game we needed as a team,” Vasiljevic said. “They play a different style of tempo, so it gives us a lot of conditioning, a lot of running. We just needed to get the cobwebs out, and we did that, so now it’s time for the season opener.”
In addition to the poll ranking, the Hurricanes have matched their highest preseason prediction for the Atlantic Coast Conference race. A media poll tabbed them for fourth place behind Duke, North Carolina and Notre Dame. The Hurricanes were behind Duke and North Carolina in the national poll but edged out the Fighting Irish, who were 14th.
“It’s good, but that’s only a number,” freshman guard Lonnie Walker, the prize recruit in Miami’s class of newcomers, said of the ranking. “There’s a lot of good teams that aren’t ranked, and there are a lot of teams that are ranked, so we’re going to continue to try and climb that ladder and defeat anyone that’s in our way.
“Any team that we play against, we have to visualize that they’re No. 1 in the country no matter if it’s Duke or some other team. We have to understand that every single game we can lose.”
Gardner-Webb returns three starters from a 19-14 team and is picked to finish fifth in the Big South Conference. Seven of the 10 veteran returnees are in their third or fourth season.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs, who later play at Florida and at UCF, are looking forward to the trip.
“We pride ourselves on playing a challenging nonconference schedule each season, and this is certainly an accomplished group of opponents,” coach Tim Craft said. “With four of our guys on the roster next season from Florida, and with our recruiting success there over the past few years, we felt like it would be great to get some marquee games in the state.
“They’re very excited to play down there.”