Preview: Hurricanes start off conference play on road against Pittsburgh
TV: ACC Network
Time: 4 p.m.
PITTSBURGH — Miami’s long series of road tests continues when the No. 15 Hurricanes open Atlantic Coast Conference play at Pittsburgh Saturday.
The Hurricanes (11-1) haven’t played at home since a 69-54 win over Boston University on Dec. 5 and, with another road game next Wednesday at Georgia Tech, they will be more than a month between home appearances when they host Florida State on Jan. 7.
Asked if he had any second thoughts about the schedule, Miami coach Jim Larranaga said he wanted to play most of his nonconference home outings when students were on campus, and that has worked out. The win over Boston U. was their fifth at their Watsco Center on-campus home in seven outings, plus one in nearby downtown Miami against Princeton in the Hoophall Miami Invitational.
But he also wasn’t aware of what the conference schedule was going to be when the schedule was set.
“Three of the first four on the road is pretty tough,” he said, “especially coming off a month on the road in the nonconference.”
After hosting the Seminoles, the Hurricanes are at Clemson on Jan. 13.
The Hurricanes are facing a revived set of Panthers (8-5) who won their last three games and seven of the last eight despite being without their No. 2 scorer and leading rebounder since their 69-60 loss to a good West Virginia team on Dec. 9.
Senior forward Ryan Luther averaged a double-double (12.7 points, 10.1 rebounds) through the first 10 games before being sidelined by a foot injury. He has been able to get on the court for shoot-arounds and other light work, but his status for this weekend is on the doubtful side.
“Things are improving,” Panthers coach Kevin Stallings said, “but I don’t know that I’m ready to say that he will be available. But I’m not ready to say he won’t be either. We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens the next couple of days.”
Junior guard/forward Jared Wilson-Frame is Pitt’s leading scorer with an average of 12.8 points and scored in double-figures in 10 of 13 games.
The Hurricanes are coming off a third-place finish in the Diamond Head Hawaiian Airlines Classic that saw them bounce back from a 64-53 loss to New Mexico State in the semifinals for an 84-81 win over Middle Tennessee State, overcoming an early 13-point deficit.
The Hurricanes returned to the mainland with two bits of good news on the injury front.
Backup guard Lonnie Walker, who didn’t play in the second half against Middle Tennessee after taking a tumble to the floor, is fine and expected to play at Pitt. The freshman is averaging 8.5 points and had 26 against Boston University.
Sophomore guard Bruce Brown is getting his game back after sitting out the win over BU with an injured left hand. He had 33 points, 13 rebounds and four assists the last two games in Hawaii.
“He needs to be an all-conference player,” Larranaga said. “He needs to be what he was last year in many games — the leading scorer, leading rebounder, the leader in assists. He’s very, very capable in all those categories of being very successful and helping us succeed.”