Miami recovers after blowing lead to down reeling Pittsburgh
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Hurricanes showed they can win without star guard Bruce Brown Jr. — at least against woeful Pittsburgh.
And if they have Lonnie Walker IV.
The freshman guard scored 16 points Wednesday, and Miami regrouped after blowing a 13-point second-half lead to hand the Panthers their school record-tying 10th consecutive loss, 69-57.
Miami (16-5, 5-4) won in its first game since losing Brown , who is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks with a left foot injury that was diagnosed Monday.
“Not having him was a little bit of an upset moment,” Walker said. “He’s one of those players who gets everyone going. We’ve just got to get used to fighting without him.”
Walker did that, scoring on three consecutive possessions during a 7-0 run by the Hurricanes immediately after Pittsburgh had scored 14 consecutive points to go up 44-43. Pitt never led again.
“I don’t like losing at all,” Walker said. “I felt like I had to take over. I felt like I can do what I want to if I really put my mind into it.”
The Panthers (8-15, 0-10 Atlantic Coast Conference), off to their worst conference start ever, matched the longest losing streak in program history. Pitt also lost 10 in a row in 1968-69 and 1992-93.
Coach Kevin Stallings said his team played Miami much more competitively than in December, when the Hurricanes won by 14.
“Our team is getting better,” Stallings said. “We don’t have wins to show for it, and I feel horribly for my guys for that, because they’ve been as coachable as any group I’ve ever had. Hopefully we keep getting better and we’ll knock one off.”
The Panthers have lost 14 consecutive ACC regular-season games since last season under their second-year coach.
But Walker said Miami didn’t take Pitt lightly.
“We treat every team like they’re No. 1 in the country,” Walker said. “It was definitely a challenge for this game not having one of our key players.”
In Brown’s absence, freshman Chris Lykes played a season-high 33 minutes and totaled 13 points and five assists. Anthony Lawrence added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jared Wilson-Frame led Pitt with 17 points, including five 3-pointers, but was limited to 29 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Hurricanes, who were 16-point favorites, led 43-30 but then went nearly six minutes without a point as the Panthers rallied. Once the Hurricanes fell behind they switched to a zone, and that cooled Pitt off.
“At the end we missed a bunch of open shots,” Stallings said.
Miami rebuilt its advantage to 11 points with five minutes left. Walker’s run of seven consecutive points included two free throws, a layup and a long 3-pointer.
“That was pretty amazing,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said. “I was calling a play, and he was launching an NBA 3.”
The Hurricanes have won five in row against Pittsburgh, including both meetings this season. Miami improved to 8-1 at home this season.
Pitt went 3 for 3 at the free throw line, while Miami went 17 for 23. When asked about the disparity, Stallings said, “We shot our free throws well.”
Brown watched from the bench and is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday.
“I feel badly for the kid because he’s one of my favorite players in the league that doesn’t play on my team,” Stallings said. “He’s a difference-maker. They’re deep enough to absorb his loss for a while, but obviously any team would be better with him.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers play the second of three consecutive road games Saturday at No. 19 North Carolina.
Miami: The Hurricanes play at Virginia Tech on Saturday.