Preview: No. 10 Miami holds court at AmericanAirlines Arena to take on Princeton

Ja'Quan Newton (0),Bruce Brown Jr. (11) and the Miami Hurricanes will take on Princeton on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

TV: ESPNU

Time: 8 p.m.

Miami and Princeton are off to vastly different starts to their seasons, but they do appear to have one thing in common.

Both the No. 10 Hurricanes (6-0) and struggling Tigers (2-4) may look to the smallest player on their respective rosters for a lift off the bench when they clash Saturday night in the Hoophall Miami Invitational in the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami.

Guard Chris Lykes has been a consistent contributor for the Hurricanes in averaging nearly 17 minutes in the backcourt rotation with starters Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown, and Anthony Lawrence. The 5-7 freshman is shooting 10-of-24 from 3-point range and averaging 7.3 points and just under two assists.

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Jose Morales is averaging 3.6 points in 10.6 minutes of playing time for Princeton, but coach Mitch Henderson credited the 5-9 sophomore for giving the Tiers a lift last week when they cut a halftime deficit down to eight points in the second half before losing 85-76 to Lehigh.

Morales scored eight points in 25 minutes. Both numbers were season highs.

“Jose has moxie,” Henderson said. “I think everybody saw it today. He’s just a little guy, but his heart is quite big. And he plays big.

“I’m not hitting the panic button, but let’s find out what we’re all about as a team. And what we’re all about is what Jose brought to the team. You gotta have some fight.”

“Heart” also is the word Miami coach Jim Larranaga used to describe the diminutive Lykes, who scored in double figures three times this season, including each of his last two games. In addition to his 10 points in Miami’s 86-81 win at Minnesota — the Hurricanes’ first over a ranked opponent this season — he had three steals against the Gophers.

“Chris is fast, he’s quick, he’s a nuisance on defense, he can shoot the 3, he can blow by you,” Larranaga said. “How many of you have seen a college player push the ball right-handed the length of the court, go around his back, lay it in and get fouled no matter what size they are.

“So to me, it’s not about height. It’s about heart. And he’s got a huge heart, and he’s got huge skills. And he’s learning. He’s only a freshman.”

Over his last four games, Lykes is 12 of 26 from the field, including 7 of 17 from behind the 3-point arc, with a season-high 13 points in the win over Florida A&M, when he played a season-high 21 minutes.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Larranaga said, “that Chris is going to be an outstanding college player in our program.”

After the game against Princeton, the second of a doubleheader that opens with No. 2 Kansas against unranked but undefeated Syracuse, Miami will host Boston University Tuesday night back in the Watsco Center on campus in its last game before taking a break for final exams. Princeton plays at George Washington Wednesday night.

“A tough schedule ahead,” Princeton’s Henderson said, “but a great opportunity for us to learn from it and get better and see which team we are.”