Miami has been shooting the ball well over its last three games, but as the Hurricanes prepare for their ACC opener at Virginia on Jan. 7, coach Jim Larranaga wants his team to keep up its defensive effort.
Larranaga credited the Hurricanes with 35 minutes of consistent defensive play in their most lopsided win of the season, 84-54 over Appalachian State, in their last outing.
“Once we kicked it into a high level of intensity, we were able to maintain it for the whole game,” said Larranaga, whose ‘Canes have one more non-conference game to serve as a tune-up for league play. “That is far better than we have done.
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“In the past, we have had one guy playing hard, maybe two guys, and tonight we ended up with seven, eight, nine guys playing hard.”
Part of the problem is that for the first two months, Larranaga has not had a full roster to deal with.
Center Reggie Johnson, coming off a knee injury, didn’t make his season debut until Dec. 17 against Florida Atlantic. Forward DaQuan Jones came on in the next game after the university reversed its decision to hold him out while the NCAA completed its investigation into claims a booster had given an assistant coach $10,000 to secure Jones’ commitment.
Guards Garrius Adams (injury), Malcolm Grant (death in the family), and Shane Larkin (not cleared to play until the second game) all have missed time.
With Grant rejoining the team, the upcoming game against UNC-Greensboro will be the first time this season Larranaga has had a full roster, though Adams isn’t 100 percent.
“What needs to happen now is the players have to stay focused on what we need to do defensively to improve,” Larranaga said. “If they do that, a lot of things will take care of themselves.”
The addition of C Reggie Johnson and athletic F DaQuan Jones in the lineup has boosted Miami’s rebounding strength. The Hurricanes were outrebounded in eight of their first 10 games but have won the boards in their last two with Jones on the floor.
Johnson has 24 rebounds in his first three games, Jones 14 in two appearances.
Sophomore G Rion Brown came off the bench to score 15 points against Appalachian State for his third consecutive game in double figures. He has averaged 13.7 points a game over that span since going scoreless in the loss at West Virginia.
Miami had six players score in double figures in the 84-54 victory over Appalachian State on Dec. 30 with junior G Durand Scott leading with 17 points. The Hurricanes have seven players who are averaging at least eight points a game through 12 games. In addition to G Rion Brown’s 15, they got 11 points off the bench from Jones.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Miami has shot better than 50 percent in each of its last three games after going 28-of-51 (54.9 percent) in the win over Appalachian State. The Hurricanes were 27-of-50 (54 percent) against Charlotte and 31-of-50 (62 percent) against Florida Atlantic.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“He really got our momentum going and got it started. So I give all credit to him.” — Junior G Durand Scott, on freshman PG Shane Larkin’s play (11 points, three assists, three steals and three turnovers) in the win over Appalachian State.