By Ken Cross
Jim Larranaga boasts a deep and athletic Miami basketball team that was still smarting from it’s lack of offensive execution late in last Monday’s loss to Duke. The Hurricanes had the week to make corrections and it certainly showed on Sunday in an entertaining 86-81 win at N.C. State.
Larranaga noted that it was as easy as making the extra pass and finding the open man in the offense. That created good looks from the three-point line as Miami nailed 10-of-19 with Bruce Brown and Anthony Lawrence making three each. The Hurricanes shot 57 percent as it was the first time they had shot over 40 percent in six ACC outings.
“We had 26 assists which means we were sharing the ball well,” said Larranaga, “I wish coaching was that easy because on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, my coaches kept emphasizing to our players, ‘We need more assists, we need more assists. This is how you get them.’ and the players listened and executed and I thought it was very symbolic in the first five or six possessions, we had four or five assists. It sent a message that was the was were going to play today.”
Miami opened a 12-5 lead immediately as Brown and Lawrence set the pace with a pair of triples. It didn’t take long for 5-7 freshman point guard Chris Lykes to get in transition and to start to create for his teammates. Dribble penetration angles opened and allowed the guards to get the basketball to Ebuka Izundu and Dewann Huell in the ball screens.
Izundu went 7-for-7 from the field in scoring 15 points in 19 minutes. He scored seven of Miami’s nine points over the last 3:34 of the first half as the Hurricanes led 36-32 after 20 minutes.
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Larranaga said that there was a pattern in his practices to get those extra passes which meant better shots and it showed as Miami had 26 assists on 34 makes and only 10 turnovers.
“We had a meeting with our three veteran guards and talked all about that,” said Larranaga, “We will shoot the ball so much better if we are getting touches. If you get the ball for the first time in a while, there’s a little anxiousness, you take a bad shot, a contested shot, a rushed shot and we didn’t want that.”
The Miami offense was free flowing and it found an N.C. State team that was more than interested in playing up tempo with an open floor.
Lykes made his first start as Lonnie Walker, who was nursing an injury, came off the bench but still scored 12 points. He worked with Brown and Ja’quan Newton in speeding the tempo which helped the Hurricanes thwart a pair of Wolfpack runs in the second half. The last one came as Allerik Freeman hit a three and made a pair of free throws to bring the N.C. State to within 65-64 with 10:10 to play.
Miami then hit a 12-1 streak over the next four minutes as Huell and Izundu made plays at the rim and then Brown and Lawrence hit triples. The Hurricanes went up 77-65 although the Wolfpack would cut the lead to three with inside a minute to play.
“The talent that we have is more suited for an open court game than it is for a prize fight – a football game in the paint – and when you create an open court game which N.C. State really does, they create it with our defense,” said Larranaga, “We don’t do that, so we have got to rely really heavily on the opponent to play an open court so the two teams are going at each other.”