Miami basketball: Hurricanes survive poor offensive effort thanks to top-ranked defense

It would be hard to describe the University of Miami basketball team’s start Saturday as anything but ugly. The No. 6 Hurricanes missed jumpers, dunks and free throws on the way to scoring only 13 points in the first 9 minutes. They started just 3 of 10 from the field

However, after the first 5 minutes, George Washington was never able to claw closer than 7 points and Miami went on top a 59-50 win on the road.

“We needed to go on the road. We’re going on the road for six consecutive games now,” coach Jim Larranaga said during a postgame interview with CBS Sports Network. “This is the first of six, so great crowd on hand and I thought our guys did a pretty good job defensively in the first half.”

The Hurricanes, like any other team at this point of the season, are flawed. Miami (9-0) entered the weekend with an offensive efficiency ranked outside the top 50. With a relatively slow pace, the Hurricanes rank outside the top 75 nationally in points per game despite a relatively easy schedule without a single win against a top-25 opponent.

Their defense means none of it really matters.

Miami held the Colonials (5-6) to only 15 first-half points on 18.9-percent shooting. They got better in the second half. That meant 39 points on 38.9-percent shooting.

The Hurricanes smothered George Washington, keeping the Colonials to only 4 3-pointers on 18 attempts. Miami only got in trouble on the boards. George Washington did most of its work with second-chance opportunities. The Colonials secured 17 offensive rebounds, including 12 during the second half.

It was about the only flaw for the nation’s No. 1 defense. The way the Hurricanes’ offense played, particularly during its worst stretches, an upset could have occurred if not for the defensive effort.

“We missed some early 3s and then we changed up, I played a lineup that never plays,” Larranaga said, trying to diagnose Miami’s offensive issues.

The cure wound up being Lonnie Walker IV. The star shooting guard has caught fire since the start of December. After only managing 10 points once during his first first six games, the freshman has had his three highest-scoring games in the Hurricanes’ first three games of December.

The guard had a breakout performance Dec. 5 against Boston University. Walker went wild, drilling 5 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 26 points. Ten days later, he lifted Miami out of a slump despite only going 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Walker finished with 13 points, 8 of which came after halftime. Forward Dewan Huell added 15 points and 12 rebounds against the overmatched Colonials.

Good Heavens!

Miami focused on shutting down Yuta Watanabe at the Charles E. Smith Center. The rangy forward is the most dangerous offensive weapon for George Washington with his combination of size and shooting ability. The Hurricanes held him to 9 points on 12 shots and the Colonials offense crumbled around him.

“That’s an NBA prospect right there. He’s great. He’s 6-9. He can dribble, he can shoot. He can do a little bit of everything,” Walker said on CBS Sports Network. “He didn’t shoot the ball as good as we expected him to shoot. Thank you.”

This has been a trend for Miami early this season and it’s the biggest reason the Hurricanes continue to climb toward the Top 5.

The opening lull at the Smith Center was only one of two significant ones for Miami. The Hurricanes’ lead swelled to as large as 21 during the first half before George Washington cut it to 32-15 at halftime. The Colonials kept scratching away and Miami kept missing. The Colonials switched to a zone and the Hurricanes started the second half 2 of 10 as the lead shrunk to single digits.

Still, it never got closer than 7. Miami stayed perfect with the best defense in the country.

The post Miami basketball: Hurricanes survive poor offensive effort thanks to top-ranked defense appeared first on Diehards.

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