Multiple reports are surfacing that Miami forward Reggie Johnson will not play and will not make the trip to Washington D.C. for the Hurricanes Sweet 16 match-up against Marquette due to an apparent “lower extremity” injury.
Johnson suffered the injury in the Hurricanes’ victory over Illinois in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Without Johnson, the Hurricanes will take a hit in the post. The senior from Winston-Salem, N.C. has averaged 6.7 points and seven rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game this season. Johnson has been coming off the bench for the most part this year, starting just nine games.
“We’re all just going to have to step up,” sixth-year senior forward Julian Gamble told the Miami Herald. “Hopefully we get him back for the Final Four.”
Johnson is a nimble space-eater at 6-10, 292 pounds. He was expected to be matched-up against another talented big-body in Marquette’s 6-8, 290-pound Davante Gardner.
A tweet from The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Michael Casagrande furthers how “out of nowhere” this news seemed.
There’s been no word on a timetable for Johnson’s return.
The one silver lining is that Jim Larranaga’s bunch has been here before. Johnson missed eight games earlier this season due to a broken thumb and also missed a win over Jacksonville before that. Miami has gone 7-2 without him this season, with both their losses coming in the Diamondhead Classic to Indiana State and then-no. 4 Arizona.
Johnson hasn’t been at his best offensively since returning from the thumb injury. He has yet to record a double-digit scoring game and is shooting 38 percent from the field — though he hasn’t really been called upon to carry any bulk of the offense, Miami is too loaded for that. But he has maintained his rebounding presence, grabbing at least six in 10 games since Jan. 23.
Miami is deep enough to withstand the loss of Johnson. That’s obvious. The biggest problem this presents is that without Johnson, it might take some serious help-side defense by forwards Kenny Kadji and Julius Gamble to contain Gardner down low. Both are able to guard Gardner one-on-one, but his size allows him to create space better than a lot of forwards in college basketball and he’s very good at getting his shot up around the basket without a lot of room.
Miami plays Marquette at 7:15 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten