With nine players entering their first season playing for Jim Larrañaga, there weren’t high expectations for the Miami Hurricanes prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign. Miami was picked to finish tenth in the ACC’s preseason media poll, which is exactly where they wound up last season. However after what the Hurricanes have managed to accomplish in the last seven days, there may be a need to reevaluate Larrañaga’s Hurricanes.
Sunday evening Miami capped a 4-0 week with a 77-58 win over Charlotte in the title game of the Gildan Charleston Classic, going on a 22-6 second half run that removed all doubt. Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan led five Hurricanes in double figures with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds, and as a team Miami shot 50 percent from the field. The difference offensively was what Miami was able to do inside of the arc, as they shot 6-for-22 from three.
Thanks to a mixture of good ball movement and spacing, Miami shot 63.2% from two and scored 44 of their 77 points in the paint. Add in the fact that the Hurricanes were able to convert 19 Charlotte turnovers into 27 points, and it isn’t all that difficult to see why Miami moved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Coincidentally, Miami won the Charleston Classic that season as well.
While the two transfer guards, McClellan and point guard Angel Rodriguez, have received a significant amount of attention during Miami’s run of success this is a balanced team. Junior center Tonye Jekiri added 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks against Charlotte, and guards Manu Lecomte (15 points) and James Palmer (12) also finished the game in double figures. Balance is going to be the key for Miami as they look to improve on last season’s results, despite what Rodriguez’s heroics in Gainesville may have led some to believe.
Miami shot 50 percent or better in two of their three games in Charleston, and just as importantly held their opponents below 40 percent in two games as well (Drexel and Akron). Charlotte, which lost Braxton Ogbueze in the first half to a knee injury, struggled to achieve the balance they enjoyed in their two tournament wins, which was a product of both Obgueze’s absence and Miami’s work on the defensive end.
Four wins in seven days is quite the accomplishment for a team with so many new pieces, and to be fair the Hurricanes won’t be “whole” for quite some time. Ivan Cruz Uceda won’t be eligible to play until January 13, and he’ll give Miami a big man who’s more than capable of holding his own on the boards. And the Hurricanes have also been without guard Davon Reed, who suffered an injury in early September and at the time was expected to miss anywhere from four to six months.
Miami’s had to make do with the pieces they currently have, and thus far the Hurricanes have looked good doing so.