The Dream Season: Part II

The Dream Season: Part II

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – This is the second installment of a seven-segment series creating the “dream” University of Miami men’s basketball season from Jim Larrañaga’s nine-year tenure, since 2011-12.

What does that mean? We went through every option for each game number—i.e. all nine season openers, all nine 23rd games of a season—and picked the best one of each group to form that “dream” season.

Some selections were made due to win quality, others for a memorable finish and others for historical achievements. Some include all of that, but each game is special in some way.

In Part II, we make the top choice for games six through 10. The list includes three entertaining ACC/Big Ten Challenge road victories, an in-state rivalry triumph and a one-point win at an NBA venue.

Part I can be found HERE.

Game 6… Nov. 29, 2017: #10/13 Miami 86, #12 Minnesota 81 (Minneapolis, Minn.)

For the first time in Jim Larrañaga’s tenure, Miami took part in a regular season, non-conference showdown with both teams ranked in the top 15 of both polls . . . and came away with a road victory.

In one of just two ACC/Big Ten Challenge games featuring a pair of ranked teams, the Hurricanes logged their first of three top-25 wins in 2017-18. Miami led by as many as 12 and trailed for just 2:01 in front of a raucous crowd of 14,625.

Sophomore forward Dewan Hernandez’s co-game-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting paced Miami in the victory. His classmate, guard Bruce Brown Jr., notched 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists without committing a turnover in 37 minutes. Senior guard Ja’Quan Newton tallied 12 points, sophomore guard DJ Vasiljevic had 12 and freshman guard Chris Lykes added 10 to give Miami a quintet of double-digit scorers.

Game 7… Dec. 1, 2015: #21 Miami 77, Nebraska 72 (OT) (Lincoln, Neb.)

The first non-conference overtime road win of Jim Larrañaga’s Miami career.

Miami used a balanced offensive attack featuring five double-digit scorers to overcome a subpar shooting performance and an incredible performance by Nebraska’s Savon Shields, who finished with 28 points. Junior guard Davon Reed hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:36 left in overtime, his first and only made field goal of the night, to give Miami a lead it would not relinquish in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge affair.

Angel Rodriguez scored 15 points and fellow redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan added 14, as well as surpassed 1,500 in his stellar career. Freshman forward Anthony Lawrence II tallied 13 points, while redshirt junior forward Kamari Murphy and sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton each had 10.

Game 8… Dec. 2, 2019: Miami 81, Illinois 79 (Champaign, Ill.)

The fourth straight Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on the list—and the most exciting one of the group—gave Jim Larrañaga the 650th triumph of his illustrious career.

On the road against an Illinois team that ended the abbreviated 2019-20 season with 21 wins and a top-25 ranking, Miami turned in a remarkable shooting performance. In the first half alone, the Hurricanes had a stretch during which they went 18-of-21 from the floor, including 6-of-7 from deep, to take a 27-point edge.

After Miami shot 66.7 percent (20-of-30) before the break, the Fighting Illini posted a 60.7 percent (17-of-28) clip after it to come roaring back. They used a 25-9 run to pull within one in the final minute, but junior guard Chris Lykes drew a charge with 2.7 seconds left and hit a free throw at the other end to give Miami the hard-fought win.

Lykes led all scorers with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting, while senior guard DJ Vasiljevic poured in 20 of his own after going 6-of-9 from long range. Redshirt junior guard Kameron McGusty logged 13 and redshirt junior forward Sam Waardenburg added 12 in the win. The Hurricanes finished with a 59.3 percent (32-of-54) ledger from the floor, including a 55.6 percent (10-of-18) tally from beyond the arc.

Game 9… Dec. 8, 2015: #17/20 Miami 66, Florida 55 (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Hosting the Gators for the first time in a decade, Miami knocked off its bitter rival for the second year in a row.

This one, though, was not nearly as close as the 2014 classic in Gainesville, Fla. The Hurricanes trailed for only 13 seconds and led by as many as 15 points in their first double-digit win over Florida since 1963. Only three Florida players scored five-plus points and Miami allowed just a 38.6 percent (22-of-57) field goal clip, including an 8.3 percent (1-of-12) mark on 3-pointers.

Redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan posted a dazzling 24-point outing, finishing 7-of-12 from the floor, 3-of-4 from deep and 7-of-8 at the stripe. Redshirt senior guard Angel Rodriguez also excelled against the Gators once again, notching 17 points and shooting 3-of-5 from deep.

Game 10… Dec. 17, 2019: Miami 78, Temple 77 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

An absolute thriller in an NBA arena.

It came down to the closing seconds in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational at the Barclays Center and Miami eked out a one-point victory. His team trailing by one, junior guard Chris Lykes drew a foul with 4.4 ticks on the clock and hit both his free throws to make it a one-point lead for the Hurricanes. They then got the defensive stop, sealing the decision despite 13 made 3-pointers by the Owls.

Lykes led the way in the scoring column with 17 points and he added a co-game-high six assists, en route to game MVP honors. Redshirt senior forward Keith Stone tallied 13 points, while redshirt junior guard Kameron McGusty recorded 12 and 10 rebounds. Redshirt junior center Rodney Miller Jr., registered 11 points and nine points in his home state, while senior guard DJ Vasiljevic posted 11 points of his own.