The Dream Season: Part III

The Dream Season: Part III

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – This is the third 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 III, we make the top choice for games 11 through 15. The list includes a record-breaking performance, an overtime thriller, a double-digit win over a Final Four squad and two victories at the Dean E. Smith Center.

Part I can be found HERE, while Part II is available HERE.

Game 11… Dec. 21, 2019: Miami 91, Coppin State 60 (Coral Gables, Fla.)

A record-setting 18 made 3-pointers by the Hurricanes. The 12th 30-point victory of Jim Larrañaga’s tenure at The U.

Not only did Miami connect on the most long-range shots in program history, it did so efficiently, finishing with an 18-of-38 (47.4 percent) mark. Seven different players knocked down at least one triple, with redshirt junior guard Kameron McGusty’s 5-of-7 mark pacing the group. He went 9-of-11 overall from the floor and 5-of-6 at the stripe to tally a career-best 28 points.

Senior guard DJ Vasiljevic gave Miami a second 20-point scorer, as he notched 21 points and made all eight of his free throws. Junior guard Chris Lykes went 4-of-7 from deep and finished with 16 points, while redshirt junior forward Sam Waardenburg totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double.

Game 12… Dec. 31, 2019: Miami 73, Clemson 68 (OT) (Clemson, S.C.)

The third consecutive 2019-20 game on this list is an overtime classic on New Year’s Eve.

Facing a 10-point road deficit with 12:53 to play, the Hurricanes rallied to stun Clemson just a few hours before the end of the decade. Miami used an extended 24-11 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from redshirt junior forward Sam Waardenburg and junior guard Chris Lykes, to go in front, 60-57, with 3:34 remaining.

After Clemson went back in front, Lykes leveled the score at 62 with 48 seconds to go and the teams went to overtime at the same score. The Tigers used a 6-0 run to grab a 68-66 edge with 1:56 on the clock in the extra session, but Lykes again tied the score, this time with a pair of free throws. Senior guard DJ Vasiljevic put Miami ahead for good on a contested 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play and later iced the win with two free throws.

Lykes scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and eclipsed 1,000 points in his career in the process. Vasiljevic and redshirt junior guard Kameron McGusty each logged 15 points in the comeback triumph.

Game 13… Jan. 2, 2016: #13/15 Miami 64, Syracuse 51 (Coral Gables, Fla.)

The second of Jim Larrañaga’s three wins at Miami against an eventual Final Four team.

In one of the Hurricanes’ most impressive defensive showings under Larrañaga in ACC play, they held the Orange to 18-of-56 (32.1 percent) shooting from the floor, including a 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) ledger from deep. Only two Syracuse players scored eight-plus points and just one, eventual NBA Draft first-round pick Malachi Richardson, eclipsed 10.

Miami, though, had a sluggish shooting performance of its own and rallied back from a 12-point deficit to take a late 14-point lead, good for a 26-point swing. Redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan led all scorers with 22 points and went 12-of-14 from the stripe. Sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton added 14 points in the win over a Syracuse team that finished the year ranked top-10 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll.

Game 14… Jan. 10, 2013: Miami 68, North Carolina 59 (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

The first of the Hurricanes’ six triumphs over North Carolina under Jim Larrañaga. Also the first of Miami’s three 2012-13 wins against the Tar Heels, who finished the year with 25 wins and sported six future NBA players/draftees, including three first-round picks.

Although the affair featured 11 lead changes and seven ties, the Hurricanes led for the majority of the second half on their way to snapping a 10-game series losing streak. Redshirt senior forward Kenny Kadji led the charge for Miami, pacing all players in points (18), rebounds (nine) and blocks (four). He finished 7-of-11 from the floor and dished out three assists while committing no turnovers in 37 minutes.

Redshirt senior center Julian Gamble recorded 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while sophomore guard Shane Larkin and senior guard Durand Scott each added 11 points. In addition, Miami limited eventual NBA first-round draft choices Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston to a combined 16 points on 6-of-23 shooting.

Game 15… Jan. 8, 2014: Miami 63, North Carolina 57 (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

The most improbable of Miami’s three road wins over the Tar Heels in the Jim Larrañaga era served as the Hurricanes’ fourth straight victory in the series.

Despite losing its top six scorers from the ACC title team, Miami won at the Dean E. Smith Center for the second consecutive year. The Hurricanes got it done with defense, limiting a team that ended the year with 24 victories and a top-25 ranking to just one double-digit scorer. North Carolina shot 20-of-65 (30.8 percent) from the floor, including 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) on 3-pointers, trailed for the entire second half and faced a deficit as high as 13.

Senior guard Rion Brown turned in a stellar performance for the Hurricanes, registering a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to log a double-double. Senior forward Erik Swoope scored a then-career-high 14 points in the win, finishing 5-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-4 at the line. Freshman guard Manu Lecomte had 10 points, while sophomore center Tonye Jekiri controlled the game defensively with 10 boards, three blocks and two steals.