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MBB Tops North Florida, 77-59, in Season Opener

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Playing its first game in 263 days, the University of Miami men’s basketball team defeated North Florida, 77-59, Sunday night to begin the 2020-21 campaign.

Isaiah Wong scored a team-high 20 points and fellow sophomore guard Harlond Beverly logged his first-career double-double for Miami (1-0), which led from start to finish at the Watsco Center against its in-state foe.

“Well, obviously, we have a lot wrinkles to iron out, but it’s good to get started. The guys were excited about finally playing games,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “North Florida presented the problems we knew they would with their 3-point shooting. We did a better job in the second half of making them miss, but we’re going to experience some growing pains because we’re missing a couple of key players in Sam Waardenburg and Earl Timberlake. We miss them in two major categories: defense and rebounding.”

Miami quickly jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. The teams played fairly even basketball the rest of the first half, with the Hurricanes upping their advantage as high as 14 and North Florida (0-3) cutting it as low as seven.

A buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer by the Ospreys made it a 42-34 edge for Miami entering the locker room. The Hurricanes shot 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the field compared to North Florida’s 35.3 percent (12-of-34) mark, but the Ospreys went 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range.

North Florida scored the first five points of the second half to pull within three, but Miami countered with a 17-5 burst to go in front by a then-game-high 15 points, 59-44, with 12:33 to play.

The Ospreys, who shot just 3-of19 (15.8 percent) from deep after the break, got no closer than eight the rest of the way. Miami went on to earn the 77-59 victory, moving to 8-2 in season openers under Larrañaga, with the final margin proving to be the biggest of the night.

Wong’s 20 points came on 9-of-14 shooting, with the nine makes setting a new career high. He added seven rebounds in his team-leading 35 minutes of action.

Beverly’s opening double-double featured 11 points and 11 rebounds, the latter mark a career and game high. The Detroit native also tied a career best with a co-game-high three steals.

“I thought Isaiah was very effective getting in the middle of zone, making good decisions and scoring the ball,” Larrañaga said. “I thought Harlond’s rebounding was a huge key to us getting the lead in the first half. Both guys have shown signs of that in practice, so I’m glad they were able to capitalize.”

Three other Hurricanes finished with double-digit points, giving Miami five total. Senior guard Chris Lykes registered 11, along with six assists, while freshman forward Matt Cross and redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty each logged 10 points and seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, junior forward Carter Hendricksen paced all scorers with 21 points for North Florida, but Miami held him to 7-of-22 shooting, including a 5-of-17 clip from deep. Freshman forward Jonathan Aybar chipped in 12 points for the Ospreys.

The Hurricanes, who recorded 11 steals, ended the night with a 49.2 percent (29-of-59) from the field, while limiting North Florida to a 31.3 percent (21-of-67) tally. Miami had a 47-34 edge on the glass and a 46-18 ledger in paint points after dominating down low.

Up next for the Hurricanes is a matchup with Stetson, also at the Watsco Center, Friday at 8 p.m., live on ACC Network.

To keep up with the University of Miami men’s basketball team on social media, follow @CanesHoops on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The 2020-21 Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball season is presented by First National Bank.

MIAMI HURRICANES POSTGAME NOTES
– The Hurricanes improved to 6-0 all-time against North Florida, including 5-0 at home and 4-0 in Larrañaga’s tenure.
– Larrañaga, who entered the game with the 10th-most victories of any active Division I coach, is now 661-447 in 37 years as a head coach, including 191-113 in 10 seasons at Miami.
– With 191 victories at Miami, Larrañaga moved into a tie for No. 17 on the list of most wins by a coach while leading an ACC program, tying NC State’s Everett Case and Herb Sendek.
– Since the program rebirth in 1985-86, Miami is now 83-7 against in-state non-Power Five programs, including 63-2 at home and 15-2 under Larrañaga.
– For the season opener, Miami used a starting lineup of Cross, Lykes, McGusty, Wong and redshirt senior center Nysier Brooks.
– Cross became the third Hurricane freshman to start a season opener in the ACC era (since 2004-05), joining Manu Lecomte (2013-14) and Denis Clemente (2005-06).
– The Hurricanes moved to 56-14 all-time in season openers (31-5 since rebirth, 15-2 in ACC era, 8-2 under Larrañaga, 47-10 at home) and 58-12 in home openers (32-4 since rebirth, 15-2 in ACC era, 8-2 under Larrañaga).
– As announced prior to the game, freshman guard Earl Timberlake, a consensus top-40 recruit, will miss the first 3-5 weeks of the season with a right ankle injury.
– The last time five Hurricanes scored in double figures was 2/19/20 at Virginia Tech, a triple-overtime affair.
– Miami totaled 18 assists in the victory, matching its top mark from the 2019-20 campaign, which came 3/7/20 in an overtime win over Syracuse.
– Brooks scored Miami’s first points of the season, on his first touch as a Hurricane, with a basket 25 seconds into the contest.
– North Florida’s 21 first-half 3-point attempts tied for the second-most by a Miami opponent in the ACC era, trailing only the 22 Duke took in the second half on 2/7/09.
– This was just the sixth time since joining the ACC a Miami foe attempted at least 21 3-pointers in a half and only the second time before the break, along with Duke on 3/10/06 in the ACC Tournament.
– The Hurricanes snapped a four-game losing streak when recording 10-plus steals, recording a win when doing so for the first time since 2/23/19 against Georgia Tech.
– Wong went 2-of-2 at the line in the game and has now made 30 consecutive free throws dating back to last season.
– Wong, who logged the 11th double-digit point total and fourth 20-point performance of his career, eclipsed 250 points as a Hurricane.
– Beverly notched his 10th double-figure scoring performance at Miami.
– Lykes moved up one spot, passing Mike McCoy, on Miami’s all-time scoring list and now sits No. 23 with 1,236 points.
– Lykes, who surpassed 1,000 field-goal attempts as a collegian, registered his 65th outing with 10-plus points and his 16th performance with five-plus assists.
– McGusty, who moved past 950 points in his career, posted his 50th double-digit point total.