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Shorthanded MBB Falls to FGCU, 66-62

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Playing nearly the entire game with just six scholarship players, the University of Miami men’s basketball team dropped a 66-62 decision to FGCU Saturday afternoon at the Watsco Center.

Already down three injured players to begin the game, Miami (3-1) lost two more within the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Isaiah Wong’s 20 points and redshirt senior Nysier Brooks’ double-double were not enough to overcome the Eagles’ scorching 3-point shooting.

“We’re shorthanded. We don’t have enough healthy bodies to play our game and until we get a group of guys that can function physically, it’s going to be a challenge because of the number of injuries we have,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “…We only have 12 scholarship players and six of them can’t play. So, it puts way too much of a burden on the guys who fought valiantly against Florida Gulf Coast, but they had no rest, no subs.”

The entire first half was played within an eight-point window, as Miami’s largest lead was five and its biggest deficit was three. The game went into the intermission deadlocked at 28, despite nine points and six rebounds from Brooks.

Redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty departed with 15:29 on the clock with a right leg injury and then redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr., did so with 10:04 to go with a left leg injury.

The second half was played within a six-point frame—the Hurricanes neither led by greater than nor trailed by over five—until the final minute. With 39.5 seconds left, sophomore guard Dakota Rivers gave FGCU (3-1) its largest lead of the day, 62-56, on the Eagles’ 13th made 3-pointer.

Wong countered with a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around two FGCU free throws, but it was not enough for the Hurricanes, who fell by four.

The two late 3-pointers from Wong came after Miami started the game 1-of-17 from beyond the arc. His 20 points came on 9-of-19 shooting, matching his career best in makes, and he added a career-high-tying three steals while playing all 40 minutes.

Brooks finished the game with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, six of which came at the offensive end. Sophomore forward Anthony Walker added 12 points, his second-highest total as a Hurricane, in a career-high 32 minutes.

Junior guard Caleb Cotto paced the Eagles with 18 points and went 4-of-7 from long range. Rivers tallied 15 points, while sophomore guard Cyrus Largie notched 12. Redshirt senior forward Eli Abaev totaled 11 points and nine rebounds in the win.

Miami’s logged a 40-8 advantage in paint points and 43-28 edge in rebounding, but FGCU went 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) on 3-pointers, while the Hurricanes posted a 3-of-19 (15.8 percent) clip from long range.

The Hurricanes return to action Wednesday at 6 p.m., when they host Pittsburgh at the Watsco Center, live on ACC Network, to begin their 2020-21 league slate.

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.

– The Hurricanes moved to 3-2 all-time versus FGCU, including 2-1 at home and 1-2 in Larrañaga’s tenure.
– Larrañaga, who entered the game with the 10th-most victories of any active Division I coach, is now 663-448 in 37 years as a head coach, including 193-114 in 10 seasons at Miami.
– Since the program rebirth in 1985-86, Miami is now 84-8 against in-state non-Power Five programs, including 64-3 at home and 16-3 under Larrañaga.
– For the second time this season, Miami used a starting lineup of Brrooks, McGusty, Wong, sophomore guard Harlond Beverly and freshman forward Matt Cross.
– The Hurricanes once again played without senior guard Chris Lykes (left ankle) and freshman guard Earl Timberlake (right ankle), in addition to redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg, who is out for the season with a left foot injury.
– The last time Miami was tied at halftime in a non-conference game was on 11/25/18 in an 83-81 setback against Seton Hall in Fullerton, Calif.
– The Hurricanes’ eight blocks were their most since 2/19/20 in a triple-overtime game at Virginia Tech.
– Senior guard Willie Herenton saw his first action of the season, playing two minutes for Miami.
– Before Brooks, the last Hurricane to grab 15-plus rebounds in a game was Keith Stone, who pulled down 18 in the aforementioned 2/19/20 in a triple-overtime contest at Virginia Tech.
– Brooks’ prior career high in rebounds was 12, which he recorded multiple times while at Cincinnati, most recently on 3/2/19 against Memphis.
– Brooks tallied his 15th double-digit point total, seventh double-figure rebounding total and fourth double-double, including his first of each this season.
– McGusty, who returned to the game with two seconds left to throw a long inbounds pass, recorded the 50th start of his career.
– Beverly eclipsed both 250 points and 100 rebounds as a Hurricane.
– Wong surpassed both 300 points and 100 made field goals at Miami.
– Wong registered the 14th double-figure scoring performance and fifth 20-point outing of his career, including his fourth and second of this year, respectively.
– Walker, who tied his career highs in made field goals (five) and blocked shots (three), scored in double figures for the second time in his career and first this season.