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MBB Defeats Jacksonville, 73-64

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Behind the outstanding player of a pair of sophomores, the University of Miami men’s basketball team topped Jacksonville, 73-64, Saturday afternoon in its non-conference finale.

Guard Isaiah Wong and forward Anthony Walker combined for 43 points for Miami (4-2, 0-1 ACC), which led nearly wire-to-wire at the Watsco Center.

“Well, a number of things became very important. Number one, we went 21-of-25 from the free-throw line. That’s what allowed us to win the game,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We outrebounded them significantly; that was critical. We got a lot of help from guys off the bench.”

The Hurricanes controlled play for the majority of the first half and did not trail after the first three minutes. Back-to-back right-corner 3-pointers by freshman forward Matt Cross and sophomore guard Harlond Beverly to close the frame gave Miami a 37-26 edge at the intermission.

Wong scored 15 points, tied for his second-most in any half, in the opening 20 minutes, while Walker added 10, his most in a half as a collegian. Additionally, as a team, Miami went 10-of-10 at the stripe in the opening session.

The Hurricanes’ strong play to open the second half helped them build a 52-38 lead, but Jacksonville (6-3) countered with 15-4 spurt in just 4:28 of play to pull within three, 56-53, with 9:02 to go.

Miami, though, did not let the Dolphins draw any closer and extended its lead back up to eight with 3:01 remaining, en route to the victory, which snapped a two-game skid.

Wong scored a season-high 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting, including a 3-of-7 mark from deep, tying his career best in makes in both categories. He added nine rebounds to finish just shy of a double-double.

Walker tallied a career-high 18 points and a career-high-tying 10 boards, the latter mark leading all players, to post his second consecutive double-double after logging none in his first 29 collegiate appearances. The Baltimore native went 8-of-8 from the stripe, setting a new top mark in makes, and recorded a career-high-tying three blocks.

“Anthony Walker had perhaps his best game as a Hurricane … and was a real factor at both ends of the court,” Larrañaga said. “Isaiah was also terrific on both ends of the court … and played outstanding defense on the ball. He’s really a hard guy to guard; he can really score the ball.”

Making his Miami debut after missing the first five games with a right ankle injury, freshman guard Earl Timberlake totaled 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal in 26 minutes of action. He went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the victory and scored 10 of his points in the second half.

Junior forward Dontarius James finished as the lone Dolphin in double figures, as he scored 19 points before fouling out with 7:55 to play.

The Hurricanes, who made their first 12 free throws through 24 minutes, 84.0 percent from the line, while Jacksonville posted just a 40.0 percent (4-of-10) ledger. They also finished with a 49-26 edge on the glass, good for a plus-23 margin that is the team’s highest total in nearly five full years.

Miami now has nine days without a game before heading to Blacksburg, Va., for its road opener, a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech, set for 6 p.m. on ACC Network, live from Cassell Coliseum.

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 improved to 27-7 all-time against Jacksonville, including 16-2 at home and 2-0 in Larrañaga’s tenure.
– Larrañaga, who entered the game with the 10th-most victories of any active Division I coach, is now 664-449 in 37 years as a head coach, including 194-115 in 10 seasons at Miami.
– With 664 career victories, Larrañaga moved into a tie with 10-time national champion John Wooden for No. 36 on the all-time Division I wins list.
– Since the program rebirth in 1985-86, Miami is now 85-8 against in-state non-Power Five programs, including 65-3 at home and 17-3 under Larrañaga.
– For the second game in a row, Miami used a starting lineup of Beverly, Walker, Wong, redshirt senior center Nysier Brooks and senior guard Elijah Olaniyi.
– The Hurricanes once again played without senior guard Chris Lykes (left ankle), redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty (right hamstring) and redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg (left foot, season).
– Timberlake entered the game 3:56 into Saturday’s affair, scored his first points just under two minutes later and hit his first field goal, a 3-pointer, with 14:27 remaining in the affair.
– Redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr., who missed Wednesday’s contest against Pittsburgh with a left groin injury, departed 5:48 into the game with a right leg injury and did not return.
– The Hurricanes’ 10-of-10 mark from the free-throw line in the first half marked the 12th time since joining the ACC (2004-05) they had at least 10 makes in a frame without a miss, doing so for the first time since 2/19/20 at Virginia Tech when they did so in both halves.
– The Hurricanes have now logged a rebounding margin of plus-20 or greater in two of their first six games after going without doing so since 12/22/15 at La Salle (51-24).
– Walker not only finished 8-of-8 at the stripe, but went 6-of-6 in the first 8:01 of play to already pass his prior top mark in makes, which was five, set on 1/25/20 at North Carolina.
– Walker, who eclipsed 50 made field goals at Miami, finished with double figures for the fourth time in his career, including the third consecutive game, and with 10-plus rebounds for the second time, doing so in back-to-back games.
– Walker’s prior top point total in a game was 14, registered on 1/25/20 at North Carolina, while his previous best in a half was eight, recorded in the second half of each of the last two games (12/12/20 vs. FGCU and 12/16/20 vs. Pittsburgh).
– Wong tallied double-digit points for the 16th time, including the sixth in as many outings this year, and posted 20-plus points for the seventh time, including the fourth in 2020-21.
– The prior times Wong, who surpassed 350 points in his career, scored at least 15 points in a half were in the first session on 2/8/20 at eighth-ranked Florida State (15) and the second frame on 1/25/20 at North Carolina (17) in his first collegiate start.