While most of the nation braced for record-breaking cold weather and ice storms on Sunday, South Florida warmed up significantly, as did the 15th-ranked University of Miami men’s basketball team.
Playing in front of a near-capacity crowd and 17 NBA scouts, the Hurricanes made 13 of their first 14 shots and staved off a late rally by 24th-ranked Florida State to win 80-74. It was Miami’s first home game in more than a month, and the Canes looked happy to be back in the friendly Watsco Center. They improved to 13-2.
Sophomore guard Bruce Brown, who three days ago tweeted “I need to step up. I will not let my team down again!”, stepped up big time. Brown looked inspired from the start of the game, scored seven consecutive points at the end of the first half, made six critical free throws down the stretch and finished with a season-high 23 points.
Sophomore forward Dewan Huell, playing one of the best games of his UM career, ignited the crowd with thunderous dunks and finished with 20 points _ three shy of his career best.
The smallest man on the court _ UM’s electric 5-7 freshman guard Chris Lykes _ made a huge impact off the bench with 18 points. Lykes and Australian sharpshooter DJ Vasiljevic entered the game early in the first half and immediately created a spark. Vasiljevic went coast-to-coast for a driving layup. Lykes made a three on the next possession, one of many clutch shots he’d make before the end of the night.
“Lykes is extremely talented and confident, that’s what’s glaring about him,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “When you’re small like that, you have to have exceptional skills. He is a flawless dribbler. He is fearless in terms of taking it to the basket, and has explosive speed. He’s going to be a handful in the ACC.”
With the score tied at 20, UM went on a 9-0 run thanks to a Vasiljevic three-point play, a circus-play layup by Lykes and a rim-shaking Huell dunk off a dish from Lykes. At that point in the game, UM was shooting 93 percent, and the Hurricanes led 45-32 at halftime.
Miami led by as many as 16 with 16:01 remaining in the game, but the Seminoles rallied to close the gap to four points with under a minute to go.