Word has gotten around that the injury-plagued Miami Hurricanes are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation – ranked No. 333 of 340 Division I teams – so Notre Dame sat back in a zone defense, forced UM to shoot from distance, and the strategy worked.
The Canes went 3-of-22 from the perimeter and lost 73-59 to the visiting Irish at the Watsco Center Sunday night. Miami trailed by as many as 19 in the second half.
On the other end of the floor, UM allowed Notre Dame to make 10 of 18 three-pointers (56 percent).
“We’ve learned this throughout the season, we just can’t guard three-point shooters very well,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “And Notre Dame shoots a lot of threes, and I wish we could figure out how to get this team to defend the three-point shot better. And on the other end, we shoot 14 percent from three. We don’t make any threes, and the combination is lethal.”
Miami entered the game shooting 26.9 percent from three-point range and struggled from beyond the arc once again. The Hurricanes went 1-of-11 from distance in the first half and did not improve after intermission.
UM was shorthanded, as it has been all season, without preseason All-ACC point guard Chris Lykes (ankle), Anthony Walker (foot) and freshman Earl Timberlake, who is out indefinitely with a left shoulder injury that has been bothering him since October. Sam Waardenburg and Rodney Miller are also out for the season with injuries, leaving the team with just seven healthy scholarship players on Sunday.
Walker had a thunderous dunk at practice Saturday, bruised his right heel on the landing, and was unable to run or jump on Sunday. Timberlake, a lefty, had been playing through the shoulder injury, but shooting with his right hand. This weekend, he told coaches he couldn’t go on, so he is out until that shoulder heals.
Lykes has been out since Dec. 4, and his return is unknown.
“We never expected Chris to be out this long,” said Larranaga. “I thought he would be ready for Louisville, and he wasn’t ready for Syracuse or Notre Dame. When will he be ready? I have no clue. He’s working very hard to rehab the ankle, but he still has pain…We’re 6-8 and have a rough road ahead. It’s going to take a team effort.”
Notre Dame began the game with its second-team players, as coach Mike Brey benched the starters as a teaching lesson for a poor practice on Saturday. Four minutes in, with the Irish trailing 6-3, Brey put in starters Prentiss Hubb, Juwan Durham, Nate Laszewski, and Dane Goodwin. The Irish proceeded to go an 11-2 run while the Hurricanes missed 10 of 11 shots.
A pair of Kam McGusty baskets and a free throw by Isaiah Wong tied the game up for the Hurricanes, but then Notre Dame took control and led 30-22 at halftime. The Irish shot 5-of-7 to end the half, while the Hurricanes were 2-of-11. UM had seven turnovers and just one assist at halftime.
Notre Dame (5-8 overall, 2-5 ACC) continued to control the game in the second half and opened a 19-point lead with 10 minutes to go.
The Hurricanes chipped away at the lead and cut it to seven points with a pair of three-point plays by McGusty, a seven-point spurt by Wong, a Nysier Brooks dunk and a basket by Deng Gak. But Notre Dame scored six straight points and held on for the victory.
McGusty scored a team-high 20 points for UM, Wong had 16 but was 1-of-8 from the perimeter, and Elijah Olaniyi had 10 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Prentiss Hubb led the Irish with 19 points, made five three-pointers and had nine assists. Nate Laszewski had 16 points and nine rebounds. And Juwan Durham added 16.
Miami (6-8 overall, 2-7 ACC) hits the road next for a Wednesday 6 p.m. game at Florida State and a Saturday afternoon game at Wake Forest. The Hurricanes return home Feb. 1 against Duke.
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