Jacksonville Sports Day

MIAMI: Hurricanes Top North Florida, 77-59, in Season Opener

CORAL GABLES – 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, 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.

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