No. 13 Miami has reason to worry ahead of its home game against UCF on Friday night in Coral Gables, Fla.
The Hurricanes held on for a 66-64 win over the Knights last season, although the game likely would have stretched into overtime had UCF’s C.J. Walker made his two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Two years ago, the Knights posted a 95-89 victory over host Miami after shooting a robust 40.7 percent on 3-pointers and finishing plus-20 on rebounds.
“We’ve had two great battles with UCF the past two years,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “(UCF coach) Johnny Dawkins always has his team ready for us.”
Miami (1-0) will raise its 2023 Final Four banner on Friday, but the Hurricanes are not the same team as last season, having lost two players to the NBA draft: Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Wong and fellow starter Jordan Miller.
The Hurricanes added one major transfer this season: 6-foot-7 wing Matthew Cleveland, a former ACC Sixth Man of the Year at Florida State.
Cleveland had 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in Miami’s 101-60 win over NJIT on Monday. Cleveland was a game-high-tying plus-31 as Miami scored over 100 points for the first time in 16 years.
“It was a lot of fun,” Cleveland said of his Hurricanes debut. “I just found ways to be around the rim.”
Miami’s three returning starters had solid games: Point guard Nijel Pack posted a career high-tying nine assists and just one turnover; shooting guard Wooga Poplar had a game-high 21 points on 5-for-9 shooting from 3-point range; and Norchad Omier collected 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Hurricanes’ fifth starter is Bensley Joseph, whose specialty is pressuring the ball.
UCF, meanwhile, opened its season with an 85-62 win over Florida International on Monday. The Knights forced 24 turnovers, shot 50 percent from the floor and had a 46-26 edge in points in the paint.
It was a good win considering UCF lost significant scoring from season, namely that from Taylor Hendricks, the first NBA lottery pick in program history.
The Knights, who were picked to finish last in their first year in the Big 12 Conference, are led by 6-4 transfer Jaylin Sellers, a guard who averaged 13.5 points last season for Ball State.
Sellers had a game-high 23 points in UCF’s win over FIU. He also had six rebounds and three steals.
“Jaylin’s fiery,” Dawkins said of Sellers, who is one of 10 new members of the team. “He wants to get after it, and I’m going to roll with that because it helps our team.”
The Knights’ other double-figure scorer on Monday was 6-1 point guard Darius Johnson, who averaged 10 points last season. He is UCF’s leading returning scorer.
The Knights’ other starters on Monday were 6-10 center Omar Payne (four points, six rebounds, two blocks), Shemarri Allen (eight points, game-high five assists) and DeMarr Langford Jr. (five points, three assists).
–Field Level Media