Since blowing a late lead and losing in overtime to Virginia Tech on Dec. 8, the University of Miami men’s basketball team has come back to win three games in a row, the latest coming Monday night with a 71-48 rout of Loyola (Maryland).
The Hurricanes (8-5) led from start to finish with a performance that their coach, Jim Larranaga, said matched their play in the 71-58 victory over La Salle in their previous outing, which he rated the best overall of the season.
Senior guard Rion Brown scored a game-high 17 points followed by forward Donnovan Kirk with 12 (11 in the second half) and forward James Kelly with 11.
Freshman guard Davon Reed scored only eight points on 1-of-6 shooting, but he had a career-high in assists for the second straight game.
A natural wingman being asked to play point guard, Reed had seven assists against the Greyhounds after handing out four against La Salle, giving him 11 for his last two games after recording just 18 in his first 11.
But as happy as his team’s play the last three outings might make Larranaga -- the streak started with a 68-51 win at Savannah State after and 11-day break for final exams -- he also is well aware that things are about to get much more, very much more, challenging as the Hurricanes get back into Atlantic Coast Conference play to start off the next year.
“The biggest difference is that we are going to be stepping up to a major level of talent,” Larranaga said. “Our next opponent is Syracuse, and they’re undefeated.
“They’re in the top 5 teams in the country and according to KenPom stats they’re the No. 1 offensive teams in the country in terms of efficiency and one of the defensive teams as well -- top 10.
“So the challenge dramatically increases.”
The Hurricanes take on the Orange Saturday afternoon at Syracuse. The Orange are 12-0 heading into a New Year’s Eve date with Eastern Michigan.
Then comes a game at North Carolina on Jan. 8 before the Hurricanes get back home to face Florida State on Jan. 15.