Coach L, senior players look to improve performance for most challenging season matchups

Redshirt senior forward Kamari Murphy (21) goes up for a shot during the Hurricanes’ 74-57 win in December at Hoophall Invitational in AmericanAirlines Arena. Josh White // Staff Photographer

Hurricanes senior guard Davon Reed has said it all year: The ACC is the best conference in college basketball. The teams know that, the media know that and the fans definitely know that. Conference play has consistently been a tell-tale sign for Miami’s ceiling of success year after year.

The first five games of the ACC schedule have brought mixed results for the Hurricanes. The team has appeared cohesive at some moments and undisciplined at others, which was somewhat expected from this young team.

“We are going to go through some bumps, but we are nowhere near our peak yet,” Reed said.

Miami will need to hit that peak soon. With the toughest part of the schedule to come, including matchups against Duke, North Carolina and Florida State, it’s time to capitalize on the team’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Assist-to-turnover ratio has been a problem for UM all season long, especially in ACC play. The team ranks last in the conference in assists, averaging just around 12 dimes a game and also averaging over 13 turnovers a game. Not a good combo.

“We still have way too many turnovers,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We have to improve that aspect of our offense. We really want to get 16 assists every game.”

Junior starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton is having his best scoring season but has been inconsistent as the team’s floor general, averaging over three turnovers of his own every game.

“I want to cut down on my turnovers,” Newton said. “Sometimes I make stupid decisions when I’m trying to get others involved. They are unforced.”

Making smarter, simpler passes hasn’t been the only issue for the Hurricanes. They also rank near the bottom of the ACC in points per game. Larrañaga has said that the goal for the Canes is to score at least 75 points per game. So far in conference play, that has only happened twice.

On the other hand, Miami has been one of the best rebounding teams, ranking No. 3 in the conference in that category and out-rebounding three of five ACC opponents so far this season. Both redshirt senior forward Kamari Murphy and freshman guard Bruce Brown have made big impacts on the boards, combining to average over 15 rebounds a contest.

“I’ve been in a position to learn from the seniors,” Brown said. “They have been teaching me everything they know.”

Miami has also been a tough defensive team at times this season, allowing just 62 points per game to ACC foes before allowing Wake Forest to score 96. After the win against Pittsburgh, Reed said that the staples have been the Canes’ man-to-man defense and ability to keep other teams from beating them off the dribble.

On the offensive side of the ball, the team has benefitted from Reed’s resurgence. After a slow start to the season, the senior captain has averaged 18 points a game in the past five matchups while shooting 44 percent from the field.

“Some of our younger players have adjusted well to this point and are more familiar with the offense and what they should be looking for,” Larrañaga said. “Davon has been the recipient of some better passing.”

The team is shooting threes at a much better efficiency than it was at the beginning of the season, now hitting 37 percent from downtown (a very similar percentage to that of last season’s Sweet Sixteen team). UM plays at a medium tempo but can adjust to play faster or slower depending on the opponent. Thus, the three-point shot fluctuates.

Hurricanes basketball will face off against some of the toughest teams in the country in the next couple weeks, and the outcomes will reveal the fate of the season.

“Gotta bring it every night,” Reed said. “No nights off, home or away.”