Hurricanes basketball faces tough task, chance to get another signature win

Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton (0) jumps over a UNC player during the Hurricanes' 77-62 win Saturday night in the Watsco Center. Josh White // Staff Photographer
Junior guard Ja’Quan Newton (0) jumps over a UNC player during the Hurricanes’ 77-62 win in the Watsco Center. Josh White // Staff Photographer

The University of Miami – Florida State University rivalry holds the most history on the football field, bringing animosity and competitiveness to each and every game. However, that doesn’t change on the hardwood floor. When these two schools meet to play basketball, the teams still get an extra boost of excitement.

“It’s going to be insane,” freshman guard Bruce Brown said. “I know the students will be loud and cheering us on. It’s giving me goosebumps right now. I can’t wait to play.”

While the Hurricanes haven’t beaten the Seminoles on the gridiron since 2009, the results on the basketball court have been different.

UM (14-6, 4-4 ACC) is 27-12 all-time against FSU at home and has won the last three, but this matchup could prove to be one of the toughest tests in recent years.

“This is the best Florida State team we’ve seen in my six years because they are so long, so athletic, play unbelievable pressure defense, have a lot of size and they’re very deep,” Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They’ve proven a lot already this season. They are certainly a team competing for the ACC regular season championship.”

No. 15 Florida State (18-4, 6-3 ACC) is eighth in scoring among power-five teams, averaging 83.7 points per game. North Carolina is the only ACC team scoring better.

Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon leads the team in scoring, putting up over 17 points per contest. Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac, the No. 12 recruit in the 2016 class, has been impressive in his rookie campaign, shooting an efficient 53 percent from the field while scoring 13 points and corralling eight rebounds a night.

With a potent offense, Florida State has beaten powerhouses Duke, Virginia, Louisville and Notre Dame, but has dropped its last two games at Wake Forest and Syracuse.

The Noles present a challenge on defense as well, blocking shots at a rate of 5.5 a game.

For Miami, depth and fatigue could play a huge factor against Florida State, as it did down the stretch in losses to Notre Dame and Duke. The Seminoles utilize a 12-man rotation, while the Hurricanes have just nine scholarship players.

Although Miami has struggled at points this season, it is on a two-game winning streak after narrowly defeating Boston College and upsetting No. 9 North Carolina last week.

Over the last three games, Brown is averaging 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and shooting 62 percent. He put up a season-best 30 points against UNC – the most scored by a UM freshman since the Canes joined the ACC in 2004.

Senior captain Davon Reed has stepped up his game in conference play as well, scoring over 17 points and hitting close to three three-pointers per contest.

With the Hurricanes only dropping two home contests since the start of last season, the team has a chance for another résumé-building win.

“First and foremost, it’s a rivalry game before anything,” Reed said. “In rivalry games, it doesn’t matter what type of season either teams are having. I feel like all of that goes out the window. We have to be ready to protect home court, and it’s another opportunity to get another big time win. If we can execute like we did [against North Carolina], we’ll be ready to go.”