Hurricanes adjusting to rigors of ACC play

Photo credit: Josh White

Miami basketball is six games into conference play and holds an ACC record of 3-3.

Based on the Hurricanes’ inconsistent performances, for now, the verdict remains the same: The team is talented, but its inexperience shows.

One of the challenges this young Canes team has had to face is adjusting to the many unique styles of play the ACC has to offer.

UM lost to Georgia Tech but defeated Florida State – two teams with different philosophies. The Yellow Jackets slowed the pace and played a zone defense, while the Seminoles were intent on pressuring the Hurricanes’ offense and setting traps.

“What we might do against a team that plays a packing defense is different than what we might do against a team that plays pressure defense,” head coach Jim Larrañaga told reporters Jan. 19. “Some examples of this in our league include North Carolina State, a team that will play full court defense and trap you, as opposed to a team like Virginia, who tries to just sit down low and take away the paint.”

Larrañaga said the Duke game was unique because the Blue Devils threw multiple defensive looks at Miami, switching from an aggressive trap to a 2-3 zone defense midway through the second half.

“Just being more aggressive, making them actually play defense,” freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV said. “If you watch the film, they were just kind of standing in that one spot for 10 hours it felt like. Their feet were basically glued onto the court. We have to get them moving in order for us to score.”

Larrañaga mentioned it took a full season for Shane Larkin, arguably the best player in program history, to make these adjustments from game to game.

Despite some of the Canes’ struggles, Walker and fellow rookie Chris Lykes have upped their level of play in the ACC. Both are averaging 11 points a night in conference play, but the focus is on the other end of the floor.

“We are playing on a brighter stage, everyone that you play against is good,” Walker said. “Each second counts. So if you don’t do the right thing, it can hurt you really bad. We definitely have to pick it up defensively.”

“I think we have really good spurts sometimes, but when teams eventually go zone against us, the ball sticks a lot,” Lykes said. “We just start shooting threes instead of creating for each other.”

Miami next plays Louisville at 8 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Watsco Center.