Miami dominates Stonehill behind Poplar’s 24 points

Junior guard Wooga Poplar celebrates after making a three-point basket during Miami's game against Stonehill at the Watsco Center on Dec. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

Miami dominated a struggling Stonehill team on Thursday night, putting the finishing touches on a 97-59 win at the Watsco Center on World Basketball Day, 132 years since the first basketball game was played in Springfield, Mass.

From the first tip, it was all Miami. Early in the first half, the Hurricanes embarked on a 14-0 run which eventually led to as much as a 30-point advantage. They never looked back after that, easily maintaining their lead for a wire-to-wire victory.

For the season, the ‘Canes are shooting 41% from three, ranking them fifth in the country and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Coming into the game, they had five players who had made at least 10 three-pointers and made more than 40% of their three-point attempts.

Miami continued this trend against Stonehill, making 43% of its threes in the first half. Guard Wooga Poplar was 5-for-10, one percentage point shy of his three-point average of 51% per game, putting him second in the country in three-point shooting. Poplar was 9-of-15 on field goal attempts, scoring 24 points for the game.

The ‘Canes were also led by forward Norchad Omier, who in only 18 minutes, recorded his fifth double-double of the season, finishing the game with 20 points and 18 rebounds. This was far from a two-man show, as three other Miami players scored in double figures, including Kyshawn George, Bensley Joseph and Matthew Cleveland.

Ultimately, Miami controlled every aspect of the game, outscoring Stonehill in three-point percentage (38% to 22%), points in the paint (40 to 24), and assists (26 to 12).

“We know they play zone defense,” Miami forward Norchad Omier said after the game. “We move the ball from inside out, we get a lot of open threes, and when threes are missed you get a lot of offensive rebounds, which is something we worked on this week.”

The ‘Canes were not only a threat offensively, but they were also dominant defensively, something head coach Jim Larranaga has stressed needs improvement. Larranaga has not been entirely satisfied with the defense this year.

The ‘Canes rank only 10th in the ACC in team defense, 14th in turnovers and eighth in team rebounding. Using their height advantage against Stonehill, they were far better, out-rebounding Stonehill 52 to 27, resulting in a second chance point advantage of 24-4.

“I feel confident where we’re at,” Omier said. “We’ve been working on a lot of defensive aspects. We did a great job today. We’re really improving. I’m really happy where we stand going into conference play.”

It was not all bad for Stonehill tonight. Two bright spots for the Skyhawks were Se’yphon Triplett and Tony Felder. They scored 16 points and 22 points respectively, accounting for 38 out of Stonehill’s 59 points.

Next up, Miami will host in-state opponent North Florida on Friday, Dec. 29th, at 6 p.m., as its last game before the ACC schedule gets underway.