College basketball: Miami 76, Charlotte 61
CHARLOTTE ó Jim Larranaga thought he would finally have all the players he counted on to make Miami a preseason contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
However, the Hurricanes coach still had one piece missing with Malcolm Grant out of the lineup due to a death in his family. Despite the lack of the all-ACC guard, the rest of the roster stepped up to send the Hurricanes to a 76-61 victory over Charlotte on Thursday night.
Kenny Kadji scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Miami (7-4), which pulled away in the second half for its second straight road win.
Durand Scott added 14 points and Reggie Johnson and Rion Brown had 11 each for the Hurricanes, who made up for the absence of Grant, their leading scorer, by shooting 54 percent (27 of 50) from the field and hitting 8 of 19 3-pointers.
ěDifferent teams, different matchups, different scenarios ó everything always changes,î Scott said. ěBut our coaching staff put the right people in, doing the right things at the right time. We donít complain; we just go out there and do the job.î
It helped that Miami got two of its key players back in the last week. Johnson, who missed the first nine games while recovering from knee surgery, returned to the lineup Dec. 17, and senior guard DeQuan Jones (seven points, six rebounds) was cleared to play Tuesday after missing 10 games while the NCAA investigated recruiting allegations.
The return of Johnson and Jones helped the Hurricanes overcome the absence of Grant.
ěOur team is a very, very close-knit group,î Larranaga said. ěOne of the most impressive things about being a new coach is working with a group of guys who are so close off the court.
ěWeíve been dealing with a lot of roster changes, but the guys have done a good job. We shared the ball very, very well … and we played some good defense and good offense.î
Chris Braswell finished with 12 points for the 49ers (7-3), who shot just 32.2 percent (19 of 59) ó including 8 of 23 on 3-pointers ó in snapping their five-game winning streak.
ěThey had a couple of pieces back that theyíve been waiting on, and that helped bolster their roster,î Charlotte coach Alan Major said. ěThey came in and played very steady from tip to buzzer.î
Still, the 49ers managed to keep things close early, leading twice in the first five minutes ó the last at 9-6 on two Braswell free throws with 14:53 left. They then tied it at 18 on K.J. Sherrillís free throw with 8:02 remaining.
But Trey McKinney Jones hit a 3-pointer from the corner 36 seconds later to put Miami back on top. The Hurricanes then closed out the half with a 13-6 run to lead 31-24 at the break.
Charlotte opened the second half with a 12-6 run, capped by Derrio Greenís 3-pointer with 16:24 left, to cut Miamiís lead to 37-36. But the Hurricanes responded by hitting five straight 3s ó two by Kadji ó during a 21-10 run to push their lead to 60-43 with 8:06 remaining.
ěWeíve been coming out flat in the second half,î said Kadji, who went 5 of 5 from the field and had eight of his rebounds in the final 20 minutes. ěSo we just told ourselves to pick up the intensity. We tried doing it on the defensive end at first, but our shots started falling.î
Charlotte pulled no closer than nine points the rest of the way, at 62-53 on a pair of Pierria Henry free throws with 4:30 left.
But Scott hit a one-handed runner along the baseline, followed by a jumper from Kadji to put Miami back ahead by double digits.
ěItís a humbling experience,î said guard Javarris Barrett, who finished with nine points for the 49ers. ěThey defended us well, as the stats show. We had won five games, and to lose like this humbled us. Weíve just got to come back and pick up where we left off.î
The Associated Press