Miami Hurricanes, FIU Panthers Drop Basketball Season Openers

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  • Louisville led 72-40 before Miami rallied during garbage time.

Jordan Nwora went 4 for 6 from beyond the arc, and from above the basket he didn't miss.

Nwora threw in a dunk — literally — to go with his outside shooting, and totaled 23 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday to help the fifth-ranked Cardinals win their season opener at Miami, 87-74.

The Cardinals are touted as a potential Final Four team, and they lived up to the hype with a rout on the road against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Louisville led 72-40 before Miami rallied during garbage time.

Nwora, the preseason ACC player of the year, brought the Louisville bench to its feet when he leaped to make a one-handed catch and dunk in one motion on Ryan McMahon's alley-oop pass.

"I actually did not think he was going to be able to catch it," McMahon said. "I thought it was too bad of a pass. Somehow he snatched it out of the air and just threw it in the rim. He's a freak athlete. It was a real cool play."

Coach Chris Mack was more reserved in his review of the dunk.

"I don't rate those things," Mack said. "I'm just glad he didn't miss it. I would have made him run sprints."

The 6-foot-7 Nwora shot 8 for 16 and scored most of his points from the perimeter.

"Every time we left him open, even for a split second, he buried a 3," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.

McMahon, a Florida native, sank three consecutive 3-pointers as Louisville scored 17 consecutive points during a four-minute span in the first half and never looked back.

McMahon scored 16 points and shot 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.

"He's an elite-level shooter — as good as anybody in the country," Mack said.

Freshman Samuell Williamson made his Louisville debut with 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.

"He doesn't look like a freshman on offense," Mack said.

Dwayne Sutton contributed 16 points for the Cardinals, who shot 54%.

Chris Lykes had 18 points and DJ Vasiljevic scored 16 for the Hurricanes.

"We need to make progress in all areas," Larranaga said.

He sent three freshmen into the game early in the first half, and they helped the Hurricanes score eight consecutive points to lead 16-9.

The Cardinals answered with their big run to surge ahead 26-16. A 9-0 run late in the half helped to make it 45-26 at halftime.

"We came out with some jitters, and once we settled down we were a little bit more comfortable," McMahon said.

Meanwhile, Tyson Carter had a game-high 23 points to lead Mississippi State to a season-opening 77-69 win over Florida International on Tuesday.

Iverson Molinar had 14 points and Reggie Perry added 13 for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have won seven straight season openers and are 5-0 in openers under head coach Ben Howland. Mississippi State now has won 23 straight home games versus non-conference opponents.

Devon Andrews led Florida International with 16 points while Trejon Brewer had 13. Eric Lovett and Osasumwen Osaghae also finished in double digits for the Panthers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Florida International steadily chipped away at Mississippi State and trailed just 62-60 with nine minutes left in regulation. But Molinar's three-point play with 7:35 remaining ignited a 9-0 run by the Bulldogs to put the game away.

"That was a tough opponent and what we expected," said Howland. "Our half-court defense was outstanding in the first half, but we got tired towards the end of the game. We also got off to a slow start, offensively, and every bounce that could've gone wrong went wrong for us in the first 10 minutes. But I was proud of our great finish to the first half and we knew Florida International was not going away. They have a senior-laden team and won 20 games last year." 

Carter was 8-of-16 shooting from the field and connected on 5 of his 9 attempts from 3-point territory. But he wasn't happy about Mississippi State's turnovers and he was responsible for eight of those 18 turnovers.

"I got some open looks through the offense and I just took the shots," said Carter. "But their pressure got to us and we also had 18 turnovers. We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think we got tired late, too, and that contributed to some of those mistakes. So, I know I have to be in better condition."

Mississippi State and FIU traded leads in the opening six minutes and were tied three times during that stretch. Jacob's second 3 pointer of the first half gave the Panthers a 23-16 advantage with 9:39 left before the break.

But the Bulldogs used their size advantage on the boards and forced 12 first-half turnovers to close out the half. Carter's buzzer-beating layup before halftime helped the Bulldogs explode for a 20-5 run to close the half and a 40-30 halftime advantage.

Mississippi State shot 59.3% from the field while the Panthers shot 42.9% in the first half. The Bulldogs held a 15-13 rebounding advantage in the first half, and also had six steals before the break.

"Mississippi State is going to be good and they are good," said Florida International head coach Jeremy Ballard. "But I am proud of our team. We all know we didn't come here to play a close game and we came here to win. We came up short, but we didn't come up short because of a lack of effort. We showed our identity as a team and we also showed we have a lot of areas to improve in."

For the game, Mississippi State shot 54.4% from the field and held the Panthers to 46.7%. The Bulldogs were 10 of 17 at the free throw line while Florida International was 6 of 10.

The Panthers made just 7 of 26 attempts beyond the 3-point arc and were outrebounded 36-28. The Panthers also had issues with turnovers and had 17 for the game, including nine in the second half.

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