The dress rehearsals are over.
Miami junior guard Kameron McGusty scored 22 of his career-high 28 points in the second half to lead the Miami Hurricanes to a wire-to-wire 91-60 victory over Coppin State Saturday afternoon at the Watsco Center.
The Hurricanes (8-3) have won four consecutive games against non-conference foes, and next begin a 19-game run in the tough ACC.
“We won four in a row but the challenge in the ACC is team we’re going to play now are really a whole lot more talented,’’ Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “They got really good players and they’re more familiar with us; we’re more familiar with them. The challenges are greater. We open the season on the road against Clemson where it’s very tough to play and then we come back home to play Duke, who’s top 5 in the country and we’re already 0-1, having lost to the No. 1 team in the country Louisville back then.’’
Miami’s 91 points is a season high and its 18 3-pointers is a program record. The 31-point victory is Miami’s largest since defeating La Salle 85-49 on Nov. 22, 2018.
“For 35 minutes it was our best offensive and defensive game,’’ Larranaga said. “The last five wasn’t indicative the way the team played. We took 38 3s which is kind of ridiculous to me, but we made 18 so we got to be pretty happy about that. We defended so well for such a long period of time, giving up only 45 points in the first 35 minutes. Love to see that kind of execution every game.’’
DJ Vaslijevic, who entered with the highest 3-point field goal percentage in the ACC, only converted 3-of-11, but finished with 21 points for Miami. Vasiljevic and Sam Waardenburg combined to score 19 points on a game-opening 19-3 lead and Coppin State never recovered. The closest the Eagles (4-9) would come was 21-13 as they dropped their third straight.
The Hurricanes received a rare offensive boost from Waardenburg, who surpassed his season points average in the first half with 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field, making two from 3-point range. Waardenburg finished with his first double-double, notching career highs with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“Last two days I missed some free throws and wasn’t happy with it, so I shot 700 free throws yesterday and it helped me with my shot, holding my follow through,’’ Waardenburg said. “My teammates are always telling me to shoot the ball, that it makes their job easier, so I had that mindset.’’
Giir Ring led Coppin State with 13 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent the Eagles from falling to 2-4 during an eight-game road trip. Koby Thomas posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. It didn’t help Coppin State to be without leading scorer Kamar McKnight due to a hip flexor.
“That’s why they play in the ACC,’’ Coppin State coach Juan Dixon said. “We’re looking to get to that level. We held them to 34 points in the first half, but we couldn’t make a layup. It’s about us, playing in our conference, improving and getting to the NCAA Tournament.’’
Leading 34-20 at halftime, McGusty caught fire, draining three consecutive 3-pointers and scoring 14 of Miami’s points during a 22-6 run to begin the second half. McGusty made 9-of-11 from the field, including 5-of-7 3-pointers.
“It goes back to the team chemistry we have,’’ said McGusty, a transfer from Oklahoma who scored 11 points in 2:02. “I’m just trying to give it my all and make that off year, this transfer year, worth it.’’
From there, Chris Lykes poured in three 3-pointers and notched 11 of his 16 points during an 11-5 run and a 78-42 lead.
Miami shot 47% from 3-point range (18-of-38) to Coppin State’s 23% (7-of-30). Coppin State is 0-8 when outshot from 3-point territory.
Miami jumped out to a 9-0 lead as Coppin State missed its first nine shots and 14 of its first 15 attempts. The Eagles finally scored 5:27 into the game on Andrew Robinson’s 3-pointer.
Sparked by the 3-point marksmanship of Vasiljevic and Waardenburg, Miami reeled off another 10-0 run and led 19-3 midway through the first half.
Led by Dejuan Clayton, the Eagles went on a mini 7-0 run to slice Miami’s advantage to 21-13. That would be the closest the Eagles would come as McGusty scored six during Miami’s 12-0 spurt to pull away 33-14 for Miami largest lead before ending the half up 34-20.
Miami: The Hurricanes hope to carry their non-conference momentum into ACC play against a young Clemson Tigers squad that lacks size and 3-point accuracy. However, the return of point guard Clyde Trapp and front-court scoring of forward Aamir Simms helped the Tigers (6-5) snap a month-long, four-game slide with a blowout of Jacksonville. The Hurricanes have started the same five players in all 11 games this season. They’ve developed confidence and chemistry on both sides of the ball which could give its ACC foes difficulty.
Coppin State: Despite the lopsided loss Coppin State is in the midst of a turnaround season mostly due to its emphasis on defensive rebounding and a man-to-man defense that funnels opposing dribbles to the baseline and sidelines which has pressured opponents like Miami into 17 turnovers. After St. Mary’s, Coppin State dives into the wide-open MEAC which a chance to surprise. They need to get leading scorer Kamar McKnight back from his hip injury.
Letdown: Danger Mr. Robinson: Coppin State’s Andrew Robinson came in averaging 12 points but finished with seven points on 1-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-6 free throws and was a team-worst minus-30 when on the court. His twin brother Aaron Robinson didn’t fare much better, clanging all six shot attempts, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range in 22 minutes.
Stat of the Night: Four Hurricanes scored 15 points or more and the 91 points is the most scored since potting 96 points against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 13, 2018. Miami is 3-0 against Coppin State, including a 115-76 win on Feb. 28, 1987, its largest output since the program was reinstated in 1985.
Up next: The Hurricanes have the next nine days off before they hit the road against Clemson on New Year’s Eve for the first of 19 games against ACC opponents.
Coppin State will play its sixth consecutive road game against non-conference foe, Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 27. Mount St. Mary’s opened the season 0-9.