GAME NOTES: The Miami-Florida Hurricanes storm into McCamish Pavilion on Saturday for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes looked like they were going to lose for the third time in a row on Wednesday night as they went into halftime trailing La Salle by six points, but they dominated after the break to capture a 76-59 victory over the Explorers that ended their losing slide. Miami has also won its last three road games since being upset at Florida Gulf Coast in its second game of the season.
Georgia Tech's chances were never in doubt in its last appearance as it completed a 74-58 rout of Chattanooga on Jan. 2 to extend its current winning streak to six games. The Yellow Jackets' have been defeated only twice this season and neither their loss to California (68-57) nor their setback at Illinois (75-62) took place at home. Coach Brian Gregory's squad has been putting the clamps on opponents this season, allowing just 53.5 ppg. Georgia Tech is scoring 66.6 ppg itself.
This will be the 16th time these schools square off on the hardwood. Miami won both of last season's meetings to improve its all-time series lead to 9-6.
Miami needs to be productive on the offensive end to win this season as it is 9-0 when scoring 65 points or more and winless when being held under that mark. The Hurricanes looked to be headed for another loss after netting just 30 points in the opening half against La Salle, but they knocked down 56 percent of their field goals in the second half to run off to an easy decision. Kenny Kadji registered his third double-double of the season by producing 14 points and 11 rebounds. Durand Scott and Shane Larkin each netted 18 points, and Trey McKinney-Jones went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Scott, who has scored at least 15 points in all but one game, is leading the Hurricanes with 15.9 ppg on a red-hot 51 percent shooting from the floor, while Larkin (13.5) and Kadji (12 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are both scoring in double figures also. Miami will not have center Reggie Johnson (12.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg) for six to eight weeks due to a left thumb fracture.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 8-0 at McCamish Pavilion when it overcame early offensive struggles to push past Chattanooga. Georgia Tech had defeated its previous three opponents by an average of 30.3 points and held each under 50 points, but the Mocs managed to tally 58 on 42 percent shooting from the floor. Freshman swingman Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points and freshman forward Robert Carter Jr. notched his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 boards. Mfon Udofia added 14 points. Georges-Hunt is Tech's leading scorer with 11.5 ppg and Carter Jr. is the top rebounder on the unit with 6.4 per game.
Not having Johnson will hurt Miami against the physical Yellow Jackets. The Hurricanes will have trouble against Georgia Tech's perimeter defense if Kadji cannot give them a reliable post presence. The Yellow Jackets are very athletic and talented, but they are also very young. Experience becomes more of a factor in conference play and Scott will provide senior leadership to end Tech's streak.