In the season opener against Saint Francis-Brooklyn, the Miami Hurricanes couldn’t make a 3-point shot to save their lives.
On Monday night against the College of Charleston, the Hurricanes couldn’t miss.
James Kelly scored a season-high 18 points and Rion Brown added 15 points to lead Miami past College of Charleston, 70-54, before a crowd of 4,018 at TD Arena
The Hurricanes (3-1), who lost their top six players from last year’s ACC championship team, missed all 15 3-point attempts they took in their 66-62 overtime loss to Saint Francis. As a team, the Hurricanes were shooting just 28.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc coming into Monday night’s game.
Against the Cougars (1-3), Miami was 7 of 11 from 3-point range, including Kelly’s perfect 3 of 3 performance.
“We didn’t share the basketball in the first game,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “We just took the first shot we could possibly shoot. Tonight, I thought we moved the ball, we shared it, and as a result got some open looks. I think we were a little more patient looking for better shots.”
The Hurricanes, who shot 51.6 from the floor for the game, surprised College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik with their hot shooting.
“They shot the ball better than they have all season,” Wojcik said. “At times, especially in the first half, it felt like they were shooting 75 percent. They didn’t miss many open looks they got. I thought the combination of their 3-pointers and our missed free throws opened up a gap we couldn’t overcome.”
The Cougars made just 11 of 22 free throws on the night.
Charleston got off a quick start, scoring on their first three possessions — an Adjehi Baru dunk off the opening tipoff, a 3-pointer from Willis Hall and another layup from the Charlotte native opened up a 7-2 lead just two minutes into the game.
But Larranaga made a subtle defensive adjustment. Instead of trapping the ball screen, he had the Hurricanes defenders switch, no matter who the Cougars had handling the ball. The move proved effective as the Cougars’ offense began to slow.
“Charleston ran their offense extremely well,” Larranaga said. “We made an immediate adjustment after their first three possessions. We started to switch the ball screen and then used some zone, which we haven’t done all season. We just played better and better defense after the first four or five possessions.”
With Kelly and Brown knocking down their 3-pointers, the Hurricanes slowly began to open up a lead on the Cougars.
A 3-pointer from Garrius Adams and layups from Manu Lecomte and Donovan Kirk gave the Hurricanes a 29-20 lead with 4:42 to play in the first half.
Miami finished the first half on a 9-3 run to take a 40-25 advantage into the locker room. This despite the fact that Charleston had shot 56.3 percent (9 of 16) from the floor.
Charleston used a 9-4 run to start the second half — Canyon Barry connected on back-to-back baskets and Joe Chealey hit a driving layup to cut the lead to 45-35 with 14:20 to play.
But the Hurricanes answered with a 10-1 run of their own to open up a 20-point lead on Donovan Kirk’s driving layup with 10:13 remaining.
The Cougars managed to cut the lead to single-digits, 62-53, on Anthony Stitt’s 3-pointer with 3:08 to play, but could never get any closer.
“I felt like we competed with them the whole night,” said Hall. “I’m proud of that. I felt like the score should have been closer because we played with them the whole night. If we had made a few more free throws, it might have been a different game.”
The game against the defending ACC champions was part of the Wooden Legacy tournament, which the Cougars will take part in next week over the Thanksgiving holidays.