GAME NOTES: In what may have been seen as a marquee matchup in the preseason, the Miami-Florida Hurricanes will be pitted against the La Salle Explorers at BankUnited Center in non-conference play on Sunday.
The Explorers were one of the Cinderella stories in the NCAA Tournament last season, pushing their way to the Sweet 16. They have not lived up to the expectations a run like that sets with just a 6-5 record, though they have won three of their last four games. La Salle will mix it up in a Big 5 duel with Penn next time out before beginning the Atlantic 10 Conference season.
The Hurricanes also enjoyed plenty of success last year, running to an ACC title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Like La Salle, Miami is just 6-5 this season, with a 68-51 win over Savannah State last time out ending a short two-game slide. The Hurricanes, who are just 2-3 at BankUnited Center, will play there once again versus Loyola-Maryland on Dec. 30.
A bout in the BankUnited Center ended in a 76-59 win for the Hurricanes against the Explorers last year. Even with the loss, La Salle still leads the all-time series by a count of 9-5.
Last time they hit the floor the Explorers trampled Wagner by a final score of 80-54. The difference in the game was on the glass, where La Salle had a 50-27 advantage. That helped it to a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Dominating the boards is not usually the strength for the Explorers, who are collecting just 37 rebounds per game. Increased production in that area would go a long way as they are only shooting at a 40.6 percent clip. Tyrone Garland (14.7 ppg) may be leading the team in scoring but his erratic shooting is part of the problem, as he is connecting on just 35.6 percent of his shots from the field. Tyreek Duren (12.5 ppg) is also sinking less than 40 percent from the floor. Jerrell Wright (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) is more efficient as a shooter (.553 FG percentage), though he gets most of his chances in close to the rim.
The Hurricanes led Savannah State, 37-20, at halftime and then iced the game by shooting at a 62.5 percent clip over the final 20 minutes. Miami enjoyed a 34-20 edge on the boards during the contest, led by 15 points and nine rebounds from Donnavan Kirk.
Inefficient play at the offensive end has kept the Hurricanes from more victories. They are only scoring 63.9 points per game and connecting on 41 percent from the floor. It's too bad since they have been extremely effective defensively, allowing just 61.6 points per game. Rion Brown (13.3 ppg, 6 rpg) suffers from the same type of issues as the scorers for La Salle. Despite leading the team in points, he is only shooting at a 38.8 percent rate. Garrius Adams (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is the only other double figure scorer but is also sinking less than 40 percent from the field.
In this contest the Explores are clearly the more effective offensive squad, while the Hurricanes have the edge on defense. Expect the home team to dictate the pace and find a way to grab a victory.
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