SUNRISE, Fla. (CBS4/AP) — Miami Hurricanes center Reggie Johnson made a big impact in his season debut, even if he was one of the few players not sinking 3-pointers.
Johnson, returning from a right knee injury that required surgery in June, did his work inside to help the Hurricanes overcome the heroics of freshman Omari Grier and outlast Florida Atlantic in double overtime Saturday, 93-90.
Johnson came off the bench and had 15 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-10 junior added a career-high five assists and matched his career best with five blocks.
His productivity was such that coach Jim Larranaga let him play 36 minutes.
“I feel great,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect this coming in, playing 36 minutes. Coach expected that I’d play six or seven, but I proved that wrong.”
Larranaga confirmed he was surprised by Johnson’s staying power.
“For him to do what he did today is very incredible,” Larranaga said.
Grier, a freshman making his first start, scored a season-high 27 points and played 47 minutes for FAU. He sank a 3-pointer for the final points in regulation, and another to force the second overtime.
Florida Atlantic sank 15 of 29 3-pointers, while Miami was even better — 14 for 20. The Hurricanes shot a season-high 62 percent overall to 45 percent for the Owls.
Miami (6-4) won for only the second time in the past six games, while the Owls (4-7) endured their second consecutive narrow defeat against an opponent from a major conference. They led at Mississippi State with less than 10 minutes left Tuesday before losing.
“This feels terrible,” guard Raymond Taylor said. “To be that close, it hurts that much more to lose.”
Florida Atlantic fell to 1-21 against Miami.
The Hurricanes’ Kenny Kadji scored 21 points and was chosen the game’s most valuable player. He went 4 of 5 from 3-point range and credited Johnson with aiding his perimeter performance.
“Because of Reggie, everybody is worried about him, so I’m out there by myself,” Kadji said. “I had six or seven seconds to set up my shot.”
Johnson had been restless to return and received clearance to play Friday, his 22nd birthday.
“At times, I felt like choking my doctor, but he told me to give it more time,” Johnson said.
Miami’s Durand Scott added 18 points, and reserve Rion Brown scored 15 in 27 minutes.
Taylor had 20 points and nine assists. Teammate Greg Gantt, the Owls’ leading scorer this season, sat out because of a sprained left ankle.
Malcolm Grant’s 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the game put the Hurricanes ahead to stay, 87-84. Grant then fed Scott for a layup, and Kadji and Scott each made two free throws in the final 68 seconds.
Even so, the Owls had a chance to send the game to a third OT, but Taylor missed a 25-footer with one second left.
Florida Atlantic trailed 71-65 before sinking three baskets in the final 40 seconds of the second half to force overtime. Grier’s 3-pointer with less than 2 seconds left made it 72-all.
“It would have been very easy for us to be deflated,” Larranaga said, “but we played tough in the overtimes.”
Grier sank another 3-pointer to tie the game again at 82 with 33 seconds left in the first overtime. He finished 7 of 12 from behind the arc.
“When the first shot goes in, it definitely boosts my confidence as far as the rest of the game goes,” Grier said.
Scott made a pair of 3-pointers to help the Hurricanes take a 10-2 lead, and their biggest margin was 25-15. Grier hit consecutive 3-pointers and Taylor hit a driving layup during an 8-0 run that gave the Owls their largest lead at 48-43.
“We did a great job staying calm and fighting them off,” Kadji said.
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