SAN JUAN (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Miami Hurricanes are looking to build on a strong start to their season.READ MORE: 120 Opa-locka Residents Return Home After Gas Explosion At Apartment Complex
Unbeaten Miami heads into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Thursday brimming with confidence while its first-round foe Mississippi State looks to rebound from a disappointing home loss to Southern.
The eight-team tournament features No. 16 Utah on the same side of the bracket as the Hurricanes and Bulldogs while No. 20 Butler is on the other side.
Mississippi State’s defense struggled in the loss, not a great sign with the Hurricanes averaging 89.5 points after routing Louisiana 93-77 on Monday.
“We allowed them to shoot 57 percent in the first half,” Bulldogs’ coach Ben Howland told reporters after the loss to the Jaguars. “Our defense is what we are struggling with.”
Miami is showing great offensive balance with six players, led by junior guard Davon Reed (19 points), reaching double figures against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Hurricanes point guard Angel Rodriguez is a native of Puerto Rico and will be returning to his homeland for the first time since moving to Miami in 10th grade.
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ABOUT MIAMI (2-0): Since scoring only 28 points in the first half of its opener versus Texas Rio Grand Valley, Miami has scored 58, 43 and 50 points in the last three halves while shooting 55 percent, including 21-of-42 (50 percent) on 3-point shots.
With 7-footer Tonye Jekiri in foul trouble against Louisiana and key reserve Kamari Murphy suspended for the first three games, coach Jim Larranaga called on 6-7 freshman Anthony Lawrence, who responded with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“It’s kind of weird, we don’t truly have a lot of guys, but the guys that we have can all contribute in great ways and by doing different things for the team,” Rodriguez told reporters of the team’s depth.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-1): Howland, who has led three schools to the NCAA Tournament and reached the Final Four three times while at UCLA, has inherited a relatively experienced squad, though one that went just 13-19 overall and 6-12 in the SEC last season.
Senior guard Craig Sword was a second-team All-SEC pick last in 2014-15 while his running mate in the backcourt I.J. Ready is averaging 17 points this season and 6-9 foward Gavin Ware has hit 16-of-23 shots.
Heralded freshman Malik Newman, a 6-3 McDonald’s All-American, got his first minutes against Southern and scored six points.
- Miami has made 10 or more of its 3-point shots in the first two games of the season for the first time since 2008.
- The Hurricanes have a veteran group of starters with an average age of 22.2 and a combined 16 seasons of college playing experience.
- Mississippi State, which the SEC media picked eighth in its preseason poll, hasn’t finished higher in the conference than 12th since it expanded to 14 teams prior to the 2012-13 season.
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