CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Four injured University of Miami starters watched from the bench as Isaiah Wong put on a spectacular offensive display and the Hurricanes stunned 16th-ranked Louisville, 78-72, Saturday night, handing the Cardinals their first conference loss of the season.
Wong drove through traffic time and again for layups, made step-back jumpers, 3-pointers at critical moments, and scored a career-high 30 points with seven rebounds and six assists. He scored 13 of Miami’s 16 points during a second-half stretch, widening the lead whenever Louisville got close. Even after twisting his ankle late in the game, he slammed in a dunk to push UM’s lead to eight.
“Isaiah’s a terrific scorer and has a nose for the basket,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “He’s a very good free throw shooter and driver. He played a great game, but now he’s in the training room with a twisted ankle. We can’t afford to lose another player.”
The short-handed Hurricanes — using just seven players all night — had their best first half of the season. They dominated in the paint and led the Cardinals 33-21 at intermission. Miami outrebounded Louisville 24-14 in the first half and outscored the Cards 20-12 in the paint with six layups and four dunks.
Leading the UM effort on the boards was center Nysier Brooks, who had 10 rebounds by halftime but got in foul trouble in the second half. Elijah Olaniyi, the Stony Brook transfer, finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He opened the second half with a three from the top of the key to keep Miami’s momentum alive. Freshman Matt Cross chipped in 16 points, including four 3-pointers and a pair of ferocious rebounds late in the game.
“Our guys played very, very hard, especially the defensive effort in the first half,” Larranaga said. “They made some big plays. Cross hit some key three point shots. And Naz (Brooks) was there to clog the basket in the first half, and all those defensive stops led to our 12-point first half lead.”
Miami was missing four starters from last year’s team. Guards Chris Lykes (ankle) and Kam McGusty (hamstring), who have played very little, and forward Sam Waardenburg (foot) and center Rodney Miller (knee), who are out for the season. Also out was freshman Earl Timberlake, with an abscess under his left arm.
Larranaga said McGusty may be back for Tuesday’s road game at Syracuse. Lykes, who has not played since the opening game of the season, had an MRI and is being re-evaluated. Timberlake is expected to return Tuesday.
“This was a great team win,” said Brooks, who transferred from Cincinnati. “Louisville played well, but we were able to defend and make tough shots. As for Isaiah, when I was at Cincinnati and would go home for the summers, I would work out against his AAU team, so I knew his talent. He’s playing high-level basketball now. He’s not shy to take those shots.”
The Hurricanes (6-6, 2-5 ACC) opened up a 15-point second-half lead as the Cardinals (9-2, 4-1 ACC) struggled from outside, missing 12 of their first 13 3-point attempts. But then Jae’Lyn Withers got hot and sparked a 19-9 run to cut UM’s lead to 45-44 with 13 minutes to go.
Withers, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Carlik Jones (25 points and seven assists) kept the Cardinals in the game. Both made huge plays late in the game, and kept the gap to single digits, but it wasn’t enough.
“This win was a great confidence booster for us,” said Olaniyi. “Especially after that loss at Boston College. We didn’t play well, so this was about forgetting that game and leaving everything on the floor.”©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.