Also, Portland Catfan asked if Mark Lyons was healthy after looking banged-up in Saturday's game: I'm told he was fine for today's shootaround but have no first-person knowledge since it was closed.
HONOLULU – Miami led Hawaii by only a point at halftime Saturday night but took care of that problem quickly.
The Hurricanes led by 12 points just four minutes into the second half partly because point guard Shane Larkin had two steals that led to four of his own points.
“He was a one-man wrecking crew,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.
The Hurricanes then polished off the home team by forcing a total of 16 Hawaii turnovers. Larkin had three steals, as did guard Durand Scott.
Arizona had left the Stan Sheriff Center before all this happened but you can bet the Wildcats will hear about it.
UA will face Miami at 9:30 p.m. in the Diamond Head Classic semifinals, after kicking the ball away 18 times in a 73-53 win over East Tennessee State. Even before they knew for sure they would play Miami, forward Brandon Ashley put the 18 turnovers in perspective.
“In the second half we had way too many turnovers,” Ashley said. “If we want to beat the top teams in the country, we can’t have that.”
Since turning the ball over 27 times against Southern Miss on Dec. 4, the Wildcats were working toward a cure for their ballhanding blues.
They had only 11 turnovers at Clemson and just 10 against Florida, a game they obviously could not have won without careful ballhandling.
But then the Wildcats had 17 turnovers against Oral Roberts and 12 in the second half Saturday to total 18 against East Tennessee State.
They are now averaging exactly 15 turnovers a game.
“It’s disappointing when you’re this far along and in a tournament like this – and we can’t play without turning the ball over,” Miller said after the Wildcats beat ETSU. “If we keep doing it, we’re not going to win. It’s amazing that we’re 10-0 with our inability to handle the ball. We’re averaging 15 a game and that’s a lot for a good team.
"Generally, the teams that I coach average 12 and there’s a huge difference between 15 turnovers a game and 12.”
Two things about Saturday’s turnover total bothered Miller the most. For one thing, the Wildcats had just six entering halftime,when he reminded them that their goal was 12 or less per game.
Then they had 12 in the second half.
“I thought that was a pretty good job in the first half but in the second, we really struggled,” Miller said. “Just passing, catching, looking at the man you are passing to, take what the defense gives…”
The other thing that bothered Miller was that point guards Mark Lyons and Jordin Mayes combined for half of those turnovers, Lyons with four and Mayes with five.
“Generally speaking if your point guard position has nine turnovers, it’s difficult to win,” Miller said. “There were a couple of charge calls against Mark but the bottom line is our team turned the ball over.”
Of course, Miller said there were positives to look at, too. He said Ashley gave an “excellent effort” with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but quickly reverted his remarks to turnovers after discussing Ashley.
Later, Miller praised Gabe York, who has been the odd man out of his nine-man rotation so far. York had six points, a rebound and an assist in eight minutes played over both halves.
“You can tell from an offensive perspective he’s really talented, and he’s really gotten better on defense,” Miller said. “He practices really hard and he’s a fantastic kid. He took advantage of his opportunity tonight and it was great to see.”
York said it felt good to have the opportunity.
“I was in the right spots defensively and offensively,” York said. “I hit a couple of felt good I was in the right spots defensively and offensively I hit a couple of shots to get me going and it’s always easier to play defense when it’s going well offensively.”
Miller said he has a lot of respect for Miami, which has now won seven straight games and is all but certain to land in the national polls if it knocks off Arizona.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Miller said. “I believe they’re probably the second-best team in the ACC behind Duke… They’re really old and they have a couple of players who will play in the NBA, and they have a great point guard, one of the top point guards in the country in Shane Larkin.”
Miami also proved Saturday it can handle adversity. The Hurricanes played without starting center Reggie Johnson, who injured his hand in practice Friday and, Larranaga said, likely will not play for the rest of the tournament.
They also played with guard Trey McKinney Jones, who was hospitalized Friday with recurring flu-like symptoms. McKinney Jones had 11 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes.
“We didn’t even think he would suit up,” Larranaga said. “Having him made a huge difference.”
Miami also overcame the fact that Saturday’s game ended at about 2:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The Hurricanes arrived in Honolulu on Thursday, giving them only 48 hours to adjust to five hours in time zone change, but made a quick adjustment.
“We got here at six o’clock at night and we told the guys to stay up until midnight” on Thursday, Larranaga said. “We tried to get right on normal (Hawaiian) time. So we slept until 9, had breakfast at 9:30 and had a regular day, with the banquet (Friday night). Then we slept until 9 today and had breakfast again at 9:30. We got very quickly into a regular routine.”
Scott, who had 20 points, five assists and three steals, said he felt no difference.
“It wasn’t hard for me,” Scott said. “I didn’t feel any difference in my body or anything like that. I know basketball is a sport we love and I know once you put the ball out there and tip it up, I know everybody’s going to be ready to play.”