Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Hurricanes protecting win streak
Coach encourages fans to pack Watsco Center again
After a resounding win over Duke in front of a packed Watsco Center on Monday, Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga made it clear: He wanted everyone back on Saturday.
“Everybody that came to tonight’s game is invited back,” Larrañaga said. “Because that’s the kind of environment we’d love to have every night. The white-out, the noise in the arena before the game even began. The students were packed back to the end zone. And really, that’s what ACC basketball has always been about ... tremendous fan support.
The friendly confines of Miami’s nearly 8,000-seat arena in Coral Gables have been extra kind to the Hurricanes this season. Miami has not lost at home since last season, picking up 13 straight home wins. The No. 19 Hurricanes (19-5, 10-4
ACC) will try to extend that streak when they host last-place Louisville (3-21, 1-12 ACC) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“When we go to Duke, it’s always packed. When we go to Carolina, it’s always packed,” Larrañaga said. “We really are headed in the right direction because each game it seems to get better and better, and that fuels us. The players feed off of that electricity, and they are able to sustain effort longer because of the environment.”
Statistics back up Maimi’s better performance at home. Star guard Isaiah Wong is averaging 17.9 points in 12 games at home and 13.1 points in nine games on the road. Forward Norchad Omier is averaging 14.2 points and 10.8 rebounds at home with 12.4 points and 9.5 rebounds on the road. Jordan Miller’s split is less dramatic but still there. He averages 15.5 points at home and 14.2 on the road (along with 6.5 rebounds per game at home and 4.4 per game on the road).
Nijel Pack is Miami’s only double-digit scorer where the reverse trend is true. Pack, in his first season with the Hurricanes,
is averaging 14.1 points per game on the road and 11.9 points per game at home.
“We felt like we’ve got to protect home court at all times,” Hurricanes sophomore guard Bensley Joseph said. “And with the fans’ energy level and with the way they get us cheered up, we just feed off of that. We want to make them feel like they’re incorporated into the game, getting them out of their seats and have some fun like us.”
Although the Louisville — a traditional basketball powerhouse — is having one of the worst seasons in program history, the Hurricanes are not taking the home winning streak for granted. They are just focused on getting the next win before going back on the road to face North Carolina (15-9, 7-6 ACC) on Monday.
“I look at every game one at a time, wherever it is,” Larrañaga said. “We’ve had an exhausting January schedule. We’ve moved into February. There’s a lot of really important games in the ACC standings, and we’re just focused on getting ready for Louisville. Not worried about anything else.