BOCA RATON, Fla. – Isaiah Wong’s last-second layup handed the University of Miami men’s basketball team a 68-66 victory Tuesday night at Florida Atlantic.
Miami (2-1) led for over 39-and-a-half minutes and never trailed in the contest, but needed Wong’s late bucket to earn the win in front of a packed house at Abessinio Court at FAU Arena. Wong, a third-year sophomore guard, paced the Hurricanes with 18 points in their first road matchup with the Owls since Dec. 3, 2002.
“I thought their players did an outstanding job of [using straight-line drives and] … in the second half, that we were not able to stop it and we ended up fouling them,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said, “Then, they made their free throws and cut into our lead kind of steadily, not all at one time. So, we were still able to stay in front. I know the score was tied at the end, but I think we led nearly from start to finish.”
The Hurricanes jumped on Florida Atlantic (1-2) right from the tip, grabbing a 15-3 lead in the first six-and-a-half minutes. They also forced eight turnovers in the opening seven minutes and held the Owls to just three field-goal attempts in that time.
Miami upped its edge as high as 16 in the opening half and took a 14-point margin, 34-20, into the break. Wong scored 10 points before the intermission, including starting 4-of-4 from the field in the first 5:06, while the Hurricanes went 13-of-15 (86.7 percent) at the stripe in the frame.
After sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore started the second half with a jump-shot to again put Miami up by 16, Florida Atlantic scored nine straight points to begin a 13-3 run that trimmed its deficit to six, 39-30, with 15:40 to play.
The Hurricanes pushed their advantage back up to 16. 55-39, with 8:20 on the clock, but the Owls would not go away. They responded with a 22-8 surge to make it a two-point game, 63-61, with just 1:57 remaining.
Miami scored three straight points to go up by five with 26 ticks left, but Florida Atlantic, at the other end, finished a layup through a foul, missed the shot, grabbed the rebound and drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining.
Wong, though, made a heroic drive to the rim for Miami, putting a shot off the glass and in with 0.7 showing on the scoreboard, sending the Hurricanes—who then got a defensive stop after a timeout—into jubilation.
“Well, we had a timeout; we chose not to use it,” Larrañaga said. “What we wanted to do was just clear everybody out of Isaiah’s way and let him take his man, expecting that he would either score or get fouled. He was able to juke and jive his way to the basket and make an acrobatic layup, which he’s very good at.”
Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty, who led the Hurricanes with eight rebounds, scored 14 points and went 12-of-14 from the line, marking the second game in a row he reached a dozen-plus in both categories. The Katy, Texas, native took nine of his free throws in the first half, connecting on his initial eight.
Freshman guard Wooga Poplar, who went scoreless in four minutes of action in Miami’s first two games, totaled 12 points in the win, finishing 4-of-5 from the floor, 3-of-3 at the stripe and making his lone 3-pointer.
Junior guard Michael Forrest, who made the game-tying 3-pointer, led all scorers with 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half. Freshman guard Alijah Martin tallied 15 of his 17 points after the intermission to join Forrest in double figures, while freshman center Vladislav Goldin grabbed a game-best 11 rebounds before fouling out.
Despite shooting just 36.0 percent (18-of-50) and allowing a 49.0 percent mark (25-of-51), the Hurricanes recorded the win behind their free-throw shooting. Miami went 30-of-38 (78.9 percent) from the stripe, its second game in a row hitting 30-plus free throws.
The Hurricanes now return home to Coral Gables, Fla., to host Florida A&M Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Watsco Center, live on ACC Network.