KISSIMMEE, FL. – The University of Miami men’s basketball team rallied back from a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat North Texas, 69-63, Friday in its second outing of the ESPN Events Invitational.
Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong scored a game- and season-high 21 points, while sixth-year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty logged his second double-double of 2021-22. The duo’s strong play helped Miami (4-2) earn the win at the HP Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports despite the Mean Green’s early onslaught from long range.
“I thought our physical effort in the first half just wasn’t good enough at the defensive end of the floor to stop them. They had 40 points, they shot the ball great from three, they shot it great from two,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “But at halftime, we just talked about how important pure, physical effort is. We did a fantastic job in the second half holding them to 23 points after giving them 40 in the first half. At the same time, our guards really started to share the ball and get some better looks.”
Both teams put on impressive first-half offensive displays, but the Mean Green’s 3-point shooting set them apart. North Texas (2-3) started 4-of-5 from deep through five minutes, then sat at 7-of-10 after 11 minutes and 8-of-12 through 13 minutes.
After those same 13 minutes, the Hurricanes were 8-of-14 from the floor, 1-of-1 on 3-pointers and 4-of-4 at the line, yet still trailed by 10 points, 31-21. The Mean Green upped their lead as high as 14 late in the opening stanza and eventually took a 12-point cushion, 40-28, into the break.
Miami, which made its first four shots, went 10-of-20 from the field and 7-of-8 at the line in the first half, despite its 12-point deficit. McGusty had a game-high 10 points at the break, connecting on all six of his free throws. Sophomore guard Rubin Jones led North Texas with nine points, shooting 3-of-3 from deep to help his team to a 9-of-18 clip at the intermission.
The Hurricanes came out of the locker room scorching hot to open the second half, scoring 24 of the first 32 points to take a four-point lead, 52-48, with 11:39 to go. The burst included a stretch during which Miami made 10 of 11 field goals, including six in a row, and had both 7-0 and 9-0 runs.
“Coach [Bill] Courtney, who is our offensive coordinator, had mentioned a few things that he had observed,” Larrañaga said of Miami’s second-half start. “So, we ran a couple of plays to get Isaiah a basket, to get Kam McGusty a basket. Every time one of them worked, our confidence grew.”
After some back-and-forth basketball, the score sat level at 59 with under three minutes left, but Miami broke the deadlock on a McGusty layup, through a foul, with 2:35 remaining. Wong doubled the lead on a baseline pull-up jump-shot with 1:18 to go and McGusty upped it to six, 65-59, on a pair of free throws with 21 ticks left.
A layup by Jones—his only basket of the second half—six seconds later trimmed the deficit to four, but McGusty again sank a pair of free throws to effectively ice the game. Both teams scored two points in the last 10 seconds, as Miami earned the six-point win.
Wong’s 21-point performance came on 9-of-17 shooting, while McGusty finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, the latter mark leading all players and setting a new career high. The Katy, Texas, native also notched a game-high three steals, drew nine fouls and went 10-of-11 from the stripe.
“I thought yesterday Kam struggled a good bit and he didn’t play much in the second half because of it, whereas today I didn’t even want to take him out,” Larrañaga said. “He had to ask to be taken out two different times because he was going so hard. That’s what you want from your leaders. You want their effort to be so good that they need a rest and then go back in and sustain it again.”
Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore totaled 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, adding a team-high three assists for the Hurricanes.
Redshirt senior forward Thomas Bell paced the Mean Green, who reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 last year, with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Junior guard Tylor Perry tallied 14 points and Jones finished with 11, while junior guard Mardrez McBride dished out seven assists.
After its outstanding start beyond the arc, North Texas shot 5-of-16 (31.3 percent) there over the final 27 minutes. The Mean Green also missed more free throws than Miami despite half as many attempts, as the former went 4-of-8 (50.0 percent) and the latter 13-of-16 (81.3 percent).
North Texas posted a 22-0 margin in bench points, but the Hurricanes logged a 34-18 advantage in paint points, a 12-5 edge in points off turnovers and a 13-4 lead in fast-break points. They also shot a season-high 54.2 percent (26-of-48) from the floor in the victory.
Miami wraps up play in the ESPN Events Invitational Sunday at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the matchup between No. 10/9 Alabama and Drake.