Miami beats Maryland 54-47, improves to 3-0 in ACC play

Shane Larkin of Miami leads the break with Alex Len of Maryland trailing in the first half of a men's college basketball game at the BankUnited Center on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Coral Gables, Florida. (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT)
Caption
Shane Larkin of Miami leads the break with Alex Len of Maryland trailing in the first half of a men's college basketball game at the BankUnited Center on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in Coral Gables, Florida. (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT)

Credit: C.W. Griffin

Credit: C.W. Griffin

The University of Miami is finding a way to win this season, whether it’s without its big center in the lineup or its shooting touch.

The Hurricanes couldn’t shoot straight for much of Sunday night’s game but pulled together in a 54-47 victory against Maryland at the BankUnited Center that gives UM a 3-0 conference mark for the first time since it was in the Big East in 1997.

Despite being held to 34.9 percent shooting, UM received big buckets down the stretch from Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney-Jones to seal the win.

The victory moved the Hurricanes (12-3, 3-0 ACC) into a first-place tie with North Carolina State and is likely to stir some national attention for a team that seemed in deep trouble after starting center Reggie Johnson was lost in December with a thumb injury.

“It means we have 15 more [ACC] games to go,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said when asked the significance of winning the first three conference games. “It’s very early in the conference race. Anything can happen.”

Johnson’s absence has meant considerably more playing time for Gamble, a sixth-year senior center who has taken advantage of his opportunities.

Gamble scored just eight points, but six came in the final six minutes, including a dunk off a missed Durand Scott layup that gave the Hurricanes a 43-36 lead with 3:33 to play. Gamble added nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

“Just being relentless, never giving up on a play,” said Gamble, one of five UM starters to play at least 31 minutes Sunday.

A crowd of 5,809 watched the game, including former Maryland coach Gary Williams, who sat in the crowd behind his old team’s bench.

Both teams came out flat offensively. Miami shot only 27.6 percent in the first half, which was scorching compared to the Terrapins, who made only 6 of 28 shots (21.4) in the opening 20 minutes. For a while, it appeared that both of Sunday’s NFL playoff games would produce more points than UM and Maryland combined.

The Terps were coming off a loss Wednesday to Florida State, which ended a 13-game winning streak. Sunday’s loss drops Maryland’s all-time road record against Miami to 0-7.

Sunday’s game was the seventh that UM played without Johnson, the 6-foot-10, 292-pound center sidelined because of a broken left thumb. Johnson, who was averaging a double-double, was injured in practice before the Hurricanes’ game against Hawaii on Dec. 23.

Johnson is expected to miss six to eight weeks, which means he likely won’t play until mid-February. UM is now 4-2 since Johnson went out of the lineup.

Even without Johnson, the Hurricanes were able to hold their own on the boards. Maryland, led by 7-foot-1 center and top NBA prospect Alex Len, came into the game sixth nationally in rebounding, averaging 42.8 per game. But the Terrapins outrebounded UM by just four, 48-44.

“We knew we had to rebound the ball,” Larranaga said.

UM will face Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Wednesday before returning to the BankUnited Center for games against Duke (Jan. 23) and Florida State (Jan. 27).