ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larranaga was quick to note that his team went winless on the road last season. On Tuesday night, his Hurricanes' stingy defense ensured they would only need one try to better last season's road record.
Kameron McGusty scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Harlond Beverly had 15 points, and Miami beat UCF 79-70 at Addition Financial Arena.
The Hurricanes (2-1) pulled away in the early stages of the second half with a 14-2 run over a span of 4:16. Beverly, who scored seven of his team's points during the decisive run, punctuated it with a floater in traffic to give the visitors a 52-41 lead.
"I thought that was a really hard-fought contest. Both teams were very physical with each other," Larranaga said. "Both teams battled. Last season, we did not have a single road win. So, for this team to start out this season in our first road game and play as well as we did, score as well as we did, defend as well as we did, with a number of young guys stepping up and really helping us, it's really a very satisfying victory."
UCF (1-1) never managed to get back within fewer than six points after the Hurricanes' second-half outburst. The Knights were their own worst enemy at times, as they committed 17 turnovers and shot only 42 percent (5 of 12) from the free-throw line.
Those giveaways more than accounted for the final scoring margin, as Miami finished with a 21-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
"Coach has been drilling us on our defense, keeping up the intensity on defense for a whole 40 minutes. I think we were really locked in," McGusty said. "I think our defense was really what put us over the edge."
"Most of the time, they were unforced turnovers," UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. "It wasn't anything where they were pressing and trapping. So, just too many unforced turnovers, which means we have to value the ball a little more, keep it simpler when we're on the floor."
For UCF, Frank Bertz and Darin Green, Jr. each scored 13 points.
Miami: Predicted to finish ninth in the ACC, the Canes could find themselves squarely on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. They have done little to alter that notion in the early stages of the season. Miami's results continued to follow the proverbial script, with wins over Florida Atlantic and UCF coming on the heels of their opening loss to No. 5 Louisville.
UCF: There are likely growing pains to come for the Knights, who are replacing almost every key contributor from a team that came one shot away from knocking off Duke in last year's NCAA Tournament. UCF narrowly avoided a loss at the hands of Prairie View A&M in its season opener and was left to rue a series of turnovers that allowed Miami to pull away.
SUNSHINE STATE OF AFFAIRS
With the win, Miami moved to 82-7 in games against Florida schools from outside the Power Five conferences since 1985-86. Larranaga is 14-2 in such games as the Hurricanes' head coach.
A FOUL PERFORMANCE
UCF forward Collin Smith played only seven minutes in the first half, and 23 minutes overall, before fouling out with eight points and three rebounds. His extended absence was noted as a key factor by both Larranaga and Dawkins.
"It definitely disrupted us," Dawkins said. "I feel Collin is one of the best bigs in the country. When he gets in foul trouble like he did early, and we have to sit him 10, 11, 12 minutes, that's difficult for any player. I thought he did a great job of responding in the second half, but by then, we were fighting an uphill battle. He has to understand his value on the floor, and he has to do a better job of ensuring he doesn't put himself in position to pick up fouls."
That message seemed to have registered with Smith, who had a simple answer when he was asked what he could learn from Tuesday's game. "Try not to foul," he said.