Banged-up Miami hosts Jacksonville

NCAA

The injury-plagued Miami Hurricanes, who have lost two straight games, are set to host the Jacksonville Dolphins in a nonconference game Saturday.

Miami (3-2) is coming off a 70-55 home loss to ACC-rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Miami started that game with just seven healthy scholarship players and then lost two more — leading scorer Isaiah Wong and top freshman Matt Cross — while it was still a four-point game in the second half.

While Wong returned and finished with a game-high 21 points, Cross did not make it back, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.

Against Pitt, two of Miami’s top three scorers — Chris Lykes and Kam McGusty — were out along with freshman wing Earl Timberlake, forward Sam Waardenburg and center Rodney Miller Jr. All but Waardenburg are due back this season, although not likely in time to face the Dolphins.

Jacksonville (6-2) is off to its best start since the 2010-11 season. The Dolphins, whose only losses this season were a road game at Georgia and a two-point defeat against Campbell, have won three straight contests.

Jacksonville has been off for six days, since rallying from an 18-point deficit to defeat South Carolina State on Dec. 13.

The Dolphins are led by Dontarius James, who is averaging 18.5 points.

“We’ve got to limit James,” Miami assistant coach Adam Fisher said. “He’s a really good player.”

The Dolphins, who were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Sun Conference this season, have three other players who average double figures in points: Tyreese Davis (12.9), Diante Wood (12.4) and Bryce Workman (10.6).

“We need to improve our defense,” Workman said. “But we’re really excited to get this opportunity to knock off a top team.”

Miami leads the series with Jacksonville 26-6, including four straight wins. However, the teams have not played since 2012.

The Hurricanes are vulnerable right now, and not just because of the injuries. Miami has struggled to shoot the ball, ranking last in the 15-team ACC in 3-point percentage (22.2), overall field-goal percentage (42.3) and free-throw percentage (62.2).

Miami is averaging 66.8 points per game, second worst in the league.

Wong, however, is fifth in the league in scoring (17.8).

“We have to keep harping on the positive stuff,” Fisher said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us (due to our injuries).”

–Field Level Media

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