The Miami Hurricanes and the 10th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide — both coming off bounce-back wins — are set to meet on Sunday night in the consolation bracket of the ESPN Events Invitational in Kissimmee, Fla.
Miami (4-2), which lost to Dayton on Thursday, rallied from a 13-point, first-half deficit to knock off North Texas on Friday, avoiding what would’ve been its third loss this season to a mid-major team. Besides the loss to Dayton, Miami also lost to Central Florida earlier this season.
Alabama (5-1), after getting stunned by Iona on Thursday, defeated Drake 80-71 on Friday.
“For us to bounce back after a disappointing loss … our guys could’ve hung their heads and not played hard,” Alabama coach Nate Oats. “We played hard. But we still have a lot to clean up for Miami.”
Alabama, which has won 26 consecutive games when scoring at least 80 points, is led by 6-3 guard Jaden Shackelford, who is averaging 18.5 points per game. He also led the team in scoring last season (14.0), and he keys an offense that leads the SEC with an average of 84 points per game.
Juwan Gary, who had the second double-double of his career against Drake, is averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. He had 14 and 10 against Drake.
Jahvon Quinerly is Alabama’s second-leading scorer at 15.8 points. He had 18 points against Drake.
Keon Ellis, a 6-6 wing, is averaging 11.8 points and tops Alabama in rebounds (7.8).
Add it all up and this could be the most talented team in Alabama history, and the Tide has even been projected as a Final Four team in 2022.
Meanwhile, Miami is led by its three veteran guards: Isaiah Wong, Kameron McGusty and point man Charlie Moore.
Wong, a preseason first-team All-ACC player, scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half on Friday, leading Miami to its rally over North Texas. For the season, he is averaging 15.8 points while shooting. 62.0 percent on two-pointers. His three-point (30.4 percent) and free throw (70.6 percent) numbers aren’t as sharp.
McGusty leads the Canes in scoring (17.0), and he has been doing most of his damage on the foul line. He is shooting 85.4 percent on free throws.
Moore, a Miami newcomer who is playing for his fourth college, is averaging 10.5 points while leading the Canes in assists (2.8) and steals (1.8).
Alabama’s 7-foot freshman, Charles Bediako, will look to alter and disrupt. He leads Alabama with 2.0 blocks per game, and he could be a big factor as Wong, in particular, tries to drive to the hoop.
Still, Miami coach Jim Larranaga likes how hard his players are competing. He said McGusty was going so hard on Friday that he had to ask to be rested on a couple of occasions.
“That’s what you want,” Larranaga said. “You want their effort to be so good that they need a rest.”
–Field Level Media