The 13th-ranked Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team will make history again Friday night as the school’s first Final Four banner will be raised at the Watsco Center before the game against the University of Central Florida.
Players will receive their Final 4 rings during the ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m, and the first 2,500 fans will get free Final 4 rally towels.
Coach Jim Larranaga, his staff and players have already had a good week with a lopsided season-opening win over New Jersey Institute of Technology and the signing of a Top 10 recruiting class for 2024. They hope to cap it off with a win over the Knights, but they know it won’t be easy.
Two years ago, Miami gave up 95 points and lost to UCF at home.
A year ago, in Orlando, the Knights cut the deficit to just one, 65-64, with 11.3 seconds to go after making four consecutive shots. UM guard Isaiah Wong went to the line with 8.3 to play and hit one of two, but UCF’s CJ Walker got fouled with 1.4 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie it. He missed both and Miami held on.
UCF guard Darius Johnson scored a career-high 24 points in that game.
“I’ve been very impressed with UCF, not just this year, but the last several years when we played them,” Larranaga said. “I’m expecting the same kind of game [Friday] night. [Coach] Johnny Dawkins has a very fast, athletic team. Darius Johnson is a great point guard. They have several big guys, 6-10, 6-11, 7-foot, so that’s going to be a challenge for us.
“Hopefully, there will be a great crowd on hand to raise the Final Four banner and make it a festive environment.”
Larranaga said his biggest concern is protecting the ball against UCF, which moved to the Big 12 this season. The Knights had 16 steals in an 85-62 win over FIU on Monday. Jaylin Sellers, one of six transfers on the Knights’ roster, led UCF with 23 points in his first game since transferring from Ball State.
“We want our ball handling to be strong and be sure we’re not committing silly turnovers,” Larranaga said. “We’re going to turn the ball over some, but we want to make sure we’re still sharing the ball, spacing the floor and finding the open man. That was a point of emphasis in practice Wednesday and will be again (Thursday).”
Miami had 23 assists and nine turnovers against NJIT on Monday. Nijel Pack led UM with nine assists and just one turnover.