CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — In his first four games of the season, Miami’s Bruce Brown didn’t play like the freshman guard who caught the attention of NBA scouts.
Brown struggled from the field, averaging eight points per game — fourth-best on the 11th-ranked Hurricanes.
On Saturday, Brown showed flashes of his first-year performances as he scored 14 points to lead Miami to an 86-65 victory over North Florida.
“I think Bruce is playing like Clark Kent – a little conservative, has the glasses on, the suit on,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “At some point, hopefully, soon, he’ll remove the glasses and become Superman.”
Brown scored six points in a 16-2 run that helped Miami (5-0) build a 17-point lead midway through the first half. Brown’s dunk with 7:04 remaining capped the surge and gave the Hurricanes a 26-9.
A projected NBA first-round draft pick in 2018, Brown shook off a 2-for-9 shooting performance in Miami’s previous game at La Salle and shot 7 of 14 from the field against North Florida (1-7). Brown finished with seven rebounds.
“I just wanted to be more aggressive and play my game,” Brown said. “I thought I was thinking too much last game. I had to slow myself take shots I know I can make. I had a quick easy dunk and that’s always good.”
Anthony Lawrence scored 14 points and Dewan Huell finished with 13 points for the Hurricanes while Ja’Quan Newton and Chris Lykes had 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Osprey, second nationally in 3-point field goals, shot 8 of 26 from beyond the arc against Miami.
“Coming into the game we were concerned about North Florida’s ability to make 3s,” Larranaga said. “But I thought we did a good job defensively. The 3s they made were really guarded pretty good.”
Redshirt freshman forward Sam Waardenburg earned his first extended playing time for Miami after sitting out the first three games because of a back injury. Waardenburg finished with nine points and six rebounds.
“It’s good to be back after the injury, take the shots I know I can take,” Waardenburg said. “On offense, I can stretch the floor out and give length for these guys to get to the rim, once I set a screen.”
JT Escobar scored a game-high 16 points for the Ospreys.
Miami capitalized on 14 North Florida turnovers to build its double-digit first-half lead. The Ospreys cut the deficit to 30-23 on Escobar’s 3-pointer with 3:00 left before the Hurricanes responded with six straight points.
“The thing that killed us tonight was live ball turnovers,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “When those guys get going, they just pitch it, pitch it, pitch it, layup, dunk.”
FREE THROW OPTIMISM:
The Hurricanes shot 17 of 23 from the free throw line, including 11 of 12 in the second half. Miami entered the game shooting 52 percent.
“I told my team my after the game there are 351 Division I schools and we’re 350 in free throw percentage and that our goal is to be the most improved free throw shooting team in the country by February because we have guys that can make free throws,” Larranaga said.
WINLESS AGAINST THE ACC:
The Ospreys are 0-15 against ACC teams, including 0-5 against Miami. Driscoll believes Miami merits its national ranking.
“They are one of the best teams in the country. They deserve to be in the top 20. They have a chance to have a special year.”
Miami: The Hurricanes became the third team in Larranaga’s seven seasons to start 5-0. The 2014-15 and 2015-16 squads also won their first five games.
North Florida: The Ospreys closed a heavy non-conference stretch against 2017 NCAA Tournament qualifiers. Six of North Florida’s first eight opponents reached the tournament.
Miami: The Hurricanes will play at No. 14 Minnesota on Wednesday in the ACC-Big 10 challenge. The Gophers are Miami’s first 2017-18 opponent that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.
North Florida: After a stretch of seven of their first eight games on the road or at neutral sites, the Ospreys will return home and face Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.