CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami avoided a letdown after its road win at North Carolina.
The Hurricanes struggled with their shooting but still defeated Maryland 54-47 Sunday night.
Kenny Kadji scored 14 points to lead the Hurricanes (12-3, 3-0), who have opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with three consecutive wins for the first time since they joined the conference in 2004-05.
“It means we’re in first place, but only after three games,” Kadji said.
Trey McKinney Jones finished with 12 points and Shane Larkin had 10 points and six assists for the Hurricanes.
McKinney Jones’ two free throws with 38.4 seconds remaining increased Miami’s lead to 50-44. Durand Scott secured the win with an uncontested fast-break layup for a 52-44 lead with 24 seconds left.
Miami’s victory over the Terrapins (13-3, 1-2) followed road wins at North Carolina on Thursday night and at Georgia Tech on Jan. 5.
“It’s nice for the university, but hopefully for the students,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said of the Hurricanes’ strong start in conference play. “We’re getting contributions from different guys.”
Alex Len scored eight straight points for the Terrapins late in the second half. Len’s dunk with 39 seconds left brought Maryland to within 48-44.
Dez Wells scored 18 points for the Terrapins. Len finished with 16 points.
Maryland’s point total was its season low. The Terrapins shot 31.6 percent (18 of 57) from the field.
The Hurricanes didn’t fare much better. Miami shot 34.9 percent (22 of 63).
“That was a slugfest — both teams were kind of in a heavyweight fight,” Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was a very physical game. Neither team could make shots or free throws. That said, I was pleased with our effort.”
The teams’ first half shooting struggles continued early in the second half. Miami led 19-14 at halftime but had only a 30-27 advantage after Wells’ 3-point play with 10:09 remaining in the game.
Julian Gamble’s consecutive dunks and a three-point play from Kadji helped Miami run off seven unanswered points. Gamble’s second dunk, off a missed shot, gave the Hurricanes a 39-29 lead with 5:23 remaining.
“I was just being relentless, not quitting on the play and putting pressure on the rim,” Gamble said.
Maryland got to within 39-34 with 4 minutes remaining on Wells’ layup and Logan Aronhalt’s 3-pointer.
Len’s dunk with 2:20 remaining got the Terrapins within 43-38, but McKinney Jones’ corner 3-pointer with 1:40 left stretched Miami’s lead to 46-38.
Kadji hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the game as the Hurricanes opened to a 12-5 lead in the first 8:21. Miami maintained the advantage, forcing seven Terrapins turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
Maryland didn’t reach double figures in points until Nick Faust’s layup with 6:23 remaining in the first half reduced Miami’s lead to 16-11.
Miami failed to take advantage of the Terrapins’ shooting woes. The Hurricanes were held scoreless the rest of the half — missing their final eight shots — after McKinney Jones’ 3-pointer with 4:36 remaining gave Miami a 19-11 lead.
“On any given night you’re going to have bad shooting,” Larkin said. “Tonight we focused on defense. It’s frustrating not making shots, but you can’t let that affect you.”
Len’s basket with 3.8 seconds remaining ended a field goal drought of 6:20 for Maryland. The Terrapins shot 21.4 percent (6 of 28) in the first half.
“It’s hard for us to score right now,” Turgeon said. “Our decision-making has to get better.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)