CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami avoided eight days of possible rust with its largest win of the season.
Rion Brown scored 17 points as the Hurricanes defeated Loyola, 71-48, on Monday night.
The Hurricanes never trailed and increased a 23-point lead at halftime to 60-30 on Brown’s third 3-pointer with 9:26 remaining in the second half. Brown shot 4 of 6 from behind the arc and had nine rebounds.
“We needed it honestly,” Brown said of the team’s layoff. “It gave us some time to recover, get our bodies right, just getting mentally prepared for the second half of the season. It was actually good for us.”
Donnavan Kirk scored 12 points and James Kelly finished with 11 points for Miami (8-5). Tonye Jekiri was Miami’s fourth double-figure scorer with 10 points.
The Hurricanes also had 17 assists, including seven from freshman Davon Reed.
“I’m just trying to get my teammates involved,” Reed said. “We’re finally hitting our stride in a lot of areas and passing and moving the ball is one of them.”
Miami held Loyola’s Dylon Cormier, the nation’s fourth leading scorer, to 11 points. Cormier entered Monday’s game averaging 24.1 points-per-game. Eric Laster scored 13 points to lead the Greyhounds (5-6), who have lost five straight.
“They did a great job of collapsing on Dylon Cormier and making it difficult to score,” Loyola coach G.G. Smith said. “He couldn’t get going early and next thing you know we’re down 20.”
Two runs propelled the Hurricanes to 13-point leads early in the first half. After Loyola reduced Miami’s first 13-point advantage to a three-point lead, the Hurricanes countered with eight straight points. Kelly’s dunk with 8:13 remaining ended the spurt and increased the Hurricanes’ lead to 24-11.
“We’ve had a couple of good practices leading up to the game,” Brown said. “We’ve just been practicing winning. We just came out and played as hard as we could and the rest took care of itself.”
Miami held Loyola scoreless for a 6:30 stretch until Franz Rassman’s tip-in with 6:40 left ended the Greyhounds’ scoring drought. Loyola shot 29 percent from the field in the first half.
“We’re going to play teams that are more efficient offensively,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “Tonight we did what we needed to do. We’ve been working a lot on our offense and we’ve seen good results.”
Kelly’s 3-pointer with 47 seconds remaining in the first half gave the Hurricanes their first 20-point lead at 42-20. Brown converted one of two free throws with 15 seconds remaining for a 43-20 halftime lead.
“I thought our effort was better in the second half,” Smith said. “We kept fighting. It’s been the story of our season. We’ve been down in the first half. We’re down too much early to come back and try to get a win.”
The Greyhounds responded from an early 13-point deficit with 10 unanswered points during a 2:40 stretch in the first half. Laster hit consecutive three pointers and Denzel Brito’s layup with 13:10 remaining capped the run and got Loyola to within 14-11.
Miami opened the game with a 14-1 surge in the first 3:48 behind seven points from Brown. James Kelly also scored two baskets in the Hurricanes’ early spurt.
Miami resumes ACC play Saturday at No. 2 Syracuse. The Hurricanes lost against Virginia Tech Dec. 8 in their lone conference game before January.
“We’re going to be stepping up to a major level of talent,” Larranaga said. “The challenge dramatically increases.”
The Greyhounds open their Patriot League schedule with a home game against Navy on Thursday.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)