CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — A spirited halftime message helped Miami snap a brief losing skid.
The Hurricanes used a 16-2 run midway through the second half to break a close game and defeat La Salle 76-59 Wednesday night.
Shane Larkin and Durand Scott scored 18 points each to lead Miami (9-3). The Hurricanes’ guards combined to score 26 points after halftime.
“Coach delivered the message and we displayed it,” Scott said of Miami coach Jim Larranaga’s halftime talk. “We attacked. We had to be aggressive.”
Larkin hit consecutive baskets as the Hurricanes broke a 45-45 tie with 11:21 remaining. Erik Swoope’s basket with 7:02 remaining ended the spurt and increased Miami’s lead to 61-47.
“First half they came at us and had the upper hand,” Scott said. “We showed our toughness throwing it back at them.”
Trey McKinney Jones and Kenny Kadji finished with 14 points each for the Hurricanes, who snapped a two-game losing streak. Miami lost the final two games of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii against Arizona and Indiana State on Dec. 24 and 25.
“I thought La Salle came out of the blocks pressuring us, attacking us defensively, offensively,” Larranaga said. “It took us a while to respond.
“We came out in the second half attacking. It makes a big difference, because you make shots and you make free throws and you play much better defense when you’re on attack mode.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for La Salle (9-3), which was attempting to start a season at 10-2 for the first time since 1989-90.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed with our defense in the last 11 minutes of the game,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “It was a complete defensive collapse. We had guys get out of the way in charges. We had massive problems defensively.
The Hurricanes rallied from a six-point halftime deficit and outscored the Explorers 10-2 in the first 3:15 of the second half. Scott’s layup with 16:55 remaining ended the early second-half spurt and gave Miami a 40-38 lead.
Miami played its fourth game without senior center Reggie Johnson, who will be sidelined 6 to 8 weeks with a broken thumb. Despite Johnson’s absence, Miami outrebounded the Explorers 40-33.
“Through ups and downs we are going to stay together,” Larkin said.
The Explorers broke open a close first half with a 12-0 run during a late 2:17 stretch. Ramon Galloway hit two 3-pointers and Tyrone Garland converted three short jumpers during the surge. A basket with 2:03 remaining in the half by Garland, who finished with 20 points, gave the Explorers a 36-25 lead.
Miami cut the lead to 36-30 at halftime on Julian Gamble’s layup and Larkin’s three-point play.
Galloway, after 12 first-half points, was held scoreless in the second half.
The Hurricanes will begin Atlantic Coast Conference play Saturday at Georgia Tech, while the Explorers play a final nonconference game against Penn on Saturday before beginning their Atlantic 10 schedule Jan. 9 at Charlotte.
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