Isaiah Wong entered the Miami Hurricanes’ lone exhibition game ahead of the 2021-2022 season with a slew of preseason hype. The third-year sophomore is a preseason first-team All-ACC member and landed on the watch list for the Jerry West Award, given annually to college basketball’s top shooting guard.
Wong lived up to the early hype Wednesday in the Hurricanes’ 106-95 win over Nova Southeastern University at the Watsco Center, scoring a game-high 40 points while adding seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 31 minutes of work.
“That boy’s good,” guard Charlie Moore said. “It was like he wasn’t missing any shots tonight.”
Well, Wong missed some shots Wednesday — he was 11 of 19 from the field, 8 of 14 from three-point range and sank all 10 of his free throw attempts — but not when they mattered the most.
Like when the Sharks cut Miami’s lead to seven points, 55-48, early in the second half. The Hurricanes hit three consecutive three-point shots to bring their lead back to double digits.
Wong hit the final two of those three-pointers, the start of an individual 11-point flurry over a span of 3:15 that pushed Miami’s lead to 69-52.
“It was a lot of open shots,” Wong said. “I just felt comfortable.”
The Hurricanes’ expanded their to as many as 20 points, 74-54, with about 10 minutes left.
It was large enough to withstand another late Nova rally that cut Miami’s lead to four points with 4:30 left before Wong added another seven points in a span of 48 seconds on a pair of free throws, a layup and another three-pointer.
“He is a scorer,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said. “He can make 3s. He can make driving layups. He’s a high octane offensive player, but he’s also a terrific athlete.”
But Wong’s huge night didn’t overshadow some of Miami’s deficiencies that were shown on Wednesday.
Nova out-rebounded Miami 48-41, including a staggering 18-2 mark on the offensive end. That lead to the Sharks tallying 13 second-half points and taking 90 shots from the field (although the Hurricanes did hold them to 41-percent shooting).
“Defense and rebounding is key,” Larranaga said. “That’s half the game at least. We’re not good at it. We’re undersized ourselves. ... They were able to go to the basket and score. .. .They flew of the offensive boards. We’ll watch the video and learn from it.”
The Hurricanes now have a little less than three weeks before the season truly begins. Miami opens the season on Nov. 9 against Canisius. Three of the Hurricanes’ first four games will be played at the Watsco Center, along with a Nov. 13 game against UCF and Nov. 21 against Florida A&M. The only game in that stretch not played on UM’s home court is a Nov. 16 contest against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.
More takeaways from the exhibition win:
▪ Charlie Moore makes an early impression. The sixth-year senior has played at California, Kansas and DePaul and has 117 career games at the collegiate level under his belt. His experience, the Hurricanes hope, will pay dividends during his lone season at Miami.
He showcased his skills Wednesday, scoring 25 points on 6-of-10 shooting (including 4 of 6 from three-point range) while hauling in six rebounds, tallying five assists and going 9 for 10 from the free throw line.
▪ Kameron McGusty’s fast start. The sixth-year senior was heavily involved in Miami’s offense early, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the first half. He stuffed the stat sheet elsewhere, too, with eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block.
▪ Little seen from the freshmen. The Hurricanes have four freshmen on their roster: guards Bensley Joseph, Jakai Robinson, Thomas Oosterbroek and Wooga Poplar. Only one saw action on Wednesday.
Poplar came in off the bench and played 14 minutes. He scored 5 points and corralled five rebounds.
Larranaga said he would have liked to have gotten Joseph and Robinson into the game, but the priority for Wednesday was to get his starters extended playing time.
“60 percent of our starting unit didn’t play for us last year,” Larranaga said. “I needed to give them all a lot of playing time together.”
▪ The return of Sam Waardenburg. The 6-10 forward and sixth-year senior from Auckland, New Zealand played in his first game since March 11, 2020, after missing the entire 2020-2021 season with a left foot injury. He scored 4 points with four rebounds, five assists, three blocks and one steal.