December 05, 2014

A talented backcourt may have Miami on the cusp of its best start in seven years, but Keifer Sykes leads a dangerous Green Bay team looking to move past a humbling defeat.

All eyes figure to be on an exceptional guard matchup when the 15th-ranked Hurricanes try to extend their unbeaten start Saturday against the Phoenix, who hope to avoid falling to 0-3 on the road.

Miami has thrived behind one of the nation's deepest group of guards, as Sheldon McClellan (16.4), Angel Rodriguez (14.1), Manu Lecomte (13.3) and reserve Deandre Burnett (10.0) are averaging double-digit points.

Burnett became the latest to shine Tuesday after being limited by a knee injury to start the season. He had 19 points and eight rebounds in a 70-61 home win over No. 24 Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Lecomte has made a team-best 20 of 40 shots from 3-point range, while McClellan has averaged 20.7 points on 66.7 percent shooting in the last three games.

''Basketball is about balance,'' coach Jim Larranaga said. ''With this team, we have so many guards who play a lot and can handle the ball, they're very good at sharing it and having good balance in our attack.''

The Hurricanes are one of the nation's best at taking care of the ball, ranking in the top 15 with 10.0 turnovers per game after committing five against the previously unbeaten Fighting Illini.

Miami, which has never been ranked so high so early, seeks its first 9-0 start since winning the first 12 in 2007.

''We're not going to get caught up in the hype and the rankings and all that,'' said McClellan, a transfer from Texas. ''We're just going to continue to improve each game.''

Green Bay (5-2), the preseason Horizon League favorite, was off to its best start since 1991 before its four-game winning streak was snapped with Thursday's 72-48 loss at Georgia State. The Phoenix have dropped their two road games by 24 points apiece, falling 84-60 at then-No. 3 Wisconsin on Nov. 19.

Sykes, a Naismith Award preseason watch list selection, is averaging 18.1 points on 51.0 percent shooting after he scored 20.3 per game during a 24-win season in 2013-14.

The senior finished with 20 points against the Badgers, but he'll look to bounce back after scoring 16 on 5-of-15 shooting Thursday.

Green Bay struggled mightily from the field, shooting 28.8 percent for its lowest mark since Jan. 26. Starters Jordan Fouse, Kenneth Lowe, Greg Mays and Carrington Love were a combined 4 for 21.

The Phoenix could find it difficult to get back on track against a Miami team that limited high-scoring Illinois to a 33.3 field-goal percentage and has held opponents to a 38.7 mark.

The Hurricanes, though, made 37.9 percent of their attempts after shooting at least 50.0 in each of the prior four games. They were 9 of 30 on 3s after entering the week fourth in the nation in 3-point percentage at 45.7.

Green Bay held teams to 37.7 percent shooting before allowing the Panthers to hit 53.1 percent from the field.

The Phoenix have lost two of three all-time meetings but won 62-45 in the only matchup in Miami on Jan. 3, 1987.

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