Rice delivers against FIU

Tagged as a player that has never lived up to his full potential since arriving in Coral Gables largely because of an underdeveloped inside game despite a 6-10 height, University of Miami senior forward Darius Rice went out of his way to promise those same critics that things would be slightly different this season.

"You all watch, it's not going to be the same Darius you guys are used to," Rice said. "I'm going to show off a new arsenal this season. I'm going to let it all hang out."

Rice certainly delivered on that promise Saturday night against Florida International University.

Showing a willingness to take the ball inside in-between jump shots from the perimeter. Rice had a game-high 28 points, including 17 during a torrid first-half, to lead the Hurricanes (4-2) to an 89-72 victory over the Golden Panthers (2-4) at the Convocation Center in front of 2,525 fans. It was Rice's first 20-point game since the season-opener against Lubbock Christian. But it couldn't have come a better time for a UM team entering a contest against its cross-town rival lost two of its last three games.

Rice scored eight of Miami's first 16 points of the game to help the Hurricanes build an advantage they would not relinquish - or have seriously threatened after the early moments of the second half. Rice nailed his second three-pointer of the game to give Miami a 27-14 lead with 9:25 remaining in the first half.

The Golden Panthers cut the Canes' lead down to 41-33 on an inside basket by forward Taurence Johnson before Rice brought the crowd to its feet with a dunk off a Guillermo Diaz assist. Rice contributed to the onslaught as UM opened the second half by outscoring FIU 26-14 to take a 21-point lead with 9:30 remaining in the game. Rice scored six points in the final three minutes to help UM extends its lead to 84-65.

Rice made eight jumpers in the game, including a three-of-six effort from beyond the three-point line. But he also presented UM with an effective inside game -five lay-ups and two dunks- in addition to going three-for-five from the free-throw line.

Could this be a sign of things to come from Rice?

"You know, I don't what you guys think. But I feel good things are going to happen when Darius has the ball in his hands," said Head Coach Perry Clark.

Although he's admitted in the past that he draws extra motivation playing in big games in front of a lot of people Rice said afterwards that his desire to put on a good showing was boosted by Clark.

"I felt coach just challenged me," said Rice. "He just told me to stay aggressive and play my game. I just felt comfortable tonight. You know what happens when I get going. To be honest with you I really feel that I can do whatever I want out there."

But the Hurricanes' performance wasn't just a product of another solid game by Rice.

Diaz scored 15 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, while starting guard Rob Hite added 14. Nine of Hite's points came in the first four minutes of the game as UM jumped out ahead 18-8.

There was a negative in an otherwise strong game as the Hurricanes. were outrebounded 35-31 overall, including 18-13 on the offensive glass. Clark wants to see that change.

"There are a lot of things we need to get better at if we're going to improve as a basketball team, and getting rebounds is certainly one of those things," said Clark.

Senior guard Junior Matias, who drilled eight-of-13 shots from the floor, had a team-high 20 points for the Golden Panthers. Johnson and Carlos Morban had 19 points each for FIU.

"We just had to many defensive breakdowns throughout the entire game, and you certainly can't afford too many of those with Darius shooting the ball the way he was," said FIU coach Donnie Marsh.

The Hurricanes, 4-0 on their home floor this season, will host Maryland-Baltimore County Tuesday at the Convocation Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.

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