Heartbreak For UM In Big East Opener

On more than one occasion University of Miami men's basketball coach Perry Clark has talked about his team having to grow up and eliminate careless mistakes in order to have any chance of winning consistently in its final season in the Big East. And for about 48 minutes Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center in Coral Gables the Hurricanes looked as if they were maturing rapidly right in front of 3,225 spectators.

There was the scoring run in the first half that allowed the Hurricanes to stay in the game. Then there was the barrage of points in the second half as Miami kept Pittsburgh at a distance. But although UM showed they might not be a pushover in the conference it was the Panthers who delivered, when it mattered, the most and walked way with an 84-80 double overtime. Miami (10-5, 0-1), who plays at St. John's on Wednesday, has dropped two in a row, while No. 15 Pittsburgh (16-0, 2-0) extended the nation's longest winning streak.

"It's really a tough one (right now)," said Clark, who was visibly dejected after the game. "The kids played hard and I'm very proud of them, but we still have to learn how to get there if we're going to get were we want to go. We did some things at the end of the basketball game that a good team is going to take advantage of - and that's what they did."

Despite taking good care of the ball with just 13 turnovers it was a pair of Pittsburgh steals in he final minute of the second overtime that erased any hopes Miami had of scoring the upset. Down 79-77 with 1:22 remaining in the second OT UM freshman Guillermo Diaz missed a long three-pointer that was rebounded by Darius Rice. But Pittsburgh guard Jaron Brown came away with a steal and drilled a pair of free throws after a Rice foul, giving the Panthers an 81-77 edge.

Diaz missed a lay-up that was rebounded by Armondo Surratt, but Pittsburgh sophomore guard Carl Krauser stole the ball from Surratt and nailed two more free throws to give the Panthers a six-point lead. Diaz hit a three-pointer with 9.4 seconds left, but that would be as close as UM would get. It was Diaz who sent the game into double OT with an NBA range three-pointer from the right wing with 2.8 seconds on the clock to even things up at 71-71. Krauser had a team-high 19 points for the Panthers.

"We let it slip away," said Rice, who had a game-high 22 points. "We're still a young team, but to play as hard as we did, we just have to play like that in every game."

Rice hit three straight jumpers for UM early in the second half to give the Hurricanes a 53-47 lead. The Hurricanes took a 57-51 lead - matching their largest of the game - with 6:59 left in regulation as Diaz easy drove to the basket for a lay-up. But Panthers guard Julius Page, who had 15 points, nailed a three-pointer from the right corner to tie it at 62-62. Diaz responded with an off-balance jumper in the paint with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving UM a 64-62 edge. That's when Krauser drove the length of the floor to hit a lay-up and send the game into overtime.

"We went with the big line-up there. A lot of the times in that situation is for the second guy to rotate to the shooter, but once he got past Guillermo it was tough," said Clark. "And the shot was good because I was looking at it the whole way."

Despite outrebounding Pittsburgh 36-33, the Hurricanes needed a 12-0 run late in the first half to stay in the contest. Rob Hite, who finished with 16 points, seven points in the final 5:47 of the half to help UM close to within two points at 32-30. Several minutes later Rodrigue Djahue drilled two free throws to tie at 34-34.

"It was a great win. Our guys really sucked it up," said Pittsburgh coach Jaime Dixon.

FRISBY TO RETURN

Junior forward Will Frisby has been cleared to return for Miami's game at St. John's Wednesday night, according to Clark. Frisby, who has played in seven games this season, was averaging 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game when he was suspended in early December for violating an undisclosed team rule. Clark said he welcomes the return of the 6-8, 235-pounder, who would give the Hurricanes a much-needed presence inside.

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