After watching Darius Rice struggle through a dismal first half Clark delivered some words of encouragement in hopes of waking up the Hurricanes star player.
Whatever Clark told Rice must have worked.
Rice scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help the Hurricanes (13-5, 3-1) register a 73-63 victory at the Convocation Center despite some early shooting woes. The Hurricanes, playing at home for the first time since a double-overtime loss to Pittsburgh January 10, notched their third consecutive Big East win as Rice nailed 7-of-19 shots from the field, all in the second half, to put away a stubborn Scarlet Knights squad. After missing his first seven shots of the game, Rice made four consecutive free throws less than two minutes into the second half to give back the Hurricanes a lead they would never relinquish.
"I didn't really feel frustrated," said Rice, who came into the game in an 8-for-24 shooting slump. "I talked to coach, I said, 'Look coach I'm just going to play hard. I missed my first five shots and coach stuck with me, so I was like, okay coach didn't take me out so that must mean he stills believes in me. I think that really helped me."
Rice got his shot to start falling in the second half and never looked back. He hit a short jumper in the paint to give the Hurricanes a 40-32 lead with 14:51 left in the game, but he wasn't done burying the Scarlet Knghts. Rice added a jumper at the 12:21 to extend Miami's lead to 46-36, and poured in another eight points to keep Rutgers at a distance the rest of the way. Rice's aggressive style of play in the second half also led to foul trouble for Rutgers senior forward Herve Lamizana. Lamizana, the Scarlet Knights second-leading scorer and top-rebounder entering the game, fouled out with 3:33 remaining after scoring six points and pulling down four rebounds.
"I thought the key was getting Lamizana in foul trouble. That really hurt them," said Clark.
Having Rob Hite and Guillermo Diaz (14 points each) certainly didn't hurt the Hurricanes. Hite scored seven of his points in the second half, including a big three-pointer out of a timeout that gave the Hurricanes a 38-32 advantage with 15:20 to go in the game. Rutgers (9-6, 1-4) was led by Ricky Shields with 19 points.
The Hurricanes, who shot just 37 percent in the first half, trailed 13-12 before going on a 6-0 run to take their first lead of the game. Diaz, who had 11 points in the first half, scored on a layup to put the Hurricanes up 21-14 - their largest lead of the first half - before the Scarlet Knights responded with a spurt of their own to stay in the game. Rutgers scored six straight points, including a three-pointer by Shields, to take a 24-23 edge. With the game tied at 24-24 the teams traded three-pointers before a Hite dunk - off a steal - gave the Canes a 29-27 lead at the half. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, Rice, who was 0-of-5 from the field in the first half, was getting a little pep talk from Clark.
"Rice just took over the game, and that's what a leader is suppose to do," said Rutgers coach Gary Waters. "That's what a senior is suppose to do."
Miami hosts Villanova on Sunday.
Rice's second-half surge lifts UM
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