UM Desperate for a Victory

The wound is gushing with blood and if the University men's basketball team doesn't stop it soon they could end up in a familiar position - home for March. After a strong start to the season the Hurricanes (13-10, 4-5) have dropped five consecutive games and are in danger of not qualifying for the Big East tournament if they don't get things turned around quickly.

UM, coming off an 80-64 defeat to Georgetown, will get another chance tonight against Boston College (15-7, 4-5) at the Convocation Center.

Miami, who has seven regular season games remaining, is just a half-game ahead of Virginia Tech for 12th place in the Big East. The last two teams in the conference will not make the league tournament.

"If we're going to get something started it has to be right now," said UM coach Perry Clark, who has been searching for his 250th career victory for three weeks. "Its critical that we eliminate all the turnovers by taking care of the basketball and get some of the guys some (open) looks. We need to step it up on defense as well."

The Hurricanes have been plagued by turnovers and poor shooting during their current losing skid. In the loss to Georgetown, Miami committed 24 turnovers - 15 in the first half - and shot 41.2 percent. UM has been held under 39 percent shooting from the floor in three of their last five games. Despite the sloppy ball handling against the Hoyas the Hurricanes took an eight-point lead into the half before Georgetown opened the second half with an 17-5 run.

Clark said that the physical nature of Big East competition could be taking a toll on the Hurricanes - and that could be the only reason to explain the recent slide of senior Darius Rice. Despite a team leading 17 points per game, Rice is 25 of 66 from the floor in the last three games. Rice has made just 5 of 25 three-pointers in the consecutive losses to Georgetown and Rutgers.

"I want to win bad so I'm going to keep trying to do everything I can to get it done," said Rice. "We still have some games left so I'm not giving up. We have a shot to get in this thing."

It won't be easy. After the Eagles leave town Miami will host defending national champion Syracuse (Feb. 14) before going back on the road to play Connecticut (Feb. 18) and Providence (Feb. 21), two teams that are virtual locks to make the NCAA Tournament.

Boston College, 2-3 in their last five games after defeating St. John's last Sunday, has a quick backcourt and a big frontcourt - strengths that have given the Hurricanes plenty of problems in the past. Sophomore 6-8 forward Craig Smith leads the Eagles in points (18.2), rebounds (9.5), field goal percentage (.535), blocked shots (23) and steals (40). Smith, who has scored 1,017 points at Boston College, is only the second player in school history to have 1,000 points in his first two seasons.

Freshman forward Jared Dudley, a 48 percent shooter from the floor, has averaged 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, while 7-foot center Uka Agbai has added 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. Agbai has 15 blocked shots. Freshman guard Sean Marshall, who had a career-high 23 points against St. John's, including four three-pointers, is averaging 9.1 points a game.

The Eagles, who have defeated the Hurricanes six straight times, lead the all-time series 15-8.

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