Canes Suffer Another Tough Loss

University of Miami senior forward Darius Rice delivered an answer even before Coach Perry Clark could open his mouth. "We're going to make it," said Rice, responding to a post-game question on whether the Hurricanes chances of securing a postseason berth are slipping away.

Apparently, Rice must know something nobody else does. The Hurricanes' nosedive towards the bottom of the Big East Conference continued Wednesday night at the Convocation Center in Coral Gables as a result of an 74-72 overtime loss to the Boston College Eagles (16-7, 5-5). Miami has suffered six straight defeats and hasn't won a game since Jan. 21 - but this one thing could take a while to forget.

After forcing the overtime session with two free throws from junior forward Will Frisby with :08 seconds remaining in regulation the Hurricanes had a chance to force a second OT, but failed to put the ball in the basket despite several open looks. Boston College freshman guard Steve Hailey hit one of two free throws with 18.8 left to give the Eagles a 74-72 lead. Hurricanes freshman Guillermo Diaz (team-high 22 points) rebounded the ball and passed it to Rice, who missed a jumper from the top of the key. Karron Clarke rebounded the ball, but missed a two-handed dunk. Hailey tipped the ball away from Diaz as time expired.

"It's just gut-wrenching," said Clark, who remains stuck on 249 career victories. "I thought that we had some looks that just didn't go down. We played hard but we made some mistakes that really hurt us."

Eagles freshman forward Jared Dudley also did his best to hurt the Hurricanes. Dudley scored nine of his game-high 24 points in overtime to help BC build a healthy cushion. Dudley drilled a corner three-pointer with 3:10 remaining in OT to put Boston College up 69-66 and added a short jumper to give Eagles a six-point with 1:31 to play. Boston College freshman guard Sean Marshall added 12 points and 5 rebounds. Eagles coach Al Skinner praised the performances of all his youngsters.

"They have played well for us all year long," said Skinner. "There have been some inconsistencies but they've remained confident all year long. I was a little nervous but when we ran our stuff we got all the shots we wanted."

Rice, 3 of 10 for the game, finished with 12 points, while Rob Hite added 13 for the Hurricanes. But it was senior Rodrigue Djahue who keyed a second-half spurt that gave the Hurricanes their biggest lead of the game. Djahue scored six straight points to put UM ahead 45-40. Djahue added a pair of free throws to extend Miami's lead to 55-48 with 7:53 remaining in regulation. That's when the Hurricanes ran into some trouble. The Eagles outscored the Hurricanes 13-6 during the next 6:13 of the contest to take a 61-60 lead with 1:40 left. Boston College was up 63-62 with 40.1 left after both teams traded baskets. But Hurricanes sophomore guard Eric Wilkins was called for traveling as he dribbled the ball at the top of the key with no defender near him.

"The traveling call was tough," said Clark. "I mean nobody was guarding him."

As if losing their sixth straight game wasn't bad enough the Hurricanes (13-11 overall and 3-7 in the Big East) fell to 13th in the Big East as a result of Virginia Tech's victory over Georgetown, putting Miami in danger of not qualifying for the league tournament. The 13th- and 14th-place teams at the end of the regular will not make the tournament.

"We have to live with it right now and find a way to take it to another level," said Clark. "All we can do is just keep working and preparing - you have to believe that the time, work and energy that you put in is going to start paying off."

Miami, who trailed for most of the first half, was behind 23-16 before going on an 16-9 run, including a Frisby dunk to tie the game 32-32 with 1:25 left in the half. Diaz hit an off-balance three-pointer with time running out to give the Hurricanes a 35-34 edge at the half. After struggling in recent weeks to take care of the ball - the Hurricanes committed 24 turnovers against Georgetown - UM turned it over just 15 times against the Eagles. Rice and Hite had four turnovers each, while Diaz and Armondo Surratt turned it over twice. And despite Wilkins' crucial mistake near the end of regulation Rice believes the Hurricanes can still finish the regular season on a positive note.

"We have to be smarter and continue to trust each other. Right now we have six games left and this isn't the right way to leave the Big East," said Rice. "If we have another rough year we're going to be looked at as the doormat of the ACC next year - and I don't want to leave like that."

But turning things around won't be easy. Five of the six remaining games on Miami's schedule are against teams that are likely headed to the NCAA Tournament, including defending national champion Syracuse on Saturday at the Convocation Center. After facing the Orangemen, UM will be on the road at Connecticut (Feb. 18) and Providence (Feb. 21).

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Rice and Diaz were bench for the opening 4:52 of the game for what Clark termed a 'private team matter'. Rice, who had started every game this season before Wednesday night, had two points in the first half, while Diaz had 13 of his 22.

"Benching or no benching I just want to help the team win," Rice said. "I've been in the gym every night trying to get it together."

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