Reeling Canes face Connecticut

The University of Miami men's basketball team, mired in their longest losing streak since the end of the 1993-94 season and in danger of not qualifying for the Big East Tournament, can definitely hear the clocking ticking on a season that has gone terribly bad in the last three weeks.

The Hurricanes (13-12, 3-8), who have dropped seven straight games, are currently next-to-last in the Big East and behind Virginia Tech in the league standings. With only the 12 top teams advancing to the conference tournament UM is in dire need of a victory or two to insure they will play past the regular season. But even that might be too much to ask for as the Hurricanes limp into the Hartford Civic Center tonight for a meeting against No. 8 Connecticut (19-5, 7-3). The Huskies, who have lost two in a row, haven't dropped three consecutive league games since the 2001-02 season.

Facing the bigger and stronger Huskies should be enough to make the Hurricanes wince, but UM will have to do so without senior Darius Rice, who suffered a right foot sprain in Saturday's loss to Syracuse and will miss the next two games. Although Rice has struggled with his shooting the last month he still leads the team in scoring with 16.8 points per game. Rice scored 14 points on 5 of 14 from the floor against the Orangemen before going down with 15:05 remaining in the game.

Despite outrebounding Syracuse 42-26 the Hurricanes were just 24 of 63 from the floor for the entire game, including 5 of 20 from three-point range. The Hurricanes, who lost 17 in a row in 1993-94, will have their work cut out against the Huskies - especially trying to contain 6-10 junior forward Omeka Okafor. Okafor, coming off a 16-point, 6-rebound performance in a 75-68 defeat to Pittsburgh on Sunday, leads the Big East in rebounds per game (10.8), blocked shots (107) and field goal percentage (.607). Okafor is averaging 19.3 points per game.

While Okafor has the tools to control a game from inside the paint junior guard Ben Gordon can do the same from the perimeter. Gordon, shooting 45 percent from the floor, has averaged 23 points in the last three games and 17.9 for the season. Gordon has added 5.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Forward Charlie Villanueva, second in the Big East among freshman scorers, is averaging 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a game.

Regardless, of what happens to the Hurricanes in Hartford the window of opportunity is closing. After facing UConn, UM plays Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova in a 10-day span.

"We just need to keep working and not feel sorry for ourselves," said UM sophomore guard Rob Hite, is averaging 16.3 points per game. "The season isn't over yet and we have to go out there with the attitude that we can get some things done in order to turn it around."

Connecticut leads the all-time series 15-8, including a victory over the Hurricanes earlier this season.

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