UM Aims to End Skid - Again

Whether or not University of Miami senior forward Darius Rice is ready to play tonight when the Hurricanes host the Seton Hall Pirates might not make much of a difference in the game's outcome - but at this point it couldn't hurt.

Rice, who has missed the last two games with a sprained right foot, will likely make his return against the Pirates (17-7, 7-5 in the Big East) at the Convocation Center after watching from the bench on Saturday as the Hurricanes fell to Providence 70-57. Although he has struggled with his shooting for most of the season Rice remains the team's leading scorer (16.7 ppg) and has the capability of providing the Hurricanes with instant offense - something they desperately need.

Miami (13-14, 3-10 in the Big East) is falling out of sight in the Big East thanks to a nine-game losing streak and will miss the league championship tournament if they don't turn things around in a hurry. The Hurricanes are currently in next-to-last place in the Big East - in front of St. John's and behind Georgetown and Virginia Tech - and will miss the tourny if they finish in their current position. The last two teams in the conference don't advance.

UM has lost its last three games by a combined 43 points in large part because of poor team shooting. The Hurricanes shot 42.6 percent in the loss against the Friars after struggling against Connecticut (31percent) and Syracuse (38 percent). Getting offensive production from different sources has also been a problem for Miami. Guards Rob Hite and Guillermo Diaz are the only players to have double-figure points in the last two games for UM. Diaz lead all freshmen in the Big East with12.4 points a game. The bench - aside from Rodrigue Djahue and William Frisby - has also been disappointing. Five non-starters combined for just three points against Providence.

UM will need much more against a Seton Hall squad that is making a charge for the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates, fourth in the Big East, edged Villanova 70-68 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing streak. Unlike UM, Seton Hall, which had five players in double-figures against the Wildcats, has a handful of options on offense. Seton Hall is led by guard Andre Barrett. The 5-10 senior is the league's fifth-leading scorer (17.6 ppg) and has added 6.2 rebounds per contest and 35 steals this season. Sophomore forward Kelly Whitney (13.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg), John Allen (12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 28 steals), JR Morris (11.0 ppg) and Andre Sweet (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has provided a strong supporting cast.

The Pirates, who eliminated the Hurricanes in the first-round of the 2003 Big East Championship, lead the all-time series 14-8, including the last won. UM has won five of the last six games at home against Seton Hall.

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