Playing Past Regular Season Unlikely

University of Miami men's basketball coach Perry Clark didn't exactly wear the look of somebody ready to go back to the drawing board minutes after the Hurricanes dropped their 10th consecutive game Tuesday night. Judging by the weary expression on his face Clark could use a few days off instead of having to worry about the team's list of problems.

"We're going to go back and do the same things in practice we've been doing all year," said Clark after the Hurricanes fell 76-66 to Seton Hall at the Convocation Center. "These guys are still working their tails off in practice and I don't think that's going to change one bit. We're going to get ready to play another basketball game."

But by the time they take the floor for their next game - Mar. 2 at Villanova - the Hurricanes could be playing strictly for pride. UM (13-15, 3-11 in the Big East) is still next-to-last in the conference standings and their chances of qualifying for the Big East tournament are unlikely despite Boston College's victory over Virginia Tech (11-13, 4-9) Wednesday night.

Miami has to win its last two regular season games and hope the Hokies drop two of their three. Virginia Tech remains a game and a half in front of Miami in the league standings. UM senior forward Darius Rice, who scored 19 points against Seton Hall after sitting out two games with a sprained right foot, is still hopeful that the team will play with a sense of urgency the rest of the way.

"We have to make it personal," said Rice. "There's no way around it. We have to play hard every minute of the games we have left."

But playing hard may not be the answer. The Hurricanes have been plagued by poor defense and lack of offensive production during their current slide. Eight of Miami's last 10 opponents have shot 48.1 percent or better, including Seton Hall (54.9) on Tuesday. The Hurricanes last four opponents have averaged a 56.6 shooting percentage from the floor. Pirates' senior guard Andre Barrett, who scored a game-high 23 points against the Hurricanes, was 5 for 5 from the floor in the first half. Seton Hall center Kelly Whitney added 20 points while further exposing Miami's lack of interior defense. Whitney had 14 of his points in the paint.

"I think the quality of opponent has had something to do with it in the last four games," said Clark, defending the Hurricanes defensive play as of late. "We've come out against some very good basketball players."

The Hurricanes have also had trouble scoring. UM, held to 25-first half points by Seton Hall, shot 37.7 percent. In the last five games Miami has failed to shoot over 43.1 percent. Part of the problem has been the recent struggles of sophomore Rob Hite, who is 27 of 72 from the floor in the last six games.

Clark, who said before the Seton Hall game that a big crowd could only help Miami, was asked if he was disappointed in the turn out of 2,401 fans.

"The crowd isn't something I'm concerned with, " said Clark. "I have my own problems worrying about the teams were playing."

Even if the Canes will be playing for pride.

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