Up the Hill but not Over the Mountain

A dismal season came to a screeching halt Saturday night, as the West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Miami Hurricanes 58-53 at the Convocation Center. D'or Fischer and Kevin Pittsnoggle each scored 19 points to pace the winners. Miami (14-16, 4-12 Big East) ends the season losing 11 of their last 12 games, with only one of their four Big East victories coming at home.

Tyrone Sally was the only other Mountaineer to reach double figures. He scored 11 points, while collecting a game-high 10 rebounds. West Virginia had great looks at the basket all night and were able to shoot 22-42 (52.4%) from the field. The easy shots presented themselves all night, stemming from West Virginia's ability to play as a team. They recorded 18 assists, and Johannes Herber had 10 by himself.

Leading by three at the half, West Virginia went on a 12-7 run to open the second half, and took a 39-31 lead. Over the next five minutes, Miami would chip at the lead, until Darius Rice hit the first of his back-to-back treys to tie the game at 45 with 8:05 to play. Miami would eventually gain the lead at 49-48, after Rice connected on a free throw. They opened it up to 51-48 with a Rob Hite dunk.

Johannes Herber tied the game for West Virginia at 51, but Darius Rice regained the Miami lead at 53-51 with a jumper. A story all to familiar, the Canes would fail to score over the last 2:56, showing their inability to close games. West Virginia finished the game on a 7- 0 run.

Rodrigue Djahue and Darius Rice played their last game in Miami uniforms tonight. Darius had 16 points and 8 rebounds, both team highs. Rodrigue was unable to score, but did grab one massive rebound in his last effort. I'm sure this is not the way Djahue wanted to end his career in Coral Gables.

Freshman Anthony Harris had only scored 28 points all season before tonight. Against the Mountaineers, he went 3-3 from the three-point line in the first half, leading the team with 9 points during this period. Rob Hite and Guilmmero Diaz again were unable to reach double figures in points. However, each managed to reach double figures in shot attempts. Hite scored 8 points on 4-13 shooting, while Diaz contributed 5 points, going 2-10 from the field. At the end of the year, it seemed these two lost their legs, as they were not slashing as they had earlier in the season.

Miami was able to attempt 15 more shots than West Virginia, but again had a poor night from the field. Miami shot 36.8%, going 21-57. The Canes won the rebounding battle against the "good ole boys" from Morgantown, 31-29. Despite the poor shooting, Miami lost this game in one area: their lack of aggressiveness. Darius Rice was the only Hurricane to shoot free throws, and he only managed four attempts. Four free throw attempts as a team is an embarrassment and shows how your team is molded. This performance tonight summed up the whole season of a very soft team. When your post players are unable to get to the foul line one time in forty minutes, some changes need to be made. ACC basketball is only 10 months away for the Hurricanes. In order to be competitive, the program will need to turn a complete 180.

Anthony Harris showed the only sign of a heartbeat for the home team tonight in the first half. West Virginia played poorly but was able to dominate for much of the half. Miami was able to turn the Convocation Center upside down and go on a 7-0 run at one point, to tie the game at 21, but West Virginia would end the half in front 27-24.

Being unable to qualify for your own conference tournament was not the way Miami wanted to end their affiliation with the Big East. After the program looked to be heading in the right direction, Miami seems to have gone back to the pre-Hamilton era of mediocrity. With their go-to guy Darius Rice gone, Miami will have some soul searching to do during the off-season. Practice for the Hurricanes will begin October 15 and the season will tip off sometime in late November. I personally can't wait till I am able to hear Joe Zagacki and Josh Darrow cover the Canes again, Labor Day night, September 6th, when Florida State and Miami meet at the Orange Bowl. Zagacki and Darrow should be able to call a victory, something they haven't been used to over the last month or two.

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