It's a ‘Classic'

R-E-S-P-E-C-T might be the perfect theme word for the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic tonight at the American Airlines Arena - two of the schools have it, two others are trying to earn a little more of it. Despite an unblemished start the University of Miami (8-0) has had trouble attracting any national attention and cracking the polls. The Hurricanes have another opportunity of stating their case when they face No. 21 Indiana University (6-2) in the first game of the four-team doubleheader.

No. 5 Florida (6-1) meets Charlotte (4-3) in the second game.

Being a victory away from equaling the best start in school history and displaying a well-balanced brand of basketball during their run, the Hurricanes are still in search of the notoriety as one of the premier programs around. But Hoosiers coach Mike Davis doesn't need any extra clips on the Hurricanes to know that a formidable challenge awaits.

"What makes the Hurricanes a solid team is their versatility on offense. Anybody on the floor has the ability to score," said Davis, 27-15 in his second season as Indiana coach. "They also have a couple guys inside that could pose a lot of problems for us. They might not be being recognized by the polls or anything, but they have real solid bunch"

The Hurricanes have played what many would consider a ‘soft' schedule to this point in the season, including victories over Lafayette, Howard, Eastern Michigan and Florida Atlantic University. Miami is coming off an impressive 64-55 victory at Texas A&M.

"Obviously, we want to win the basketball game. It's in our hometown and were playing a program with a rich history. A win would be great there is no question about that."

That perception could change with a win over the Hoosiers with Davis a first-hand witness. The Hurricanes have spread the ball around all season in an attempt to get everybody involved in the offense- its working.

All five UM starters are averaging double figure points and sophomore Darius Rice has emerged as a reliable rebounder as well with a team-leading 7.4 per game. Rice leads the team with 14.4 points-per-game followed by Marcus Barnes (13.0), John Salmons (12.5) and Elton Tyler (10.0). Salmons is also distributing the ball with 4.6 assists a game and shown his versatility playing four different positions.

Both Tyler and Jones have been strong rebounders for Miami. Jones had nine boards in the victory over the Aggies and is averaging 7.1 a contest. Tyler also had nine rebounds against Texas A&M. Jones has also proven to be a shot-blocking presence along with Rice.

Miami will be looking to leave an impression that serves them well come tournament. Something they haven't been able to do in previous OB Classic competition. The Hurricanes, making their eighth appearance in the tournament, are 2-5 all-time and fell 72-64 to Nebraska last year.

Miami is 2-12 against teams from the Big Ten. Long in tradition and off to a strong start under Davis, the Hoosiers will arrive in South Florida on a high. Indiana is fresh off victories over previously unbeaten Notre Dame and No. 15 Ball State.

The Hoosiers have the shot blockers and offensive options to match the Hurricanes along with a strong bench and the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, sophomore forward Jared Jeffries.

Jeffries, who has scored 50 points in the last two games, leads the Hoosiers in scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg). Jeffries has connected on 58.1 percent of his shots from the floor which included a career-best 28 points against Notre Dame. Jeffries has also been deadly from three point range shooting .522. Jeffries has made 12-of-23 three-point shots.

Junior guard Tom Coverdale has been solid off the bench for the Hoosiers, scoring in double figures in their last three games. Coverdale, averaging 12.2 points a game is coming off a season-high 13 against Ball State. After starting the first three games of the season, has scored 58 points in four games as a reserve.

Indiana could also present the Hurricanes with a problem in the paint, despite the recent play of Jones and Tyler. IU is averaging 6.3 blocks a game and 183 for the season. 6-11 center George Leach anchors the block feast with 24. Forward Jeff Newton has a second-best on the team, 17.

"We'll try to mix some defenses in and create some problems," said Clark. "They have so many options we're certainly going to be on our toes." The Gators Matt Bonner will be a priority for the 49ers defense. Bonner has 53 points in the last two game, the best two game stretch in school history since Greg Stolt scored 60 in 1996. Florida has two consecutive wins over Conference-USA teams (Tulane, Florida).

Guard Joey Thomas leads the 49ers (16.7 ppg) in scoring, while Cam Stephens is pulling down 7.7 rebounds a game. The 49ers three losses have been by a combined 19 points.

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