The University of Miami basketball team sent a message to the rest of the ACC Sunday afternoon: Do not expect the Hurricanes to be an easy game this season.
In front of a crowd of 6067, Guillermo Diaz scored 27-points and Robert Hite scored 19, leading the Miami to a 67-66 victory over North Carolina State University.
"It was a great win for us, a great win for our program," coach Haith said. "There were a lot of positives, a lot of great things. I thought our defensive execution, particularly late in the game was good. I told them that we played like a poised team, a lot of savvy down the stretch."
During the first half NC State methodically built a 12-point lead, 29-17, with 6:29 left in the half by controlling the tempo and scoring at will from behind the arc.
Then Guillermo Diaz took over.
Diaz led Miami, scoring eight points during a Hurricane 12-0 run, evening the score at 29 with three minutes left in the first half. Miami went in at the half tied at 34—after a Diaz three-pointer at the buzzer.
"At the beginning of the game, our team started a little slow," Diaz said. "After I had a bad play in the beginning, coach took me out. I said ‘I can't let my team down, I need to come to play like I did in the last game.' I just want to win."
Miami took the lead and the momentum away from NC State 39-38 with 17:06 left in the game.
Heading into the final minute of the game, Miami held a 65-63 lead over NC State. With 24-seconds left Diaz made two free-throws to push the lead to 67-63.
The Wolfpack then made a three-pointer with 14-seconds left, cutting Miami's lead down to one. Diaz was fouled, but missed his free-throw opportunity giving the ball to NC State with seven seconds left.
On their final possession of the game, NC State's Etimov drove down the lane and passed the ball to a surprised Cameron Bennerman in the corner. Bennerman shot the ball off the side of the backboard, securing a Miami win.
"The floor opened up with several options and we probably had a chance to make one more play, but Miami did a good job defending the action," NC State coach Herb Sendek said. "It was a bang-bang play and when Cameron caught it in the corner I think he had a little bit more time than he realized to do something with it."
The Wolfpack was led by forward Ilian Evtimov, who scored 19 points—15 of which came off three-pointers and Julius Hodge, who scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Despite being the smaller team Miami significantly out-rebounded NC State 40-27, led by Anthony King's 10 rebounds. The ‘Canes also swatted seven shots to NC State's three.
"We out-rebounded them, I thought that was a key," Haith said. "We had 17 offensive rebounds. That is a big part of what we do. We want to rebound the basketball and get second opportunities. Rebounding and defense, if you can do those two things, I think you can win a lot of games."
Not only was Haith encouraged by his team's rebounding, he also like seeing his player feed off the energy of the largest crowd of the season for the ‘Canes.
"No question that is a tremendous boost for our program. We are hoping to have one every night like this that we play in the ACC. When you have a full house it gives you an extra boost."
"With the fans out there screaming and hollering, that is what you want," Hite said. "Hopefully we can see that for the rest of the season."
After beating Florida and NC State and playing well against Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes don't want to get too caught up in the recent big win—there is plenty of the season still left.
"The one thing I learned is that you can never get too high or too low," Haith said. "We had a moment against South Carolina State here that was a low moment, but I told the guys you can't get discouraged. We know this is a long season. This is a marathon not a sprint and we know there is another challenge ahead for us on Wednesday."
Canes Win ACC Home Opener 67-66
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