Canes Improve to 4-1 on the Season

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The Miami Hurricanes were crowned MEAC Champion as they completed a two-game sweep of the MEAC opponents Tuesday night at the Bank United Center in an 87-62 thumping of North Carolina A&T in front of a crowd of 2,074.

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After losing to South Carolina State last year 60-50, the ‘Canes dispatched of Morgan State and North Carolina A&T by a combined 57 points.

In all reality though, the ‘Canes did exactly what they were supposed to do as they head on a tough two-game road trip that finds them heading to Philadelphia to take on John Cheaney-led Temple on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night to Michigan where they will face the Wolverines in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

But a confident group the ‘Canes will be after they posted their third straight game scoring over 80 points, and it marks the fourth time in five games Miami has put up 76 points or more this season.

Led by Robert Hite's 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, the ‘Canes jumped all over the visiting Aggies as Hite drilled three straight triples from all over the floor in the first three minutes of the game to give Miami an 11-4 lead.

He finished the half hitting his first four shots, all three-pointers as the ‘Canes built a 46-27 lead going into the break when Eric Wilkins drilled a three from the corner on a pass by Guillermo Diaz with four seconds to play in the half.

"I felt good today," Hite said. "I felt good in warm ups and really had my legs. My knee wasn't bothering me at all."

And it showed in his play as he finished the game going 7 for 12 from the field in only 23 minutes of action.

Where Hite left off, Diaz picked up.

Diaz, who spent a lot of time at point after freshman point guard Denis Clemente went out with a minor ankle injury early in the game (Clemente later returned), finished with 18 points as well, together with four rebounds and five assists.

But during his struggles shooting as he was 2 for 9 in the first half from the field, Diaz was a playmaker that his teammates fed off as all of his five assists came in the first half and led to 15 ‘Canes points, 12 of them on threes by Hite.

"You are always going to have those days when sometimes your shot isn't going to fall," Diaz said. "I can create stuff for other players and drive to the basket to make other ways to score and create for my teammates."

But it was a Diaz three-pointer in the first half that kick started a 10-0 run that had the ‘Canes never really looking back or feeling threatened again by North Carolina A&T.

Up 19-14 with 11:15 to play in the first half, Diaz drilled a three from the wing on an assist from Hite. After a lay up by Anthony King and two free throw by Raymond Hicks, Hite finished the run when he drilled a three from the wing on an assist from Diaz to give Miami a 29-14 lead with 9:41 to play in the half.

The ‘Canes went on a 9-3 run to close the half giving them their largest lead of the first half at 19 points.

"I was real pleased with our energy," UM coach Frank Haith said. "A guy like Denis Clemente, I thought he had his best game of the year. He made many plays for us. If he plays like that all year, we'll be a very good team.

"Jimmy Graham played well. Ray Hicks had his best game of the year," Haith said. "He's starting to understand and play with the role he's in now coming off the bench."

Hicks who had his best game yet as a Hurricane scored 11 points off the bench on 3 of 7 shooting, but was also 5 of 7 from the line and very active on the glass pulling down five rebounds and 16 minutes of action.

"I am trying to be a big help to the team, and I am most definitely playing with more confidence. I want to do it with effort and bringing energy," Hicks said. "I try to start on the defensive end and bring the most energy I can to the team."

Far cry from a year ago when the ‘Canes could never envision getting and 11-point scorer off the bench, the entire bench accounted for 28 points and 21 rebounds.

"We scored 87 points tonight and got production out of a lot of guys," Haith said. "We wanted to improve our depth. We had a lot of guy play a lot of heavy minutes. I was really pleased with our effort."

However, the ‘Canes free throw shooting from its big guys must improve, in particular Graham and Gary Hamilton, as the two combined to shoot 1 for 8 from the line. The team overall was 20 for 32 from the stripe.

MIAMI (4-1) - Diaz 18, Hite 18, Hicks 11, King 9, Graham 8, Hamilton 7, Clemente 6, Wilkins 5, Asbury 3, Copeland 2

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is a Staff Writer & Photographer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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