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Coming off two bad road losses to Temple and Michigan, the University of Miami men's basketball team needed something to smile about once again. A win would be one, but against Birmingham Southern Saturday night, coach Frank Haith had another thing to be happy about as well.
But the bigger story Saturday night was the return of point guard Anthony Harris who saw his first action of the season after missing the team's first seven games with a broken foot.
Harris entered the game with the 'Canes leading 13-5 with 14:37 to play in the first half.
His impact was immediately felt as he had a couple of assists and a blocked shot in six minutes of action as the 'Canes went into the half leading 40-19. He finished the game with four points, had four assists and a blocked shot in 11 minutes of play.
"It was great to see Anthony Harris get out there to play and he came up big. He had four assists. You can just see his leadership once he steps on the court," Haith said.
Said Harris, "It felt good to get out there for the first time in a month. I had no concerns about the leg. It's been pretty difficult to watch them because you see what the team is doing right and doing wrong. It's different from being on the court. The past couples games it was tough. Watching the things I could have helped out on."
Their defense was equally impressive as they held Birmingham Southern to 16.1% shooting (5 for 31) in the first half. The 'Canes, on the other hand, shot a blistering 66.7% from the field in the first half on 16 of 24 shooting.
Up 26-14, the 'Canes put the game away as they went on a 14-5 run to close the half.
After a couple of free throws by Guillermo Diaz, Hite hit a three on an assist from Denis Clemente. Hite followed that with a three-point play the traditional way when he hit a lay up on a fast break and was fouled. He hit the free throw to give Miami a 20-point lead.
A three-pointer by Clemente pushed the lead back to 20 at 37-17 and a three by Diaz gave Miami it largest margin of the first half with 1:50 to play at 40-18.
Hite led the charge hitting on 5 of 6 of his shots and had 12 points in the first half along with four rebounds.
Diaz added 18 points, three rebounds and two assists.
"I think we got some really good shots. We put some pressure on the defense and got transition buckets and didn't force many shots. We've got good shooters on this team. When we make the extra pass and drive and kick, it makes things a lot easier," Haith said.
The Panthers opened the second half on an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 43-30.
But the 'Canes came back with some more blistering shooting as they shot 66.7% from the field in the second half as well (14 of 21) and finished the game shooting 66.7%, the highest the team has shot since the program's rebirth in 1985.
After seeing the lead cut to 13, Miami went on a 20-5 run to push the lead to 60-35 with 9:40 to play.
The 'Canes led by as many as 34 when Hite hit one of his three triples on the night to give Miami a 73-39 lead with 5:27 to play.
Clemente played his best game to date with some excellent passing. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting, but his 3.5 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio with seven assists to only two turnovers had Haith happy with his fabulous freshman's performance.
"I thought Denis did a great job of finding guys in transition," Haith said. "We were really running. Our wings were running. Our post guys were running. That's the way we have to play the game."
The 'Canes return to the court next Saturday against Wofford at 7:30 p.m.
Miami (5-3) - Hite 22, Diaz 18, Clemente 12, Graham 7, King 6, Hamilton 4, Harris 4, Hicks 3, Thomas 2, Asbury 2, Copeland 2.
Notes on the game - Anthony King played 23 minutes scoring six points and blocking one shot as he returned from a sprained ankle against Michigan.Every player saw action in tonight's win.Miami shot 45% from three-point range (9 of 20).The 'Canes had 19 assists on their 30 field goals.Miami missed 12 of their 25 free throws (13-25, 52%)
Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is a Staff Writer with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at email@example.com
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