Canes Defeat Stetson, 65-56

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - It wasn't pretty and it wasn't the type of performance once might expect against an 0-9 team coming into Miami's game against Stetson Tuesday night, but the Hurricanes secured a must needed win over the Hatters 65-56 in front of a sparse crowd at the BankUnited Center.

However, the way the ‘Cane arrived at the win leaves room for plenty of concern for Frank Haith and staff.

"We are pleased with the win, but we were clearly very sluggish today," Haith said. "We have some youthfulness on our team. That's something we have to get out of us."

Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite combined to hit for 35 points to lead Miami, but with Louisville on the horizon Saturday at the Office Depot Center, the ‘Canes play has to improve exponentially if they expect to stay in the arena with the No. 10 team in the country.

The positive side of swinging pendulum says that Miami proved it can compete against a top-level team as it did against No. 5 Florida last Thursday, but if the ‘Canes have any hopes at all of securing a post season bid, let alone an NCAA bid, they have to win Saturday against a very good out of conference opponent.

The quality out of conference win has eluded this team all season as the ‘Canes have been unable to close out games against tough teams. Against Air Force, they led by 13 with 15 minutes to play only to lose by four. Against Temple, they were down four points with ten minutes to play, only to get blown out of the arena the rest of the way. Against Florida, the ‘Canes led 64-59 with six minutes to play only to implode down the stretch. And in their only conference game to date against North Carolina State, they trailed by two with less than ten minutes to play only to see the Wolfpack pull away late.

The inability to close out games against good teams has remained the one constant in an otherwise very inconsistent season to date.

"We have to trust each other and trust ourselves in what we do, that what we do early in games will work late in games," Haith said. "We've fallen too much into one-on-one games. We can't get out of kilter."

Clearly looking dead legged in their first game off of the Christmas holiday, Hite and Diaz did their best to carry to team as they both hit for ten points in the first half, but the rest of the team only added seven as the game was tied going into the half at 27.

Stetson continued to take it to Miami attacking the basket at every opportunity while the ‘Canes seemingly settled for jump shot after jump shot rarely attacking the hoop and not getting the ball in the paint to Anthony King until late when they finally took control.

Anthony Register led the Hatters with 13 points, while numerous players contributed in keeping Stetson in the game as they slowed the game at points to a standstill.

In fact, Stetson scored the first four points of the second half taking a 31-27 lead before the ‘Canes finally seemed to wake up. Although the Hatters did still led 34-33 following a lay up by Register, the ‘Canes finally went on a quick burst that separated them from Stetson the rest of the way.

Down 34-33 with 13:55 to play, Anthony Harris scored on a driving lay up to give Miami a 35-34 lead. Diaz then found a streaking Gary Hamilton for a lay up and a 37-34 before the Hatters called time out to try to calm the storm, but to no avail.

"Gary Hamilton really brought a lot of energy today to us," Haith said. "And King played very well down the stretch."

Two free throws by Jimmy Graham and a three-point bomb from the wing by Diaz gave Miami a 42-35 lead with 10:28 to play, it's largest of the game at that point.

Stetson's Will Holloman responded with a three to cut the lead back down to four, but Hite answered with a couple of free throws.

After Eric Diaz drilled a three from the top of the key for Stetson to cut the lead back to three, Miami scored seven of the next nine points to take a 51-43 lead.

The Hatters cut the lead back down to five on three occasions, but could never get closer.

With Stetson out of the way, the ‘Canes can now begin to focus on Louisville over the next three days.

"It's a great opportunity to play another ranked team," Haith said. "We've been blessed to have another opportunity. You have a top ten team with a great coach. I don't want to put a premium on the game because every game is a big game for us. If we had lost tonight, it would have been a real bad loss. But it's another opportunity for us."

Miami Scoring: Diaz 18, Hite 17, King 13, Harris 7, Hamilton 6, Graham 2, Clemente 2.

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

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