Miami Improves to 8-6 on the Season

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - In a season that's seen some heartbreaking losses, the University of Miami men's basketball team will take a win any way it can get it. But clearly, the killer instinct is still missing from this team as the Hurricane squeaked by Sacred Heart 63-57 in front of 1,264 fans at the BankUnited Center.

"We are excited about the win and there were some good things we can take from this game, but there were some things that I wasn't happy about too," UM coach Frank Haith said.

"I was pleased with Ray Hicks' energy off the bench and our execution offensively late in the game, but I wasn't happy with our late game defense."

But unlike some past games where Miami has failed to make plays down the stretch they did so against Sacred Heart. After building a 16-point lead, the Pioneers cut the ‘Canes lead to 45-42 with 6:30 to play following a basket by Brice Brooks, but unlike the past two games against Florida and Louisville, Miami responded.

Following a timeout, Guillermo Diaz, who failed to score against Louisville, hit a three-pointer from the corner to give Miami a six-point lead. Denis Clemente followed that with an acrobatic reverse lay up for a 50-42 lead.

A three-pointer by Robert Hite gave Miami a 53-44 lead with 3:30 to play, but the ‘Canes couldn't pull away. Diaz and Hite both finished with 16 points to lead Miami.

"We have to sustain our own energy," Haith said. "We have to maintain it ourselves and bring that killer instinct."

The lack of killer instinct to put the game away allowed the Pioneers to stick around and keep within striking distance the rest of the way, cutting the lead to 60-55 with 30 seconds to play.

But there are other concerns that Miami must address before they head into a big ACC match up with No. 12 Maryland Saturday at noon.

Through the first 38 minutes of the game, the ‘Canes got to the free throw line once. Diaz hit all three of his free throws in that trip to the line. Clearly, Miami settled for far too many jump shots and were allowing Sacred Heart to dictate the style of play. The ‘Canes finished 11 for 14 from the line for the game, shooting 11 of them in the final two minutes as the Pioneers fouled to stop the clock.

"They played zone, but we have to be more aggressive. We had no attack off the bounce," Haith said. "The zone was really stretching us off the bounce. In the second half, we scored the first time we threw it inside, but we have to get to the free throw line and be more aggressive."

Jimmy Graham is also someone that needs to bring something to the table as the ‘Canes get into the core of the ACC schedule. He was benched in the second half and only played four minutes after starting earlier this year.

"We just got to see more out of Jimmy," Haith said. "I was pleased how Gary (Hamilton) and (Anthony) King played together. We have to have a guy step up and give us something off the bench."

Now 8-6, the ‘Canes will face extremely tough opponents in Maryland and North Carolina in the next two weeks.

Those two games are clearly wins the team needs in order to restore its confidence, and the type of wins that could propel this team down the stretch.

"We definitely know we can play with anyone in the country," UM shooting guard Robert Hite said. "We have to learn how to close these games out. That's what we have to work on from here on out.

"It's not going to be easy, but if you can't get up for an ACC game you don't need to playing basketball."

Miami (8-6) – Hite 16, Diaz 16, Harris 11, Clemente 6, King 6, Hamilton 4, Hicks 4.

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