Clemente Continues to Improve

Since starting the team's first seven games of the year, freshman point guard Denis Clemente has been relegated to Frank Haith's bench, playing about 10 to 15 minutes per game in spot duty behind starter Anthony Harris.

It was without question, something Clemente had not been accustomed to when he was scoring 32 points per game while at Calusa Prep and taking a ton of shots.

At the same time, he's also caught some of Haith's ire when he's made mistakes in the heat of some close games and has been sitting on the bench down the stretch of pretty much every game.

One instance that comes to Miami was against North Carolina when he threw a bad pass at the ankles of the teammate after entering the game. Haith wasted no time pulling him from the game.

But with Harris succumbing to cramps for clearly being still not being in his tip-top condition since his return from a broken foot, Clemente was forced into action, and plenty of it.

And Haith couldn't pull him this time.

After Harris had a great first half to lead Miami to a 27-21 lead scoring eight points and dishing six assists, he could not play after the first two minutes of the second half because he was cramping.

Clemente stepped in and stepped up big time.

Up 29-23, Clemente made his mark immediately. He dished an assist to Robert Hite in the corner for a three-pointer, then grabbed a rebound and pushed it the distance for a lay up and ended the spurt with an assist to Gary Hamilton.

That gave Miami a 37-23 lead as they cruised to a 62-38 win over Clemson.

Clemente finished with 10 points and three assists, but was able to manage the team better than he has all year.

While on the floor in the second half, the ‘Canes outscored Clemson by 18 points.

His performance drew raving reviews from not only Haith, but from Clemson coach Oliver Purnell.

"Clemente did play well," Purnell said. "I think what's benefited him was playing a lot early in the year. He's had to play against some great competition. He kept the engine purring today."

While it wasn't his highest scoring performance, it was his most complete performance because it came against a quality opponent and came in a win where he had to perform.

"Denis Clemente's minutes in the second half were outstanding," Haith said. "It was great to see him play like that."

Guillermo Diaz had the explanation for why Clemente played so well. Rather than worrying about how he played, he simply went out and played ball the way he knows how.

And Diaz played a part in that.

"He played real good," Diaz said. "He went in there with a lot of confidence. He had to stay in the game. I was talking to him a little, kind of joking to keep him happy and stuff. That's what I did for him to stay loose. He just played."

But what was key was his ability to stay patient. He only committed one turnover in 20 minutes of play. The Tigers came in forcing an average of 18 assists.

Miami committed only 12. Those type of numbers reflect on the play of the point who is controlling the tempo and that's what Clemente did.

While it remains to be seen how many more games Clemente will see the action he saw against Clemson, one thing is certain. He proved he could compete and play well against a good opponent when the game is on the line and gave Haith the confidence to play him in similar situations in the future.

And that's why Haith recruited him in the first place and Miami was lucky enough to have signed him.

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

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