Canes Defeat Oklahoma State in N.I.T., 62-59

The Miami Hurricanes defeated Oklahoma State 62-59 in front of a home crowd of 3,040 fans behind 15-point nights by Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz.

Call them the "Cardiac Kids" or any other term that can describe a team that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

That's exactly what the University of Miami men's basketball team did to the 3,040 fans in attendance that saw Miami dominate for the first 31 minutes of the game only to nearly see a 14-point lead evaporate in practically the blink of an eye.

But when Byron Eaton's three-pointer from the top of the key missed wide off the backboard, the ‘Canes were able to escape with a 62-59 win over Oklahoma State to advance to the second round of the NIT Tournament for the first time since 1963 when they beat St. Francis 71-70 only to lose to Providence in the next game.

The ‘Canes will play the Creighton-Akron winner on Monday. If it's Creighton, the ‘Canes will travel. If it's Akron, the ‘Canes will host the Zips at the BankUnited Center.

It also marked Miami's first postseason win since 2000 when the ‘Canes, then coached by Leonard Hamilton in his final season at UM, knocked off Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

It wasn't without drama though even though it appeared the ‘Canes would cruise to an easy win when they took a 46-32 lead with 10:35 to play when Robert Hite drained a three from the wing. Hite led the team with 15 points, but shot a poor 6-of-20 from the field, including missing numerous easy shots.

And even after the Cowboys cut the lead to nine at 50-41, the ‘Canes pushed the lead back to 54-41 with 5:26 to play following back-to-back lay ups by Raymond Hicks and were seemingly in control.

That's when the roof began to cave in and the Hurricanes' basketball IQ or lack thereof nearly caught up with them.

Following a free throw by Eaton which cut the lead to 12, Hite missed consecutive lay ups, one of which was on the offensive rebound of his first miss, both point blank shots.

Two free throws by Marcus Dove cut the lead to 10 and a lay up following a steal of an awful pass by Denis Clemente trimmed the lead to 54-46 when Miami called a time out.

The stoppage didn't keep Miami from continuing its series of mental miscues, which until the near meltdown, was playing a rather error free game as the Cowboys had 17 turnovers to 6 for Miami when the ‘Canes were up 13.

Following a bad pass from Hite, the Jamaal Brown drained a three from well beyond the arc near the NIT insignia to cut the lead down to five.

But it got worse.

After two more missed shots by Hite, both of which were nearly point blank attempts, a loose ball scrum ended with the ball in the hands of Oklahoma State's Mario Boggan under the Miami basket.

Guillermo Diaz grabbed Boggan's jersey to try to keep him from getting to the rim.

Instead, he drew an intentional foul. Boggan got two free throw attempts and Oklahoma State kept possession of the ball.

Boggan hit the first, but missed the second to cut the lead to four with 2:27 to play. But a steal by Diaz helped Miami push the lead back to six and when Diaz picked Brown's pocket, Clemente got an easy lay up to push the lead to 58-50 with 45 seconds to play.

Game over, right?

Wrong. Not with Miami's continued mental meltdown.

Eaton hit a three on an inbound pass from the corner to cut the lead to five and another awful turnover by Hite allowed Eaton to drain another triple that cut the lead to 58-56 with 31 seconds to play.

Diaz hit two free throws to push it back to four, but a defensive lapse by Diaz allowed JamesOn Curry to blow right by him and drill a three from the top of the key that cut it back to one with 23 seconds left.

Generally an automatic from the free throw line, Hite missed the front end of a one-on-one.

Following a timeout by the Cowboys, David Monds missed a point blank lay up that would have given Oklahoma State the lead with seven seconds left. The ball went out of bounds and Miami took possession.

Two free throws gave Miami a three-point lead again.

However, another mental miscue nearly sent the game into overtime. Rather than fouling to keep the Cowboys from hoisting a three, Eaton got a pretty good look, but missed.

And it looked like Clemente fouled him on the shot. The ‘Canes escaped for at least one more game.

Miami (17-15) – King 7, Hamilton 6, Diaz 15, Clemente 5, Hite 15, Graham 2, Harris 3, Hicks 9.

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