Canes Explode with Big First Half, Win 98-66

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - For a half, it looked like a pick up game at the park, but after emphasizing defense in his halftime speech to his players Frank Haith's University of Miami men's basketball team rebounded from back-to-back losses last weekend with a 98-66 win over Lafayette College Saturday afternoon in front of 1,834 fans at the BankUnited Center.

BONUS FEATURE: Team News & Notes

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It marked the most points Miami (4-2) scored since 2004 when they beat Savannah State 105-65. And their 60 first half points were the most since beating Tennessee Tech 111-101 in 1989.

Led by Jack McClinton who scored 23 points on 7 of 11 shooting and was 4 for 6 from three-point range, the ‘Canes were blazing from the field in the first half shooting 58 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range in building a 60-40 halftime lead, but defensively Haith was far from pleased as the smaller Leopards got numerous open shots, especially from three-point range.

Lafayette was 7 for 19 from three-point range in the first half, but finished 10 for 32 as Miami's second half perimeter defense was far better closing out on the shooters. The Leopards scored only nine points through the first 11 minutes of the second half.

"I thought our guys played well offensively in the first half," Haith said. "But when you play a team like Lafayette who runs a lot of guys in and out of the game, especially with their post guys who can shoot, they really hurt us in transition defense and that was a lack of communication with our big guys. We gave up some open threes in the first half, but we have to a better job. In the second half, I thought we did a much better job of that."

McClinton though, continued his torrid shooting as he is now 14 for 24 from three-point range over the past four games and is shooting a ridiculous 56 percent from three-point range for the season. He improved his team leading scoring average to 19.3 points per game, good for second in the ACC, after eclipsing the 20-point mark for the fourth time in six games.

"Jack is playing at an unbelievable level right now, but if you look at his percentages, he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's taking good shots which is evident by his percentages. He's not forcing things and he's playing with control. We need that," Haith said.

After taking a 10-9 lead to open the game, the ‘Canes went on a 12-0 run behind the play of McClinton, Denis Clemente and Raymond Hicks.

McClinton and Clemente both scored five points during the run and Hicks' energy off the bench sparked Miami as the ‘Canes took command of the game.

Clemente came off the bench with all of his 12 points in the first half. He also added six assists and he and Brian Asbury were the first players besides McClinton to hit more than one three-pointer in game all season as they were 2 for 3 and 2 for 5 from behind the arc.

Hicks added all of his 11 points in the first half on 5 of 6 shooting and grabbed three rebounds along with three assists.

"Denis Clemente and Ray Hicks coming off the bench, I thought they gave us a spark in the first half. I thought we separated once they came in the game, in terms of their play," Haith said.

While Hicks and Clemente provided a spark off the bench, Brian Asbury answered the bell scoring a career high 19 points and grabbing four rebounds together with four blocked shots and three steals.

"I think the more Brain continues to get court time, you'll see his ability continue to come out," Haith said.

It gets no easier for Miami which is trying to recover from bad losses against Buffalo and Cleveland State last week as it travels to Chicago to play Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Last year, Miami lost at Michigan 74-53 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Following that game, Miami returns to Coral Gables to play Georgia Tech in its ACC opener a week from Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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