The Hurricanes won their 16th straight season opener and their 10th straight home opener. Coach Haith was pleased with the team's performance in their first regular season game as everyone who played contributed on the way to the 36-point victory.
"For a Division II program, they are a really good basketball team," Haith said of the Mocs. "They came after us really hard in terms of defensive pressure. It was good that in the second half we only turned the ball over three times. I thought we were trying to go too fast earlier in the game, and because of that it resulted in some turnovers."
The Canes led 43 – 25 at the half with impressive performances by Dwayne Collins and Eddie Rios. Collins led Miami in scoring in the first half with 10 points. The junior big man from Miami had a powerful dunk halfway through the quarter that brought the crowd to its feet. Collins also hit an 18-footer from the top of the key that showed improved range for the powerful forward.
Rios had an impressive first half performance with 8 points including two 3-pointers. The sophomore looked confident in the first half pulling up for three on a fast break and driving to the basket with authority. Rios certainly looked to impress Coach Haith and the Hurricane faithful in the absence of starting point guard Lance Hurdle.
"With Lance [Hurdle] going down, I've been getting better tin practice since I'm playing with a great team," Rios said. "And my confidence, especially towards the end of the season, started to come alive. Even today I came in about 1 when we had to be here around 2-2:30. I took some shots with Cyrus. I just felt confident coming into the game. It's a new year, a new season. And Coach has talked to me the last couple of days—I just felt confident coming into the game."
Eddie Rios' confidence continued to soar in the second half with precision passing and sharp shooting that was reminiscent of the Rios that was a highly touted high school player. The sophomore from Miami finished with 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting. Rios also tallied four assists and two steals.
Big man Cyrus McGowan made an impact in his first game with a 7 point and 10 rebound performance in 15 minutes of work.
"He plays hard," Haith said. "He plays extremely hard. I thought that he did the best job on the big kid [FSC's Rashaad Singleton] when he was in the game, in terms of keeping him from getting the ball. All it is with Cyrus is just pure effort. I love how hard he plays. Obviously, Cyrus has the skill set that we like from a post guy. He stepped out and shot a three tonight. I like that about him. I like the fact that he can stretch the defense when he is in there with Jimmy [Graham] or Dwayne [Collins] it really helps us having a guy out there like him and he can shoot the ball."
A transfer from the University of Arkansas, McGowan was just thrilled to finally be back playing after sitting out last season.
"Sitting out last year, I couldn't wait for the season to start to play with the guys around me," McGowan said. I feel that we have a great team this year, and we're just hungry and ready to play. It was my first game today, and I have to admit I was pretty nervous too. But the first few minutes I got comfortable and I think we played a great game."
Rios and McGowan's opening night performances caught the eye of Coach Haith who expects big things from both players.
"We have a number of guys who we are looking to step up this season, Cyrus [McGowan] with 10 boards in 15 minutes and Eddie's [Rios] game was great to see. I think he is going to help us tremendously with the way he played today."
Dwayne Collins continued his dominance with another thunderous dunk in the second half. With just under 18 minutes to go in the game, Collins took a feed from Jack McClinton and threw down a tumultuous dunk that had Hurricanes fans roaring. The junior finished with 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
"Dwayne was phenomenal… I mean, geez, 18 and 16," Haith said. "I know it's his second one [double-double] in season openers, but he played like he's capable of and that's good to see because having Dwayne play like that really helps us because we've got post presence. I thought our guys did a good job of feeding it to him. But he was on the boards and he's very active. When he's live like that, he's a tough matchup."
Senior Jack McClinton made his presence known in the second half with 12 points. Miami's star guard took a step back to Collins and Rios in the first half but finished the game with 18 points, good enough to tie with Collins for the team lead.
For Miami, four players finished in double figures scoring and two had 10 or more rebounds. With contributions coming from so many players, Coach Haith was excited about the competition that players will have to endure to earn playing time.
"That's what makes our practice great, it really does," Haith said. "Our guys know that they have to compete everyday and we're going to play who practices hard and who plays hard in practice. They got to practice. That's healthy for a team. I can see us playing nine or 10 guys, consistently, even when Lance gets back. If you go much more than that it gets a little difficult, but I can see us playing a 10-man rotation."
The Hurricanes are in action again next Friday, November 21st when they face the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in the Paradise Jam. Coach Haith and the team will travel to the Virgin Islands to join a tournament field that includes three other 2008 NCAA Tournament teams.
"I was excited about tonight and obviously going to the Virgin Islands is exciting—competition out there is great," Haith said. "I'm excited for our kids, to have the opportunity to go to another great tournament like we did last year. We're playing some really good teams—our first opponent is Southern Miss, who won 19 games last season—they are a really good basketball team, and they have a really good coach. I anticipate those guys playing very hard, very physical. We're going to have our work cut out for us."
-Coach Haith had this to say about Jones' play, "He is a freshman, and he was just anxious, you could see that. It was great that he broke through that and was able to make some plays at the end because we are going to need him. We are going to need his ability."
-Jimmy Graham had a fairly quiet night statistically. The senior big scored two points, pulled down five rebounds and blocked a shot. Coach Haith still sees Graham as a big part of the team, "We will figure it out with those three guys. Jimmy is like a starter for me and he is going to play his minutes. I think the thing is we just want good balance. I don't want us to put emphasis on who starts, but who finishes. Like I said, Jimmy is like a starter even if he is not in the line-up when you call the starting line-up out. I consider Brian Asbury the same way. Both of those guys are going to play starter minutes."
-Senior Brian Asbury provided quality depth at the forward position scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds while dishing out four assists in 21 minutes.
-Point guard Lance Hurdle will practice on Monday. He is still day-to-day and his status for the Paradise Jam is to be determined.