Looking to Finish Strong

Miami's final fate in the ACC race probably will be decided in the Hurricanes' next two games. After improving to 4-9 in the conference with a victory over Virginia, the Hurricanes face North Carolina State on Saturday in Coral Gables.

The Wolfpack is sitting in last place in the conference but at 3-10 is only a game behind Miami. The loser likely will wind up in 12th place when the regular season ends the first weekend in March.

In between the two teams in the standings is North Carolina, which will be home against the Hurricanes on March 2, Miami's final road game of the season. The Hurricanes finish at home against Florida State on March 6.

Coach Frank Haith has been encouraged by his team's recent play even though the Hurricanes have just two wins in their last four games to show for it.

After playing six of their first nine conference games on the road, the Hurricanes began a late push with a win over Georgia Tech at home.

They lost by eight at Clemson on the road but played Duke fairly tough at home before losing by seven. They led by 12 points at the half and were within one point of the Blue Devils with less than seven minutes to go before fading.

The Hurricanes are 18-9 overall, just one win short of their total for all of last season and two short of reaching the 20-win level for the second time in the last three years.

MIAMI 74, VIRGINIA 62: The Hurricanes did something against Virginia they hadn't done in nearly six weeks: outscore an opponent in the second half.

They had been outscored over the final 20 minutes in eight of the previous nine games, the exception being their loss at Wake Forest when they matched the Demon Deacons' 26-point second-half effort.

The Hurricanes went to the locker room up by only 33-32, and the game was tied at 40-40 with a little less than 14 minutes left when Virginia's Sylven Landesberg hit a jumper following Sammy Zeglinski's steal.

But over the next seven-plus minutes, the Hurricanes went on an 18-5 run that gave them a double-digit cushion for the rest of the night. Their biggest lead was 17 on three occasions before they settled for the 12-point win, their first victory by double digits over a conference foe this season.

Ironically, the Hurricanes failed to shoot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time in three games, settling for 47.5 percent for the game after making half their 28 attempts in the second half.

But they held Virginia, which lost its sixth in a row, to 35.1 percent and won the boards by a comfortable 39-31 margin. Take out Landesberg's 8-of-14 performance and the rest of the Cavaliers shot only 27.9 percent from the field.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Senior F Dwayne Collins moved past Mario Bland (1,199 points) into 20th place among all-time Miami scorers with his 21 points in the loss to Duke. Collins has 1,209 points in his career, 22 short of 19th-place Mike McCoy.

--The Hurricanes entered the week shooting 46.8 percent for the season, which would be their best effort in more than a decade. The 1998-99 team shot 47.3 percent. The school record is 49.2 percent by the 1988-99 team.

ON THE SPOT: Miami was only 7-of-21 on 3-pointers against Virginia. G Malcolm Grant made two of his four tries from beyond the arc, but Adrian Thomas was only 2-of-6 and James Dews only 1-of-4. The Hurricanes need to hit from the perimeter to keep defenses from ganging up on Dwayne Collins and Julian Gamble inside.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I shot a hundred yesterday. I pretty much shoot a hundred every day." -- F Dwayne Collins, a career 55-percent free throw shooter, after going 11-of-14 from the line against Duke. 

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: A plethora of road games greeted Miami in ACC play, and it showed in the record. The Hurricanes had only three of their first nine conference games at home, and they got off to a 2-7 start. The loss to Duke snapped a brief, two-game home winning streak (Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech), but they rebounded with a victory over Virginia to improve to 4-9 in conference play and 18-9 overall.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Dwayne Collins, C Julian Gamble, G Durand Scott, G Garrius Adams, G James Dews. Key Subs -- F Cyrus McGown, F DeQuan Jones, F Adrian Thomas, C Reggie Johnson, G Malcolm Grant.

GAME REVIEW:

Miami 64, Georgia Tech 62
Clemson 74, Miami 66
Duke 81, Miami, 74
Miami 74, Virginia 62

GAME PREVIEW:

vs. North Carolina State, Saturday, Feb. 27
at North Carolina, Tuesday, March 2
vs. Florida State, Saturday, March 6
ACC Tournament, Greensboro, N.C., Thursday-Sunday, March 11-14

IN FOCUS: The Hurricanes must defeat N.C. State if they want to avoid the ACC cellar.

ROSTER REPORT: 

--Sophomore C Julian Gamble had a career night for the Hurricanes. He matched his career best in points with 13 and was one off his career high in rebounds with 12. It was his second career double-double and first against an ACC opponent. His first came as a freshman when he had 13 points and 13 rebounds against North Florida.

--F Dwayne Collins led the Hurricanes in scoring with 18 points against Virginia, giving him his fourth double-figure scoring effort in his last five games. But the key statistics were his career-high five assists against only one turnover. He has seven assists in his last two games after having just three in the previous eight outings.

--G James Dews scored 13 points to get into double figures for the ninth time in his last 11 games, but more important was his work on the defensive end against Virginia. Dews took over responsibility to check Virginia's Sylven Landesberg after Landesberg banged home all four of his 3-point attempts and had 16 points by the intermission. Landesberg managed only two more treys against Dews and finished the game with 27 points, going 3-of-8 from the field in the second half.


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