Another Crack On The Road

The University of Miami men's basketball team isn't dead yet. But in order for the Hurricanes to have any chance of making a dent in the Big East conference the rest of the way they will have to get something at Villanova that hasn't happened very frequently this season- a win on the road.

Having dropped four of their last five contests, including a 74-72 setback to Georgetown last Saturday, the Hurricanes (10-13, 3-9) haven't done much winning anywhere since opening their league schedule in early January. And winning away from home hasn't exactly been a team strength with just one victory in 10 games.

That will have to change, starting tonight, against the Wildcats (14-10, 7-4) for the Hurricanes to begin their climb out of the bottom of the league's East Division and make any push toward the conference tournament at the conclusion of the regular season. With four regular season games remaining, the Hurricanes are tied for last place with Virginia Tech and in jeopardy of missing the conference tournament. Both teams that finish in last place in the East and West Divisions of the conference will not advance to the Big East tournament.

"We have the capability of starting something here but we have to get it done against Villanova. We need a win and there's no question about it," says UM coach Perry Clark.

Clark has been frustrated all season long with the Hurricanes inability to finish games down the stretch. Miami, with two freshmen in the starting line-up, has lost nine games by five points or less and their main problem has been turnovers in critical situations. The Hurricanes have committed 46 turnovers in the last two games and looked unorganized at the end of games. In the loss against the Hoyas, freshman guard Armondo Surratt threw up a wild three-pointer from the top of the key despite the Hurricanes having 5.4 seconds on the clock when they took possession.

Junior forward Darius Rice will also have to return to form as well. After scoring 20 or more points in eight straight games, Rice has averaged 14.0 points in the last three games and struggled from the floor. Rice leads the team with 19.3 points a game.

Villanova, coming off a defeat at Providence, will test the Hurricanes' fourth-leading scoring defense in the Big East, at 68.0 points a game, thanks to four players averaging double-figure points. Leading the way is sharp shooting guard Gary Buchanan who is second in the Big East in three-point field goal percentage at 41.9. Buchanan, averaging 16.6 points a game, is an 88 percent free throw shooter. Junior forward Ricky Wright (12.7 PPG and 7.7) is a physical player that could present problems inside for Miami. Freshmen guards Randy Foye (10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and Allan Ray (10.0 ppg) have also contributed for the Wildcats.

The all-time series between both teams is tied 20-20. Miami had won six straight before losing to the Wildcats 62-57 Feb. 8 at home.

The Hurricanes return to the Convocation Center on Saturday to host Boston College before closing out the regular season with games against Virginia Tech and St. John's. Clark hopes to play past the regular season finale against the Red Storm.

"Our players have to understand the urgency they need to play with," says Clark. "We got ourselves in this situation and now we have to find a way out."

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