Knowing this would be a critical week for the state of the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball program, there was an extra sense of urgency for head coach Frank Haith and his Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes (5-2) handled their first set of business against the Ole Miss (3-2). The Canes ran the Rebels out the gym in the first half and won, 86-73, at the BankUnited Center. The Canes had a 57-27 halftime lead.
Miami had to hold on from a second half rally from the Rebels and finished the game converting 10 of their last 11 free throws.
“Obviously the first half we played about as well as you can play offensively and defensively,” said Haith, whose team shot 50 percent from the field. “The second half we didn’t have the same intensity there, and that got them going. This team can win the West in the SEC. This is a great win for us.”
The Hurricanes came close to blowing a 30-point lead as his team was outscored 46-29 in the second half. But Haith is glad his team survived and will benefit from Ole Miss’ near comeback.
“We are going to learn a lot from this game,” Haith said. “It’s the first time we were in this position this year. There were some times offensively in the second half we took some quick shots, got a little passive.”
Sophomore guard Durand Scott went to work against the Rebels. Scott was slashing and getting to the basket at will and finished with 27 points on seven of 11 shooting. Scott was 12 of 13 from the free throw line.
Scott wasn’t worried when Ole Miss cut the game into a single digit deficit, 79-70, with a little of four minutes remaining. Scott knocked down a pair of free throws and sophomore guard Garrius Adams hit two more to extend the Hurricanes lead.
“We tried to stay together as a team, stay focused,” Scott said. “They had a little run, we stay together, stayed strong. It was a great win for us, a game we’re going to learn from.”
Redshirt sophomore forward Reggie Johnson held down the post game for the Hurricanes. Johnson had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson notched his fifth double-double in seven games. Redshirt senior forward Adrian Thomas had a special night as he had a career-high 17 points and was 5-of-8 from three pointers.
Thomas had struggled all year but he shined Tuesday night.
“Reggie was a man in the paint,” Haith said. “Adrian had been waiting for one of those [big scoring]games. He got loose, reeled off a couple in a row.”
This was a marquee win the Hurricanes needed in non conference play. They had already dropped games to Memphis and Rutgers who are solid squads. Come March this will be a resume booster.
Up next, the Hurricanes the will host on Saturday the West Virginia Mountaineers (5-1), a team that was in the Final Four last season.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who: West Virginia
When: Saturday at 4 p.m.
where: BankUnited Center
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