Another Close Call

What appeared to be a bland game on paper, was instead one highlighted by several clutch shots and late game heroics, as the Hurricanes defeated the Providence Friars, 102-96 in overtime on Saturday at Miami Arena.
It was also the breakout game for sophomore phenom Darius Rice, who scored a season high 32 points. He was Miami’s answer for the Friars’ hot shooting, carrying the offensive load in the first half. He scored 20 of Miami’s 37 first half points and at one point scored 13 straight.
“I was just focused,” said Rice, who finished 13-of-17 in the game, including 6-8 from three-point range. “The team did a great job of finding me in the open spots and they just kept hitting me.”
With the score 86-86 and five seconds left in the game, Rice made an open three-pointer from a feed by John Salmons. Then with a second left in the game, Abdul Mills threw up an off-balanced shot that somehow managed to go in for the Friars.
The Hurricanes were about to endure their second straight overtime game.
“After Darius hit the three, we wanted to get back and contain the basketball,” UM coach Perry Clark said. “[Abdul Mills] hit a very very difficult shot and that is the way it goes sometimes.”
The Hurricanes began the overtime with an emphatic dunk by Rice off a missed shot by Marcus Barnes. From then on, Miami never looked back and went on a 7-2 run. With 23 seconds left to go, Michael Simmons sealed the game by making both of his free throws and increasing the Hurricanes lead to four.
The Friars (10-9, 1-4 in the Big East) shot the ball extremely well throughout the game, shooting 49 percent from the field and converting on 14-of-31 shots from behind the arc.
“The reason why they struggled before was that they had not made a lot of their three-point shots,” Clark said. “And I was fearful coming in that sooner or later they would get off that streak, and it happened in the first half.”
The Friars led 48-37 after the first half of play, but the Hurricanes (17-2, 4-2) came storming out in the second half, going on an 18-8 run. It was the result of a stingy defense that did not allow the Friars much room to work.
On the offensive side, Elton Tyler made a series of shots inside the paint while Rice continued his hot perimeter shooting. Two minutes into the half, James Jones made a three-pointer to give the Hurricanes a 59-56 lead.
“We came out and played hard, pressured the ball, got some easy looks and knocked them down,” said Salmons, who scored 23 points. “It all started with our defense.”
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Friars broke through the Hurricane defense and made several three-pointers and lay-ups to regain the lead.
Ryan Gomes was instrumental in the Friars comeback, creating second chance opportunities, battling for rebounds, and making open shots.
Nevertheless, the Hurricanes kept responding with a high-powered offense of their own. Salmons made key shots inside the paint, while Jones and Rice hit outside shots to keep the Hurricanes within striking distance.
“Certainly, we are excited about the victory. I think it will give us momentum,” Clark said. “But it will only get harder.”
The Hurricanes continue their homestand against Villanova (10-4, 3-2) on Thursday night.