UM reaches 20-win mark

Tuesday night, the Miami Hurricanes reached the 20-win plateau for the third time in four years. Now, Miami is turning its attention towards overtaking Connecticut at the top of the Big East standings.
The Hurricanes, ranked No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, defeated Villanova 65-56 in front of 6,500 at the Pavilion in Philadelphia. The win boosted Miami’s record to 20-3(7-3 Big East) while the Wildcats dropped to 12-8(4-6 Big east). The victory also marked the third consecutive year that the Hurricanes swept Villanova in the season series.
Four Miami players posted double-digit scoring totals, led by junior James Jones, who scored 16 points, including three 3-pointers in the first five minutes. Center Elton Tyler added 14 points while sophomore Marcus Barnes scored 13. Senior John Salmons also scored 13, all in the second half, but the win was extra special for the Philadelphia native.
“It seems every time I come here, the first half is bad,” said Salmons, playing in front of over 20 family members and friends. “It’s like a family affair.”
After the Hurricanes led 32-20 at the break, Villanova went on a 12-2 run to start the second half and eventually took the lead with 13:30 left. However, a pair of Elton Tyler baskets shortly after gave Miami a lead they would never relinquish.
Despite scoring just seven points, sophomore Darius Rice pulled down several of his 10 rebounds in the second half, and head coach Perry Clark was pleased with Rice’s contribution.
“He didn’t get frustrated,” Clark said. “We’re fortunate we’re unselfish and everybody picks each other up.”
For the game, Miami shot 45 percent from the field, including a solid 36 percent behind the arc. Miami had another productive game at the charity stripe, hitting 15 of its 16 free throws. The Hurricanes also did an excellent job defensively, holding Villanova to a 41 percent clip from the field while out-rebounding the Wildcats 33-22. Overall, Clark gave Miami’s performance a big thumbs up.
“Any win on the road in this conference is huge, especially with the way their fans are enthusiastic at this place,” Clark said.
Connecticut’s victory over Providence still puts the Huskies a half a game ahead of Miami in the Big East standings. If Miami wants to overtake UConn, a victory in Sunday’s nationally televised game at Boston College is vital. A win over the Eagles could also land Miami a top 10 spot in both polls next week.