The Miami Hurricanes may be 21-5 this season, but their inability to win crucial road games may prove to be costly when the Big East and NCAA Tournaments roll around.
The Hurricanes dropped another contest away from the Miami Arena on Sunday, falling to Rutgers 64-61 at the Lewis Center in Piscataway, N.J.
Miami trailed the entire game, yet cut a six-point Scarlet Knights’ lead down to three in the final seconds. Sophomore Darius Rice missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal Rutgers’ victory.
Besides dropping to 21-5, the Hurricanes’ Big East record is now 8-5, which puts them a game and a half behind Connecticut for first place in the conference’s eastern division. Rutgers improved to 17-8 (7-5 Big East West) with the victory.
The Hurricanes biggest foe in the game was Rutgers guard Jerome Coleman. The junior college transfer hit eight three-pointers, many of them coming from NBA range, and scored a career high 30 points, leading the Scarlet Knights to their fourth victory against a ranked opponent this season.
The Hurricanes’ other major opposition was their inability to handle the ball. The Hurricanes turned the ball over 21 times, many of those coming in a first half that had UM trailing 31-28 at the break. The turnovers overshadowed a solid defensive effort from the Hurricanes, who held the Scarlet Knights to an anemic 34 percent shooting from the field. Miami also forced 20 Rutgers turnovers.
For the Hurricanes, Rice led the way with 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting and also grabbed six rebounds. Senior John Salmons scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and had seven assists, playing all but two minutes of the contest.
Miami got subpar performances, however, from their other three starters. Junior James Jones struggled through a 2-of-8 afternoon shooting the ball, scoring just seven points. Sophomore Marcus Barnes attempted only four shots, hitting one of them and posting five points overall. And junior Elton Tyler, the Hurricanes biggest surprise of late, scored just two points.
Rodrigue Djahue was the only Hurricane to get significant time off the bench, scoring four points in 16 minutes.
Miami has three games remaining, beginning with Notre Dame on Saturday night at the Miami Arena. After that, the Hurricanes travel to Providence for a game against the Friars next Tuesday, before returning home to face Virginia Tech on Mar. 2. The Big East tournament begins on Mar. 6 in New York, with the top two teams from each division getting first-round byes.