Providence guard John Linehan got his steals record in front of the home crowd, but after losing three out of their last seven games, the Hurricanes got a much-needed road win.
Darius Rice dropped a game-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as No. 18 Miami ended its two game losing streak with an 81-65 victory over Providence Tuesday night.
”It was more than a must-have game for us,” UM coach Perry Clark said. “We couldn’t have lost three straight. I would have jumped off the nearest bridge.
“This was a game we had to have. Kids can be fickle. They couldn’t afford a third straight loss to their confidence. It could have broken us heading into the Big East tournament and the NCAAs. We bounced back nicely and returned to doing the things that won games for us earlier in the season.”
The Hurricanes (22-6, 9-6 in the Big East) need to beat Virginia Tech tomorrow, and have St. John’s lose its next game to secure the second seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. Miami loses a tiebreaker with St. John’s due to its league record.
The top two teams in each division receive a first round by in the conference tourney.
Miami can do no worse that the No. 3 seed with its victory over Providence. Connecticut has already wrapped up the top seed.
”No one wants to back into the postseason,” said Rice, who scored 32 earlier this season against the Friars. “We had to have this game more than we needed to eat tonight.”
The 22nd victory is the most in the regular season since the Hurricanes joined the conference in 1991, and is one short of the team record of 23 set in 1959-60.
In the defeat, Linehan had five steals to become the NCAA all-time steals leader with 378. The record was previously held by Friars guard Eric Murdock (1987-91) at 376. Linehan’s 132 steals this season leads the nation.
”We rebounded, we played defense,” Clark said. “Darius shot well and rebounded 10. We were active, we challenged shots and offensive drives. This was a Miami team no one had seen in at least three weeks.”
Elton Tyler’s 11 first half points led Miami to a commanding 45-27 lead at the break.
Providence cut UM’s lead to 69-59 with 3:43 left, but Rice and James Jones rallied their offense back to an 18-point advantage in the closing minute.
Jones added 15 points and grabbed six rebounds, as Miami evened its Big East road record at 4-4.
”Our effort was not there the past six or seven games,” Jones said. “We found the swagger that was missing. This was a very important win for us. Playing like this, we can say that we are ready for the postseason.”
Miami wraps up the regular season tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Miami Arena vs. Virginia Tech.