Men’s basketball comes from behind in exhibition victory

The final preseason game for the Hurricane men’s basketball team against the Next Level sponsored Global All Stars proved to be a true test of the ‘Canes grit, determination, and will. Ultimately, the ‘Canes passed with flying colors as they overcame a 14 point halftime deficit to defeat the All Stars 69-64, entering the regular season on a positive note.
The Hurricanes were led by senior James Jones (27 points on 11-15 shooting) and junior Darius Rice (19 points and 10 rebounds), who clinched the victory with two free throws with 4.3 seconds remaining. The two impressed head coach Perry Clark with their leadership and poise in the second half, despite being behind by double digits entering the half.
“I think in the first half James and Darius were fighting themselves a bit,” Clark said. “We were facing veteran opponents who flustered us in the first half, but I am pleased with the fact that the two of them came out in the second half with much more patience and poise and shot better.”
The Global All Stars team featured several familiar faces, including former UM standouts Johnny Hemsley and Dwayne Wimbley. They gave the ‘Canes all they could handle by shooting well and out rebounding the ‘Canes 36 to 31 (25 to 13 after the first half).
“Rebounding has been a bit of a concern lately because we have been focusing more on offenses in the last few practices,” Clark said. “We improved our rebounding in the second half and I think we will continue to improve in that department in the regular season.”
The game started out evenly matched for the first nine minutes of the opening half, with the score 13-13 with 11:15 left on the clock. Then the Global Sports All Stars went on an 18-5 run sparked by the hot shooting of Damon Flint (14 points) and Hemsley (15 points), and the rebounding efforts of Rahim Lockhart (5 rebounds) and Erik Martin (7 rebounds). The half ended with the score 42-28 in favor of the All Stars.
The ‘Canes came out in the second half with a better defensive strategy and better shot selection, cutting the deficit to five (44-39) with a Rice slam dunk.
“The biggest adjustments we made were defensively by switching to a zone,” Clark said. “We also came in with a set offense and showed more patience on the offensive end.”
Another important factor in the ‘Canes comeback was the hot shooting of Jones, who scored 19 points (on 8-9 shooting) in the second half. Jones provided some senior leadership and his shooting streak rubbed off on the rest of the team.
“In the second half we played as a team and we communicated really well,” Jones said.
Despite the emotionally-charged play of the ‘Canes in the second half, the Global Sports All Stars refused to go away quietly, with a Hemsley three pointer tying up the score at 56 with 3:18 left on the clock, erasing a 28-11 ‘Canes run to open the half. After a Jones dunk and Rice three-pointer to take a 61-56 lead, the All Stars responded once again with a pair of Wimbley free throws and three Hemsley free throws after Jones made two at the line for UM, cutting the deficit to two (63-61) with under two minutes remaining.
After a Jones jumper gave the ‘Canes a four point lead with 1:15 left, Jason Harrison of the All Stars hit a clutch three-pointer to make it a one point game (65-64) with only one minute remaining, setting up an exciting finish.
When Jones missed the front end of a one and one free throw situation, the All Stars had a chance to regain the lead, but freshman Gary Hamilton came up with a big steal and Michael Simmons calmly drained two free throws to put the All Stars chances on life support.
Hamilton wasn’t the only freshman to have an impact on the game, as Robert Hite, Armondo Surratt and Eric Wilkins all pitched in with quality minutes.
“I was impressed with the effort the freshmen gave us tonight,” Clark said. “Eric Wilkins gave us some quality minutes and Hite, Surratt, and Hamilton all helped out too.”
Overall, Clark wasn’t completely satisfied with the team’s performance, given the slow start, but was content with the way the team battled back in the second half.
“I can’t say that I am satisfied,” Clark said “As a coach, it is hard to be completely satisfied, but I am pleased with how we responded in the second half.”
You can reach Eric Kalis at