The Hurricanes men’s basketball team kicked off their season in commanding fashion on Saturday by beating the New Hampshire Wildcats, 93-58. Although Darius Rice was the leading scorer with 19 points and James Jones had four blocked shots to lead a stingy Miami defense that forfeited few opportunities, the night belonged to the freshmen, whose skills are in dire need for a Miami team that has only two returning starters.
Leading the freshman attack corps is the highly touted Robert Hite. Last year’s Ohio Player of the Year and ranked No. 50 among the nation’s high school prospects, Hite finished the game with 11 points and three steals. Fans got a glimpse of his innate athleticism when he made a spectacular one handed dunk in the second half that added an exclamation mark to his first collegiate start.
“I was kind of nervous, I missed a couple of shots early but as the game went on, I settled down,” said Hite.
Armando Surratt, another highly recruited high school player, appeared to have the poise of a junior or senior. The 5-11 product of Oakland, California, played very maturely and used his quickness to crossover defenders and drive aggressively to the basket. If Saturday’s game is an omen to his playmaking ability and his intangibles on the court then he will prove to be a solid backup point guard for starter Michael Simmons. Surratt finished the game with 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
“I was pleased with the way the freshmen played but what was more important was the play of Darius and James and not necessarily in the stat column but in terms of their leadership out on the floor,” said Coach Perry Clark.
Throughout the match, the Hurricanes used a full-court press to strangle the Wildcats’ offense. Miami stole the ball 16 times and forced 29 turnovers, more than they had in any one game all of last season. This resulted in several fast-break opportunities that the Hurricanes were easily able to convert. Freshman, Ishmael N’Diaye, led all players with four steals.
The Hurricanes struggled with rebounding early in the game, allowing the Wildcats second and third chance opportunities that helped them take an early 11-10 lead. Then James Jones hit a jump shot and Paulo Coelho provided an offensive spark off the bench that helped the Hurricanes go on an 18-7 run. Bench scoring was a pivotal factor throughout the game; contributions from Gary Hamilton and Rodrigue Djahue perpetuated the Hurricanes’ momentum while the starters rested.
Despite the 16-4 disparity in the offensive rebound category, Miami went into the locker room with a commanding 44-28 lead.
“They out-rebounded us offensively in the first half and we talked about that in the locker room,” said Coach Clark.
The second half proved to be no different than the first. Rice scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half, including one of Miami’s only two three pointers for the night. This proved to be an anomaly from past years, since Miami lead the conference last year in three-point field goals made and attempted.
“We planned it that way,” said Coach Clark. “We wanted Darius to go inside and that certainly takes one of your three point weapons away but at the same token, he went to the foul line a great deal and that is something we have got to do with him.”
Three point shots from New Hampshire guard Jeremy Friel and forward Griffin Walker kept the Wildcats in the game. The Wildcats resorted to the three point shot more and more as the game progressed as a remedy for the impregnable Hurricane defense that gave up very few shots down low.
“It’s the first game and I am happy with the win but I do not think we executed as well as I hoped we would but its growing pains since we have a lot of young guys,” said Jones.
Miami will continue their non-conference play against Texas A&M tonight at 7:30 at the Miami Arena.
You can reach Sandeep Konka @firstname.lastname@example.org.