Darius Rice scored 34 points and Robert Hite added 17 as the men’s basketball team lost to Nike Elite 88-86 Sunday night in the ‘Canes’ first exhibition game of the season.
Despite blowing a 13-point first half lead, Head Coach Perry Clark was introspective and reassuring after the game.
“This is exactly what we needed,” Clark said. “It’s tough to play an exhibition game this early…but I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Playing with a dislocated finger on his shooting hand, Rice made 12-of-18 shots, including three consecutive three-pointers in the first four minutes of the game. Rice also led the ‘Canes in rebounding with 10 boards.
“I was surprised at Rice,” Clark said. “He missed a lot of time, and he shot the ball very well and that’s why a lot of times I don’t necessarily worry about him.”
Following the game, Rice insisted that his finger was “fine” and is focused on getting more of his teammates involved.
“We have to have more than just me scoring,” Rice said. “Everybody has to play a team game.”
Former Penn State standout Brandon Watkins scored 20 points and former Wyoming star Donta Richardson added 16 as Nike Elite battled back in the second half despite trailing 50-44 at halftime.
Watkins converted a three-point play that gave Nike Elite an 85-82 lead and converted one of two free throws to make the score 88-86. After Hite failed to convert a runner with seven seconds left, Stan Blackmon grabbed the rebound for Nike Elite and was immediately fouled. Blackmon went on to miss both foul shots, leaving the door open for the ‘Canes with 3.4 seconds left in the game. The Hurricanes failed to get a shot off, however, and time expired.
Hite, who shot 50 percent from the field, was singled out by Clark for his contributions in the loss. The Hurricanes are looking for a second scorer after losing James Jones to graduation, and Hite may be the answer.
“I’ve been working real hard on it [shooting],” Hite said. “I want to be a leader and make plays, and make smart decisions, and get my other teammates involved and make them better.”
Clark addressed some concerns with the team’s performance.
“We didn’t rebound the ball very well,” Clark said. “I was very disappointed. Playing good defense means rebounding and I don’t think we did a good job rebounding especially late in the game. In the last five minutes we made some very poor basketball decisions that we got to correct.”
One of the reasons why the Hurricanes struggled on the glass could be the absence of junior forward Will Frisby, who missed the game because of mononucleosis. He is expected to be back in a week.
The Hurricanes’ next exhibition game will be on Wednesday, November 12 at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center where they will play host to Team Georgia.
In the days leading up to Nov. 12, the team will be working hard to make improvements.
“We will go back and watch film,” Clark said. “In the next ten days we will do a lot of teaching…and spend more time now on the details.”
You can reach Max Panoff at firstname.lastname@example.org