In a successful weekend, the ‘Canes (2-0) showed that they’re ready for bigger and better things this season. They defeated Louisiana-Monroe (0-2) 78-60 on Sunday and Lubbock Christian (2-2) 86-66 on Friday at the Convocation Center to open the 2003-2004 campaign.
The pair of victories brought Miami to its 21st and 22nd straight home wins against non-conference opponents.
Freshman guard Guillermo Diaz posted 23 points in Friday’s game, while senior forward Darius Rice had 20 points and 12 rebounds, the most rebounds of his career thus far. It was the 11th consecutive home opener victory for the ‘Canes. Sophomore guard Robert Hite and senior forward William Frisby each had 10 points in the win against Lubbock Christian.
In the first-ever meeting of the schools, Miami shot 42.6 percent from the field against Louisiana-Monroe and converted 89.5 percent from the line (including a perfect second half). Rice had 15 points, seven rebounds, and one block to lead the ‘Canes. Frisby added 12 points and seven rebounds. Armondo Surratt had the game-high six assists.
“Right now I’m just playing hard, getting back in basketball shape, and we’re getting wins,” Rice said. “Our main strength is speed. We knew they [Louisiana-Monroe] were going to give us chances to steal. They put it out there and we got it.”
In the first half, the Indians had two fouls in the first 30 seconds of play. A Robert Hite dunk put the ‘Canes ahead 5-0 as Louisiana continued to foul. UM started playing sloppy basketball but was able to focus and increase their lead to 10 points with 15:00 remaining. Junior guard Brandon Okpalobi made a steal and passed to Rice on a fast break, leading to a dunk, giving the Hurricanes a 22-9 lead with just over 10 minutes left to play in the half. A Karron Clarke dunk and a Gary Hamilton buzzer-beater gave the ‘Canes a 45-31 halftime advantage. Rice led the Hurricanes with 10 points and five rebounds, while Surratt had the lone three-pointer of the half.
Second half play kept the ‘Canes defense on its feet, while the offense struggled through a dry spell for the first two and a half minutes. Frisby was able to pull the first shot off. An Eric Wilkins basket off a Surratt assist appeared to awaken the crowd, giving Miami a 51-37 lead with 13:39 remaining. Freshman guard Anthony Harris put on the finishing touches with a three to end it.
“We were able to dictate the tempo,” said Head Coach Perry Clark. “Offensively we struggled a little bit, but today has been a much better defensive effort than Friday night.”
Frisby made an effort to put to rest any misconceptions about the way Hurricane basketball is played.
“We do have a post presence,” he said. “I wanted to show everybody that we can score in the paint…we have an all-around game.”
Play continues for the ‘Canes today against Rhode Island at the Las Vegas Tournament. They are scheduled to play Bradley tomorrow in Las Vegas as well.
“I think when we get out there we just have to keep our poise,” Clark said. “And if we do that, we’ll be successful.”
Melissa Teich can be reached at email@example.com.