HOOPS HYSTERIA: Men’s basketball falls to Villanova at home

The Villanova Wildcats came to play on Sunday afternoon, outperforming the Hurricanes in almost every category in beating the ‘Canes 76-69 at the Convocation Center.

The key stat of the day was that Miami was out rebounded 43-38, including 31-11 on the defensive glass.

The ‘Canes came out shooting well in the first half, connecting on 48 percent of their shots, but in the second half, the shooting went south as they shot just 24 percent. They finished with their worst shooting game of the year at 33 percent.

Meanwhile, Villanova improved their field goal percentage to a lights-out 68 percent in the second half.

“When we only made 24 percent of our shots in the second half, it was amazing that we still had a shot in the game,” Head Coach Perry Clark said.

Darius Rice continued his slump as he shot 4-19 including 1-10 from three-point range and finished with 15 points. As a team, the ‘Canes were six for 25 from downtown including only one for 13 in the second half.

Robert Hite was Miami’s leading scorer with 21 points in 36 minutes, but he was only 1-7 from three-point range. Freshman Guillermo Diaz continued to shoot the ball well as he went five for 10 with 12 points and led the team in assists with four in 34 minutes.

Villanova didn’t seem to have trouble scoring baskets at any point in the game. At several points during the game their big men were scoring at ease in the paint.

“We were never really able to get them out of their comfort zone,” Clark said. “We didn’t stop their dribble drives, and that was really disappointing.”

Villanova held the lead for much of the first half until the ‘Canes took the lead 36-35 going into halftime. Hite was the first Miami scorer to reach double figures.

The second half was a different story, as the ‘Canes couldn’t buy a basket. The Wildcats took a 54-44 lead with 11 minutes left. Just as many thought the game was slipping away, Diaz and Hite had back-to-back three-point play opportunities, with Hite converting on the free throw. That cut the Wildcats’ lead to 56-51 and brought the Convocation Center crowd to their feet.

Villanova gave the ‘Canes many opportunities to make a successful comeback, with a steal and a five second violation in back-to-back possessions. The Wildcats finished with 23 turnovers compared to only eight for the Hurricanes.

The ‘Canes could never cut it to less than three points in the final two minutes, as their woeful shooting kept getting worse as the half went by. A barrage of free throws by the Wildcats finished off Miami, as the ‘Canes dug themselves into too deep of a hole to come back.

The strangest stat of the day was that the Hurricanes took 22 more shots than the Wildcats, but hit two shots less. Randy Foye led Villanova with 21 points as Allan Ray and Curtis Sumpter also scored in double figures.

The Hurricanes return to the court on Wednesday night, as they travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame.

Doug Kroll can be contacted at d.kroll@umiami.edu.