The Miami Hurricanes are finding ways to win close games at home and Wednesday night was just another night at the office. Miami (13-5, 4-3) held on to defeat the Clemson Tigers (10-9, 1-6) 69-65. After two losses in a row to teams in the top five, the ‘Canes were in desperate need for a win, especially with the last-place Tigers in town.
Junior Robert Hite came out of his self-proclaimed shooting “funk” and scored 21 points on eight of 14 shooting. Sophomore Anthony Harris scored all of his 15 points in the second half, after Head Coach Frank Haith lit into him during halftime.
The first half was a seesaw battle that saw both teams take leads of six points. Miami opened the game on a 7-2 run, with senior William Frisby scoring four points in that span. Clemson put together a 9-0 run with under four minutes to play to take the lead 30-21. The Tigers went into the locker room with a 31-27 advantage.
Clemson was led by center Sharrod Ford who scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half as well as grabbing nine of his 13 rebounds. The Hurricanes were plagued by turnovers, as they ended up with 10 in the period. The second half was a different story ball-handling wise as the Hurricanes dazzled the crowd with nifty passing and scoring, and they only had four miscues in the second half.
Harris started off the second half with six of Miami’s first eight points and the Hurricanes took a 39-36 lead with 15:42 to play in the ballgame. After the teams traded baskets, Miami took its largest lead of the second half on a Frisby offensive rebound that he dunked home to give them a 55-50 lead and brought the Convocation Center crowd to its feet.
With Miami leading 67-65 with under 25 seconds to play, Clemson missed two wide-open layups. Eric Wilkins then missed two free throws with 22 seconds left for the Hurricanes, which gave the Tigers another chance to tie or win. After a missed three-pointer from the corner, Clemson missed another two lay-ups inside and then Shawan Robinson stepped out of bounds, giving Miami the ball with five seconds to play.
Senior Gary Hamilton, a 40 percent free-throw shooter, then connected on his two free throws that sealed the game for Miami and gave the team a thrilling 69-65 win. Hite knows how big this game was for the ‘Canes.
“This game was real big for us, after coming off two tough losses,” Hite said. “For us to come out and win like we did tonight, that’s huge for us going into the game on Saturdy in Wake Forest.”
Miami’s leading scorer Guillermo Diaz was held to 12 points. Frisby added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes return to action on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they travel to No. 5 Wake Forest.
Douglas C. Kroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org