As Miami moves deeper into its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schedule, the Hurricanes appear to be improving exponentially at the perfect time.
The ‘Canes won their fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, dispatching Clemson 62-38 at the BankUnited Center. Miami (11-6, 3-1) played stifling defense, holding the Tigers to 25 percent from the field. Clemson (13-5, 2-3) hurt its cause by shooting 36 percent from the free throw line.
Guillermo Diaz overcame a one-point first half to lead all scorers with 12 points despite hitting only four of 15 shots. Robert Hite added 11 on five of nine shooting, including several thunderous dunks that brought the crowd to its feet, and Anthony King dominated the interior with 11 points and six rebounds. Denis Clemente came off the bench and scored 10 points in relief of Anthony Harris, who left the contest early in the second half with leg cramps.
The Tigers finished the game without a double-digit scorer, as freshman K.C. Rivers led the team with eight points. Point guard Vernon Hamilton struggled under heavy pressure from the Hurricanes’ trapping defense, going 2-for-10 from the floor for five points.
Miami fell behind by 11 early in the first half, but Harris ignited a 26-9 run, which featured a steal and tomahawk dunk by Hite, to take a six-point halftime lead.
“Obviously I’m very pleased,” said Head Coach Frank Haith. “I thought our kids got off to a slow start and the energy was not where it needed to be. I am proud of how we responded.”
Leading 37-29 seven minutes into the second half, the Hurricanes increased their level of intensity and broke the game open. A driving lay-up and four-point play by Diaz highlighted a 16-0 run spanning six minutes.
“It was just one of those nights where I kept playing,” Diaz said. “I won’t back down if I am not having a good night. I got open shots and we were able to gain momentum.”
Miami returns to action Saturday night to take on conference newcomer Boston College at 8 p.m. at the BankUnited Center. Haith said the efforts of his players deserve praise, but the grueling portion of the ACC schedule looms ahead.
“It’s way too early to start celebrating,” Haith said. “There are a lot of games to be played. We can’t be complacent.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.