Trailing by six points to Wake Forest early in the second half Tuesday night, Miami turned to senior Robert Hite to ignite a rally.
Hite responded with one of his finest shooting performances in a Hurricane uniform, draining five three-pointers in the second half to finish with 25 points as the ‘Canes beat the Demon Deacons 78-69 at the Bank United Center.
The three-pronged backcourt of Hite, Guillermo Diaz and Anthony Harris combined for 59 points in the victory. But it was Hite who heated up when it mattered most.
“I’m just in a zone right now,” Hite said. “I’ve been working on my shot a lot [since Virginia].”
Wake Forest (12-9, 1-7) seized control of the game in the first half, thanks to a torrid shooting performance by Justin Gray. The senior All-America candidate, returning from a stomach virus, nailed five of six three-pointers in a 17-point half.
Eric Williams gave the Hurricanes fits, scoring 18 points and dominating the paint with 11 rebounds.
Miami (13-8, 5-3) Head Coach Frank Haith tinkered with the team’s zone defense in an effort to contain Gray. It paid off, as Wake’s leading scorer could only produce three points in the second half.
“We didn’t come out with enough aggressiveness and [Gray] got some open looks,” Hite said. “He’s a great shooter and you don’t want to give him time. In the second half we just tried to get after him and stay in his face.”
Down 41-35, the Hurricanes picked up the tempo and made outside shots at a frenzied pace during a 15-2 UM run. Hite and Diaz combined for four three-pointers in the scoring binge.
“I thought in the first half, they changed defenses a couple of times and we got confused,” Haith said. “In the second half we got into a rhythm.”
Hite ultimately sealed the victory for Miami with 4:25 left when he made an off-balance triple as the shot clock expired to give the Hurricanes a 68-55 advantage. The Demon Deacons could not get closer than nine points down after a Trent Strickland (14 points) three with 35 seconds remaining.
Haith praised his team after the game for an emotionally charged effort less than 48 hours removed from its overtime win at Florida State.
“I think the thing I’m most proud of with our kids is that we had the overtime game Sunday night,” Haith said. “We got back here roughly around 10:30 p.m. We had one day of prep for Wake Forest. That’s the kind of toughness we’re talking about with our team.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org