The No. 2 Connecticut Huskies were just too big for the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes, literally. 7’3″ All-American Hasheem Thabeet dominated the Hurricanes in the paint, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks, as the Huskies defeated the Canes 76-63 in the second round of the Paradise Jam.
John Wooden award nominee – an honor given to the nation’s top player – and team captain Jack McClinton once again had a brilliant effort, ending the night with 27 points on 10-for-23 shooting. Junior forward Dwayne Collins made his presence felt as he had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
But the Canes had to battle back all night. In the first half, they trailed by as many as 19 points. In the second half, the Huskies had them down 17.
However, Miami continued to fight and cut the UConn lead down to 69-59 after a 3-pointer by McClinton. Then, a fast break lay-up by junior guard James Dews cut it to 69-61. The Hurricanes had the opportunity to cut it to a five-point game with 2:01 remaining, but McClinton missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw shot. Connecticut prevailed and will now advance to the championship of the Paradise Jam.
Before they played the Huskies, the Hurricanes had to worry about Southern Miss.
On Friday afternoon, senior guard Lance Hurdle returned to the lineup and helped carry the Canes to a win over Southern Miss, 70-60. Hurdle finished with 13 points on 3-for-5 shooting.
“It’s great to be back with my teammates, out there laughing again,” Hurdle said. “The adrenaline was flowing. I was excited. I felt like a kid on Christmas.”
Said head coach Frank Haith of Hurdle, “His play was crucial, especially not knowing what he was going to be able to give us. He played outstanding.”
Hurdle’s rim-bouncing 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Miami a 36-24 lead heading into halftime. Both Dwayne Collins and Jack McClinton contributed with eight points.
The Hurricanes never trailed in the second half, with Southern Miss getting as close as 41-37. The Canes then stepped it up on defense and went on a 15-5 run over a six-minute span. Collins finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while McClinton added 13 points.
The team’s 1-1 record at the Paradise Jam leaves them at 2-1 on the season. They will now play the winner of Sunday evening’s Wisconsin/San Diego game at 6 p.m. Monday evening.
To read the LiveBlog from Sunday’s game, click here.