Senior guard Jack McClinton nailed a three-pointer on Miami’s first possession, but local rival Florida Atlantic proved to be pesky for much of Monday night’s final non-conference game.
Junior forward Dwayne Collins scored 18 of his 24 points during the second half, while shooting 16 free throws and grabbing nine rebounds to lead the Canes to an 85-69 victory.
On the season, UM (11-3) improved to 11-2 against teams outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference and extended its win streak to four.
“Play four guards and spread us out. [FAU was a] tough team to match up with and they got loose on us and got some threes,” head coach Frank Haith said. “I thought in the second half we did a really good job of getting the ball inside to Dwayne and he finished and obviously made his free throws. It was a good win for us.”
The Hurricanes only led by five at halftime with a 38-33 lead, mainly due to a 38.7 shooting percentage from the field.
Florida Atlantic (4-11) made half of their shots from three-point range in the first half, led by senior guard Carderro Nwoji, who nailed four.
Nwoji scored a team-high 20 points, but exited at the 8:10 mark as one of three FAU players to foul out.
Scoring went back-and-forth during the fast-paced and aggressive first 20 minutes. The Canes notched nine offensive rebounds and forced the Owls to take shots around the perimeter with little time left on the shot clock.
“I think early in the year we had the good starts in the first half and we didn’t play well in the second half,” Haith said. “Now we have the slow starts and the good second halves. We just need to somehow figure out how to get both of them.”
To start the second half, senior forward Brian Asbury brought down two straight offensive rebounds and finished on easy put-ins.
UM outrebounded FAU 47-29 and corralled 18 offensive boards.
With the Owls down by four, redshirt junior forward Cyrus McGowan finished on a three-point play and McClinton followed with one of his four three-pointers.
McClinton joined Collins as the only other Cane in double figures with 20 points. He also passed Mike Wittman for 14th on Miami’s career scoring list with 1,327 points.
After back-to-back turnovers, momentum began to shift towards FAU as the score reached 50-44, but both freshman forward DeQuan Jones and McClinton countered with baskets to give the Hurricanes a 54-48 advantage.
Nwoji and the Owls began to lose control of the game when he was called for a technical foul to extend the Hurricane lead to 10, at 58-48. Florida Atlantic missed shot after shot and put Miami into the bonus for more than eight minutes.
Teammates continued to go to Collins in the paint, which allowed him to make 10-of-12 from the line in the second half alone. On the season, Collins had made just 57 percent of his free throws.
“Coach told me what I was doing wrong and today he was showing me,” Collins said. “There’s something in my free throws that I always do that nobody notices and I tried to adjust to it for the game. I flick my wrist before I shoot it.”
Miami travels to 17th-ranked Boston College (13-2) for a 7 p.m. Saturday tip-off, which is set to air on ESPNU.
“I’m looking forward to ACC play. Every night you know it’s going to be a competition,” McClinton said. “It’s just fun to go out there and it’s a great feeling.”