On senior day, Jack McClinton didn’t carry the Miami Hurricanes by himself. Key baskets by guard Lance Hurdle, aggressive rebounding by Brian Asbury and tough defense by Jimmy Graham propelled the Hurricanes to a crucial 72-64 victory over North Carolina State.
“It was a great win for us,” head coach Frank Haith said. “Just time and time again, the seniors, all four of them, had a play to contribute to us winning that ball game, in the last five or six minutes of the game. That was great to see.”
But Miami (18-7, 7-9) didn’t control N.C. State from the start. The Canes trailed 30-21 at halftime and looked like they didn’t have any fight left in them. However, the Hurricanes came out of halftime with force, going on an 11-0 run that put them up 31-30.
The separation really came when Hurdle hit a 3-pointer to extend Miami’s lead to 60-53 with 1:53 and end N.C. State’s (16-13, 6-10) hopes.
“I just didn’t want to go out with a loss,” Hurdle said. “This [senior] class is very special. I want to cherish their last time, so I had to leave it all on the floor.”
Miami will be the No. 9 seed in ACC play and will play Virginia Tech in the first round at the Georgia Dome. The Hurricanes probably need at least two wins in the confernce tournament to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. If they win all three in ACC play, they will get an automatic bid.
“I want our guys to go to that tournament feeling like we’re going to win the championship and try to win the ACC tournament,” Haith said. “We have to worry about what’s in front of us.”
In order to keep their hopes up for a successful run in the ACC tournament and keep their NCAA tournament bid alive, one thing the Canes should worry about is the play of McClinton. McClinton, against N.C. State, again struggled with his shooting touch, hitting three of 15 shots, and he didn’t have a field goal in the first half.
“We need him,” Haith said.
Despite all that the Canes must do in order to keep their tourney hopes alive, Haith is looking at things one game at a time, and, against N.C. State, it was all about his seniors.
“They laid the foundation for Miami basketball,” he said. “I’m very honored to have coached these young men.”