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Courtside blog: UM 64, Providence 58 (F)

Checking in an hour before tipoff here from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico where the Canes will take on former Big East rival Providence in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

I know most of you still have football on your minds. But I think its time to give it a rest. I didn't watch the 44-14 beat down Virginia Tech gave the Canes -- I saw the highlights. But I think we all knew what was going to happen. To me, there really isn't a need any more to talk X's and O's when it comes to this team. The bottomline is you should be looking forward to next year already. Even if UM wins at Boston College, there isn't much that is going to make you feel better about this season. 6-6? Another trip to Boise?

I'm not going to beat a dead horse and talk about what this team needs, what it lacks, what it needs to do to beat Boston College next weekend. I could sum it up one sentence: better defense, run for more than -2 yards and stop making so many turnovers.

I think the bigger issues are whether or not this team was let down by its coaching this season. Did Tim Walton do enough with this defense to give it a chance to be successful? Was Patrick Nix the right choice as offensive coordinator? Or were they both victims of the lack of talent on this team?  Could they have done more? Was Randy Shannon's approach of having players fight for the job every week too much for some of these players to handle? What has Randy learned about his approach? Those are the questions I'd like to try and answer when I get back to Miami next week, even if I'm not sure I'll find an answer. These too... who will be gone, player and coach wise?

The next few months are all going to be about recruiting and whether or not Randy Shannon and his staff can keep some of the young talented players they got commitments from this summer and if they can add a few more talented players. Then in the spring, it will be about how quickly this year's freshman can come along. I think UM will keep the majority of the recruits they've got. But the names to worry about are Patrick Johnson, Ramon Buchanon, Lerentee McCray and Marcus Robinson. The names on the fence to hope for: Arthur Brown, Brandon Harris, Matt Patchan, Tommy Streeter, Martavious Odoms, Jonathan Baldwin, Corey Liuget and T.J. Bryant. Those are some of the names you'll hear over the next couple months. Get acquianted. And then start thinking about 2008. Because 2007 doesn't mean much anymore. It hasn't since the final score at the OB said 48-0.

Me? I'm going to watch this basketball team. You should too. Tonight on ESPN2 Frank Haith's team will try to take another step forward. I'll take you through it with my thoughts. Tell me what you think. This is always an open forum.

FIRST HALF...
- The biggest news early on is that Anthony King has drawn two quick fouls and leaves the game at the 17:18 mark. McClinton hit a three-pointer -- what else is new? -- to put UM up 5-2.
- Here's an amazing stat -- UM is trailing for the first time in the tournament. Dwain Williams' back-to-back three-pointers puts the Friars up 8-5.
- UM looks uncomfortbale with its offense. Providence is running the 2-3 zone on defense and it appears to be causing some indecision on Miami's part.
- We've hit a stagnant, scoreless run here. After McClinton's jumper made it 8-7 Providence with 15:16 to play, the teams haven't score in more than four minutes. Lot of turnovers and missed shots. UM is 3 of 10 from the field. Providence is 3 of 14.
- Not sure what UM's shooting percentage is in this game, but its got to be around the 20 percent range. Providence has caused a lot of trouble for UM by going small. Plus, the Canes are in foul trouble and lead that total 9-5. Losing King has certainly hurt.
- UM has decided to go small down 20-12 and is getting some results with James Dews, Brian Asbury, Edwin Rios, McClinton and Ray Hicks. A Dwayne Collins dunk and James Dews' three-pointer and free throw pulls UM to within 22-18 with 1:25 to go in the half. The question in the second half will be if Providence continues to dictate the pace of this game and if UM has to play small the rest of the way.
- Stats at the break are ugly for the Canes. UM shoots 28 percent from the field and piles up 9 turnovers. Providence didn't do much better, shooting 29 percent with 6 turnovers. Ugly basketball. Let's see if the return of the Anthony King has an effect. Miami finished the half with a small lineup that was effect. But its a game Providence thinks it can win.

SECOND HALF...
- Anthony King returns and makes a difference. He gets to the line immediately. Eventually, Miami takes the lead 26-25 when Brian Asbury hits a three-pointer from the wing with 15:52 to play.
- The Canes are doing more stuff now against the zone to get Asbury involved, which is important. They're running him through the lane for catch and shoot opportunities. And they are still playing great defense.
- Another King jumper puts UM up 35-32. Canes playing much better now offensively -- despite having Jack McClinton on the bench. Rios has done a nice job at the point guard spot and had a nice pass inside to setup Ray Hicks, who eventually went to the line for a score. This is where having depth is paying off for Miami.
- And right when things start paying off for UM, Lance Hurdle and Edwin Rios turn the ball over on back-to-back possessions and Providence's Dwain Williams scores twice to put the Friars up 36-35. Jack McClinton is expected to check in now after this latest break.
- This is turning into the James-Dews' Williams show. Williams has scored 10 straight points. Dews has hit back-to-back three-pointers for UM to knot the score at 41.
- Got to commend Eddie Rios for the job he's doing at the point off the bench. UM's offense has been running nicely. And how about Anthony King? He's playing great -- 10 points in the second half and how many big rebounds has he had?
- What a ball game. McClinton is on the bench and UM is battling with Providence shot for shot here. Weyinmi Efejuku has been awesome off the bench for Providence here in the second half. This has really turned out to be a great championship game.

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