ST. THOMAS, V.I. -- Just walked into the gym here at the University of the Virgin Islands where Frank Haith's 17th-ranked basketball team is set to take on Southern Miss in the first round of the Paradise Jam. Today's game will be broadcast back home on WQAM and the internet. It will also be available on internet TV for purchase at www.watchbtihoops.com.
I was in Puerto Rico last year when Miami won the inaugual Tip-Off Classic. This field is definitely more loaded than that one. Southern Miss (2-0) was a pretty good team last year at 19-14 and has a really good two-guard in sophomore Jeremy Wise, who can light up from the outside just like Jack McClinton. The good news for UM is Lance Hurdle is likely going to return today. He was warming up with his teammates moments ago and should get some minutes at the point, which will give Eddie Rios a rest and allow McClinton to play off the ball. I'll be here to provide you updates and highlights as it rolls along. I know most of you could use a win considering what happened last night in Atlanta.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS....
> Eddie Rios and Cyrus McGowan got the start, but got early hooks. With 16:49 left, Lance Hurdle and Jimmy Graham replaced them. Southern Miss has had some early success in the paint, getting free for short range jumpers. Jack McClinton is 1-of-2 from three point range early.
> Miami has a 13-9 lead with 11:26 to go in the first half. So far, the story has been Southern Misses ability to grab offensive boards and second chances. They've scored most of their points early on 2nd and 3rd chances. But Miami is playing some pretty good defense.
> Since Cory Smith's stickback with 10:50 left, UM has gone on a 7-0 run to take a 20-11 lead with 7:48 left in the half. Adrian Thomas capped the run with a long-distance three-pointer.
> UM got up 22-11 on a Jack McClinton jumper with 7:16 left, but the next four offensive possessions weren't pretty. McClinton went 0-for-3 and drew an offensive foul for an elbow. So. Miss, meanwhile, ran off eight straight points and hit back-to-back three-pointers to get right back into the game.
> UM is 2-of-10 from three-point range and is just making some bad decisions right now on shot selection. They are punching the ball inside against a team that doesn't have much size. Dwayne Collins layup with 3:49 to go put UM up 24-20 and was the first basket in the paint since Asbury's layup with 10:21 left.
> It was a sluggish at-best first half until UM closed out the final two minutes with a 10-run. Lance Hurdle got a nice bounce on the final shot of the half as time was expiring, sinking a three-pointer from about 26 feet out.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS...
> Jeremy Wise had a tough first half, shooting 2 of 10 from the field, but he got Southern Miss going at the start of the first half as the Golden Eagles turned a 12-point deficit to six early with some hoops. Miami gave up 8 offensive boards in the first half and has to do a better job shutting down those second chances in the second half it wants to move on in this tournament.
> Canes are starting to put their stamp on this game with defense. Just about every point Southern Miss has gotten today has required second and third efforts.
> Dwayne Collins has continued to play well after his strong 18-point, 16-rebound opener. He's making plays on both ends of the floor. He's leading UM with 13 points and six boards today. That's encouraging considering the challenge he'll face Sunday if the Canes draw UConn.
> The Canes look they are pulling away in this one. Jimmy Graham's fast break dunk with 5:20 left made it 61-47. The big news: Jack McClinton's streak of 44 consecutive made free throws was snapped when he finally missed one with 5:35 left to play.