ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- It's the final night of the Paradise Jam (and my little vacation). Frank Haith's Canes, who dropped to No. 22 in the AP poll after their Sunday night loss to No. 2 UConn, are trying to close out the tournament with a 3-1 overall record.
So far, I've been impressed the most early in the season by Dwayne Collins, who really has come into his own as the legit No. 2 scoring option on this team. Sunday, he couldn't control Hasheem Thabeet (who really can, much less when you are giving up 7 inches and 20 pounds). But Collins impressed me yet again with his development in the post. He wasn't scared. He wanted the ball and called for it several times before muscling his way inside for dunks, short hooks and more. He also did a real nice job drawing a few charges in the lane -- even though a few weren't called. At the least in the early going, you can say Collins looks like the player Frank Haith has longed to see. And he's not just doing once every few games. Jim Calhoun said last night Collins was a guy he feared coming in and said Miami has "a gem" in Collins.
Now, Miami needs to see who option No. 3 develops to be. Even if its a different guy on each night, somebody -- either James Dews, Cyrus McGowan, Lance Hurdle, DeQuan Jones or Brian Asbury -- has to step up and be that guy. Miami lost last night against a very, very good team because it didn't have that third option. You need one to win games against the UConns, Dukes, North Carolinas and the rest of the elite in college basketball. But it's good to feel like at least, Miami doesn't just have that one guy wearing No. 33 anymore to rely on by himself.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
> Almost on cue, Dwayne Collins gets rolling to start the game. First, he converted a three-point play (with a basket and a foul) to put UM up 5-0. The next time down the floor, he put a nice post move on Gyno Pomare to give UM a 7-2 lead. On the opposite end, he then deflected a ball which led to a Rios steal and layup. Now, he'll be at the free throw line with UM leading 11-8 with 14:30 left. I forgot to mention, Collins leads the ACC in rebounds after two weeks with 13 a game.
> This is what UM can play like when the opposing team doesn't have a 7-foot, 3-inch center. The Canes are owning the post right now against San Diego, who stacks up pretty evenly size-wise with Miami. Jimmy Graham, Julian Gamble and Collins are patrolling the middle and forcing the Toreros to score everything from the perimeter. Miami has gone on a 7-0 run since the last time out. Graham started with a rebound on a missed free throw and stick back. Lance Hurdle then drilled a three before Brian Asbury scored on an easy layup on a beautiful pass from Gamble.
> Miami had built its biggest lead of the game at 32-22 on a Cyrus McGowan three-pointer with 4:57 left in the half, but the Toreros have answered with back-to-back three-pointers by Brandon Johnson and Chris Lewis to pull within 32-28 with 3:20 left. McGowan has done a nice job on the offensive end. But there are times when he gets lost on screens and its allowed the Torerors to capitalize.
> Brian Asbury has scored six straight points -- four from the free throw line -- to give Miami its 10-point lead back with 1:12 left in the first half.
> FYI, look for Sunday's home game against Stetson -- schedule for 1 p.m. -- to be switched to a later start time with the football Canes scheduled to take on N.C. State at Noon.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS/THOUGHTS...
> The Toreros came out of the break on a quick 5-1 run, but Miami has responded with a pair of Jimmy Graham layups to make it 44-35 with 15:32 left. Julian Gamble came in after Dwayne Collins picked up his third foul with 17:22 left and made a nice play to jump in front of a pass and setup a fastbreak which led to a foul. Gamble, who was redshirted last year, has made two nice plays since he's been in the game (albeit briefly). He had that nice assist to Brian Asbury earlier.
> Maybe this stat will show you just how much better I think this UM team is. With 13:21 left, Jack McClinton has yet to hit a field goal (0-for-4) and has four points (all from the line) and the Canes lead 47-35. Last year, Miami would be down 12 if that was the case. This San Diego team by the way is the same team that knocked off UConn in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Their losses have to come to UNLV and No. 25 Wisconsin.
> It's now been a 14-0 UM run since Gyno Pomare scored San Diego's last basket with 17:53 left.