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UM returns from Memphis with lessons learned

The University of Miami men's basketball team got back to work Wednesday, less than 48 hours after dropping a 72-68 early morning heartbreaker at 19th-ranked Memphis. 

Malcolm Grant Coach Frank Haith said his team learned a few lessons, including the importance of hitting free throws late in the game and avoiding defensive breakdowns.

"I thought our kids played really really hard, learned a lot," Haith said. "Obviously we turned the ball over [18 times]. We had our chances to win the game there at the end. We were up [63-59] with [3:55] to go, had a couple turnovers and they converted. Then, we had a defensive breakdown. We had played great defense all game. I think they made 19 field goals [of 56 attempts]. Against our set defense, they only made nine field goals. The rest were off transition and easy buckets.

"Then, the only time we really had a major breakdown they hit it. Free throw shooting also hurt us late game. With all that said, if we make our free throws we're still able to win the game. All in all, great learning experience, great environment. Early in the year we want to play those type of games on the road against a Top 20 team. But I'm proud of our kids and how hard we fought and competed to give us a chance to win the game."

Point guard Malcolm Grant, who missed an off-balance game-tying three-point shot with three seconds left on UM's final possession, said he learned a lesson too. "I was trying to draw the foul at the end," Grant. "But I was told refs don't always make those calls at the end. So, I know from now on, shoot my regular shot instead of trying to draw a foul. But you learn from it. I missed the shot. I'll definitely remember that. It won't keep me down."

The Hurricanes (1-1) will get back on the court Friday at 7 p.m. when they host North Carolina Central (1-1) at BankUnited Center.

Haith said one thing he'd like to focus on over the next few weeks is getting Grant and Durand Scott fewer minutes in the first half and sophomore center Reggie Johnson more minutes overall. Grant is averaging 33.5 minutes a game -- up from the 24.6 he averaged a year ago. Scott is averaging 31.5 minutes -- up from 27.8.

"We haven't had a guy play those type of minutes before," Haith said. "We can give them some early rest so they aren't gassed in the end. We also have to keep Reggie in the game. Two games in a row, he's been saddled with two fouls early and only played [21] minutes [versus Memphis]. We need him to play more minutes."

Haith said N.C. Central, coming off a 7-22 season, will be "a very tough game." The Eagles, who return their top eight leading scorers, lost in overtime at Oklahoma Monday night. North Carolina Central, which is reclassifying from Division II to Division I college basketball, has a 41-game losing streak on the road.

"They're better than they were last year," Haith said. "Central is athletic, they'll change defenses. They played almost all zone against Oklahoma. In previous years, they've been a pressing team. I think we have to expect to play against both."