The 19th ranked University of Miami Basketball team was undefeated and sitting pretty at 12-0 and looking at the very real possibility of being 14-0 before entering ACC play in January. That was before suffering it's first loss of the season yesterday losing to Winthrop 76-70 in the Orange Bowl Holiday Basketball Tournament at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise.
Winthrop, which entered the game with a 6-5 record, was led by Tourney MVP Chris Gaynor (seen at left with MVP trophy), who tossed in 21 points and made five of six three point shots. The Eagles shot 57% in the second half and knocked down key three pointers and foul shots when it mattered.
The Canes had led 32-27 at the half before allowing the Eagles to go on a 14-0 run late in the game and open up the deficit the Canes could not recover from. Winthrop took the lead 42-40 at the 13 minute mark and never looked back. The Canes shot 42% in the second half, but could only manage 38 points to the Eagles 49.
Jack "McMoney" McClinton, who had seven turnovers including some late in the game, led the way with 30 points, followed by Anthony "I should be" King and James "I've paid my" Dews with 16 and 12 points respectively.
Surprisingly, it was the strength of the team, the Canes defense, that let them down in this game. The Canes had been playing "Tenacious D" all season long until they reached the uncharacteristic six minute span from the 17 to 11 minute mark in the second half of yesterday's contest. That lapse cost the Canes their undefeated record and likely their top 20 ranking. Coach Haith stated after the game that the Canes "relaxed" and lost the momentum that they could not recapture.
The Canes return to the hardwood on January 2, 2008 at 8 PM against Penn at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables. Despite their hot start this season, the Canes are only averaging a disappointing 2,400 in attendance at home so far in this year.
Head Coach Frank Haith finally has the weapons to compete in the tough ACC conference with a solid starting five and excellent role players coming off the bench. In his fourth year as Head Coach, he has restored Canes fan's "Faith in Haith" with the strong start to the 2007 season and his recent recruiting accomplishments. The Canes are hot after local five star point guard Kenny Boynton who could give the Canes a top talent going into 2009.
Haith has the Canes playing solid round ball, at times scoring in the 80's and leading the ACC in three point shots as well as in several defensive categories. The Canes recently broke the 90 point barrier in last week's game against North Carolina A&T, scoring 95 points against the Aggies.
Team leaders include McClinton, Anthony King, James Dews and freshman sensation Eddie "Ocho" Rios (pictured at left). Rios, who played his high school ball at Miami High, leads the team in assists and steals. King, who averages 9 points a game, is recognized for his defensive presence and leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots. McClinton is a dynamic scorer who leads the team in three point shots and scoring with 16 points a game, follwed by Dews at 12 PPG.
The Canes begin ACC play in January with games at home against Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Clemson, and road games against Boston College, NC State and Wake Forest. The Canes also have a home and home series with arch rival FSU. The Seminoles visit the BankUnited Center on February 6 and the Hurricanes travel to Tallahassee on March 8, 2008.