Miami (15-4, 1-4) will enter tomorrow night's game at Comcast Center riding a three-game losing streak. The Hurricanes fell at Virginia Tech by 15 and at Virginia by 18 before falling at home to Boston College by four last Tuesday. But the Hurricanes will have had a full week off to try to recover and make a few adjustments.
"We had a tough stretch," sixth-year Coach Frank Haith said Friday in a phone interview. "We started three out of our first four ACC games on the road. It was almost like boom everything was jammed in, so yeah, I guess it's good to have some time to just practice and get our minds back right."
Last season, the Hurricanes could rely on the three-point marksmanship of Jack McClinton to provide abundant offensive production on a nightly basis and bail them out of jams in necessary. But with McClinton now gone, Haith said his team has tried to take on a more inside-out identity.
Miami has shot three-pointers at a slower clip this season, but that's not to say the Hurricanes have been completely successful in their transformation. At times, Haith said, Miami reverts back to its old habits, and that does not always produce ideal results.
"Obviously we can shoot the ball, but in order for us to have success we've got to have good play out of Dwayne Collins and Reggie Johnson," Haith said. "Both those guys are very capable scorers in the paint, particularly Dwayne. We cannot just fall in love with the three-point shot and not probe the paint area. I think in the Boston College game we went away from that a little bit in the second half, and that's what cost us at the end of the game."
Johnson, a redshirt fresman center who is listed at 6-foot-10, 295 lbs., has made his way into the starting lineup and had a breakout game of sorts against Boston College. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds against the Eagles. Johnson has dealt with weight issues, but Haith said Johnson can move around quite well for a guy his size.
"When we signed him he needed to lose some weight, but his skill set was really good," Haith said. "He's got decent touch around the basket, plus he can make his free throws. He's got good footwork, good hands. And he's got great size. He's 6-10, and everybody puts him at 290, but I see that scale everyday; he's over 300 pounds. He's not quite 290, where we want him to be, but his mobility is good for a guy his size. His development has come along fine, and I think his best basketball is ahead of him."
Collins, a 6-foot-8, 241-lb. senior forward, has become the centerpiece* of Miami's offense. After pulling his name out of the NBA draft last spring, Collins has averaged 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game this season. He has tallied 20 blocks and is shooting 60.1 percent from the field.
* Haith noted that Collins continues to experience "soreness" from an upper back/neck injury suffered earlier this season. Collins has continued to play in games and in practice, and he is expected to play Tuesday night against Maryland.
"I think he's been more consistent than he has been in his career," Haith said. "Obviously, we've had a couple of games where his production wasn't where it needed to be, but I think Dwayne's consistency has been the best it has been in his career. And we need that. For us to win games in this league, we need production out of Dwayne Collins and James Dews consistently every night."
Dews, a 6-foot-4, 213-lb. senior guard, always has been known as a quality perimeter defender. This season, Dews has developed into more of an offensive presence, by necessity, for the Hurricanes. He is averaging 12.2 points per game and is shooting 48.9 percent from the field. He also is shooting 41.8 percent from three-point range.
But since ACC play began, Dews's shooting percentages have dropped off significantly, and that has Haith a bit concerned. In conference games, Dews is shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc.
"He was shooting the ball extremely well earlier in the year, and since we've gotten into ACC play, and I think that's been part of our struggles, his offensive production hasn't been what it was in the non-conference season," Haith said. "I think people are paying closer attention to him, but we need his production to pick up a little bit more in ACC play from an offensive standpoint. He'll do all the other things very well. He'll defend, he'll track loose balls, he'll execute very well and he won't turn the ball over. But offensively we do need a little bit more production out of him."
Another issue for Miami has been deciding who the team wants to run the point. Redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Grant (6-foot-1, 191 lbs.) offers more of a scoring touch, but freshman guard Durand Scott (6-foot-3, 195 lbs.) offers more size and physicality. Scott, who has played through a left ankle injury, is the likely starter against Maryland, though Haith said there may come a time this season when the Hurricanes elect to play them both in the backcourt at the same time.
Scott is averaging 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.0 percent from the field. He owns a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio and has tallied 23 steals. Grant is averaging 10.5 points per game, while shooting 42.0 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range. Grant owns a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"I think the thing is going into every game, they're both going to play starter minutes, so it doesn't matter who gets their name called out," Haith said. "There may be some times during the year where we play them both together starting. I don't know how that plays out, and that's one of the things we've got to continue to figure out: What's the best rotation for our team? We haven't quite figured that out yet on the perimeter."
Rounding out Miami's starting five is senior forward Adrian Thomas (6-foot-7, 229 lbs.), who possesses the size to bang inside, yet prefers to take most of his shots on the perimeter. He is averaging 7.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from three-point range.
And then there is this stat: Of the 113 shots Thomas has taken this season, 100 were fired beyond the three-point line. The guy has shot just eight free throws (eight!) all season. Wow.
"When we signed Adrian when we first got here he was not a shooter, and he turned himself into a shooter," Haith said. "He was just an athletic wing. But he's really bought into the time in the gym, and he's become a terrific shooter. At times when he gets on a roll he's pretty lethal."
Senior forward Cyrus McGowan (6-foot-9, 237 lbs.) and freshman guard Garrius Adams (6-foot-6, 193 lbs.) -- along with either Grant or Scott -- are Miami's primary reserves. McGowan is averaging 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 56.6 percent from the field. He also has tallied 20 blocks. Adams is averaging 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
The Hurricanes also will bring in sophomore forward DeQuan Jones (6-foot-6, 219 lbs.) to provide some added depth. Jones is averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
As a team, Miami is shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 37.9 percent from three-point range and 63.5 percent from the free throw line. The Hurricanes own a +6.6 rebounding margin and a +0.1 turnover margin. They average 14.4 turnovers per game.
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