"There is a lot we have to work on to get this where we want it to be," said Haith. "I am very proud of the fact that we were able to make plays to win. I'll take an ugly win over a good loss any day of the week "
Miami trailed throughout most of the game, but found a way to steal one from a tough Morgan State squad. Morgan State was led by Marquise Kelly's 19 points and Jamar Smith's 17. Smith and his coach Todd Bozeman got into an argument at the end of the first half in which Bozeman grabbed Smith by his neck and jersey. Bozeman had to be restrained by an assistant coach and they continued their argument on the way to the locker room at half time. Apparently they reconciled as Smith came out and played an excellent second half scoring 10 points.
"Morgan State is a scrappy team and one of the better if not the best team in their league," said Haith. "They have 4 starters back from last year. We knew it would be a hard fought game."
Dwayne Collins had 8 points and 7 rebounds as his playing time increased due to Jimmy Graham spending a lot of time on the bench due to foul trouble. James Dews and Lance Hurdle played shooting guard today because of McClinton's injury. Dews had 10 points and Lance Hurdle finished with 8 points. Eddie Rios had 5 points and 4 assists in 36 minutes. The freshman struggled shooting the ball going 2 for 10 from the field. He ran the team well and played very good defense. He was an excellent shooters and scorer in high school so it should be a matter of time before he starts hitting more shots.
"We needed some young guys to step up, said Haith. "Eddie managed the game very well. He didn't shot the ball well. He has to shoot the ball better but I was very pleased with how he ran the team. Eddie is a tough kid the more court time he gets the better he is going to be. We are very fortunate to have Eddie."
The Canes struggled offensively in the first half. Miami was held to 26 points on 35.7 percent shooting. They were out of sync and relied on four three pointers to keep them in the game. Miami was not able to establish their post game and struggled from the line going 2 for 7 from the stripe. Morgan State was led by Marquise Kately's fourteen points and took a 28-26 lead into the half.
Miami continued to struggle in the 2nd half. The Canes went 6-14 from the line in the second half and had a hard time scoring points. Miami battled through their offensive woes and James Dews 7 second half points gave Miami a chance to win it at the end. The Canes' defense held Morgan State without a basket the last four minutes and fifty five seconds of the game. Miami capitalized on their stifling defense to go on the 9-0 run that won them the game.
"This was a trap game. They are good team but they don't have big time name," said Haith. "They are well coached and play hard. They are very experienced. They took it to us. We had to find a way to gut it out. I am very ecstatic with this win."
The story of the game was Miami's defense, which held Morgan State to 51 points. The Canes have played excellent defense all season and continued their excellent play today. Miami had 7 steals, 3 blocked shots, and forced 14 turnovers. The Canes proved their defense is good enough to win them a game when the offense is not working.
"We have hung our hat on our defense," said Haith. "We have talked about and worked on being a sound defensive team. When our offense and other things are not going our way our defense is what needs to keep us in games."
The concern about the game was Miami's terrible performance at the free throw line and on the glass. Miami went 8 for 21 on free throws in a game that they desperately needed every point they could get. The Canes got rebounded 47 to 34 and allowed Morgan State 16 offensive rebounds. Those numbers are unacceptable and will need to be improved if Miami is going to beat some of the tougher teams on their schedule.
"Obviously it was a hard fought game," Said Haith. "We missed a lot of free throw and our rebounding was not very good. If we rebound the basketball and make our free throws I feel it is a 10 to 12 point victory.
Jack McClinton missed the game with a sprained thump. Miami's leading scorer has a cast on his left arm and will probably miss the next game. The cast will be removed in 7-10 days and the doctors will evaluate whether McClinton is ready to come back.
The Canes' next game is Wednesday November 28 against Alabama State at 7:30 in the Bank United Center.