No. 16 Canes ready to play at Paradise Jam

FASTBREAK: Junior guard James Dews takes the ball to the hoop in a game against Florida Southern earlier this season. STEPHANIE WEHRUNG // Hurricane Staff

With the No. 16 Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team recording their first win of the season last Saturday, the Canes will now travel to the luxurious Virgin Islands to participate in the Paradise Jam.

The tournament field also features No. 2 Connecticut, No. 22 Wisconsin, San Diego, Valparaiso, La Salle, Iona and Southern Miss.

The good news for Miami is that the last time they played in the Paradise Jam, in 2001, they ended up winning the tournament, defeating Clemson in the championship game.

Tomorrow, Miami’s first opponent will be Southern Miss, a team that went 19-14 last season. If the Hurricanes advance, they potentially could see No. 2 Connecticut in the second round.

However, head coach Frank Haith knows his team cannot overlook Southern Miss and must remain focused on their first opponent.

“We can’t do that,” Haith said. “We are worried about Southern Miss. We understand Southern Miss is a good ball team. You cannot look ahead.”

Last November, Miami won the Puerto Rico Tip Off title knocking off Marist, VCU and, in the championship game, Providence. John R. Wooden Award candidate Jack McClinton was named to the all-tournament team.

In in-season tournaments, McClinton has averaged close to 19 points per game and has shot .550 from beyond the arc. The Canes need McClinton to do the same if they want to win the Paradise Jam title.

In the season opener, the Hurricanes ripped apart Florida Southern, 96-60. Sophomore guard Eddie Rios carried the backcourt with 17 points, and, in the frontcourt, junior forward Dwayne Collins beasted his way to 18 points and a career high 16 rebounds. Collins has his sights on becoming a better basketball player this season, starting with practice.

“It starts at practice,” Collins said. “I’m going to go hard everyday. Last year I took days off at practice. But I’m ready this year. I’m thinking about going out there and getting this win.”

Southern Miss will be led by junior guard Jeremy Wise, who scored 23 points for the Golden Eagles in their opener. Haith knows that Wise must be contained.

“Wise is really good,” Haith said. “He will probably be one of the best guards we will see all year. Southern Miss is going to play hard. The key is they have a coach that knows how to win.”

If all goes according to plan, the Hurricanes could match up with old Big East foe No. 2 Connecticut.

The last time the Hurricanes played Connecticut was in 2004, when the Huskies defeated the Canes 76-63. The year before, the Hurricanes pulled off an improbable comeback in the final four seconds, winning the game 77-76.

Then again, Miami must get pass Southern Miss before Haith’s first meeting with UConn.

“We are taking one game at a time,” junior guard James Dews said. “Like Coach Haith said, we are worried about Southern Miss. It’s really exciting to play in this tournament.”

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