Miami rallies to defeat Wolfpack

The Miami HeraldMarch 8, 2009 

— N.C. State had Miami in a nine-point first-half hole and Jack McClinton under a firm grip.

The ACC's leading 3-point shooter was putting up airballs, running into teammates and stinking it up on senior day. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, McClinton found a place where no player in a red uniform could guard him: the free-throw line.

McClinton's perfect 16-for-16 performance from the line ultimately lifted the Hurricanes to a 72-64 comeback victory in front of 5,027 at BankUnited Center.

"My shot wasn't falling today, so I had to find other ways to help us," said McClinton, who scored a game-high 24 points despite shooting 3-for-15 from the field.

"I think I was just pressing a little bit too much early on. I felt like I could drive the ball, but I was playing too cool. I wasn't being efficient. I'm just happy we got the win."

The Wolfpack (16-13, 6-10) is out of NCAA Tournament contention -- barring winning next week's ACC Tournament -- after blowing a 30-21 halftime lead and then missing 12 consecutive shots during a 12-minute stretch in the second half.

State enters the tournament in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta seeded 10th and will play at 7 p.m. Thursday. Miami (18-11, 7-9) will be seeded seventh, eighth or ninth.

"We just couldn't score," State coach Sidney Lowe said. "We were going inside, and we couldn't make anything. Between the guys we really count on [center Ben McCauley and forward Tracy Smith], we were a combined 4-for-15. They normally score better than that. They normally pick up the slack.

"It was just one of those games where they didn't."

Held to its fewest first-half points of the season, Miami opened the second on 10-0 run thanks to a series of steals and fast-break dunks by seniors Brian Asbury, Lance Hurdle and Jimmy Graham and McClinton's only 3-pointer of the game.

"We came out lazy," forward Dennis Horner said. "We threw lazy passes and didn't get stops when we needed to, and they capitalized. Getting off to a good start in the second half played a huge role for them. It was a huge momentum swing."

Still, State was able to wrestle the lead and the momentum back. But after Horner scored with 13:22 left to give the Wolfpack a 42-36 lead, it didn't make another field goal until former point guard Javier Gonzalez (19 points) hit a 3-pointer with one minute left. By then, Miami was up 63-56.

Asbury -- who became the school's all-time leader in games played -- and Hurdle scored 13 points each for the Hurricanes, who shot a mere 35.7 percent for the game but finished 25-for-34 from the free-throw line.

Lowe is hoping his team can find a way to end its season strong. Two years ago, State was seeded 10th heading into the ACC Tournament and reached the finals before losing to North Carolina.

"I feel good about where we are," Lowe said. "We're certainly playing better than we were earlier in the year. The area of concern is defense, but I think we've gotten better the last two games.

"Coming out better at the start of the second half is important for us. They have to understand it's a game of runs. That's where we have to mature and learn and try to our establish ourselves in the second half."

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