National Invitation Tournament Second Round Recap - Miami 81, Missouri State 72

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Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and for college basketball teams, they arrive primarily in the month of March. Given a supreme prize package by the NIT’s Selection Committee, the Miami Hurricanes are making the most of their great and good fortune.

Second-seeded Miami pulled away from No. 3 seed Missouri State in the subregional second round of the NIT tournament at the Hurricanes’ BankUnited Center. Miami trailed 32-26 at the half, but was sparked by senior forward Adrian Thomas’s 16 second half points to extend its season. The Hurricanes will play No. 1 seed Alabama this upcoming Wednesday night for a trip to the NIT semifinals in New York.

Miami hit 50 percent of its shots from the field in the game, led by guard Durand Scott with 20 points, Malcolm Grant with 10 points, and center Reggie Johnson with nine points and nine rebounds for the game. All 16 of Thomas’s points came after the break.

What is the gift that’s been given to coach Frank Haith’s UM outfit? Very simply, Miami – though finishing ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and falling far short of where it wanted to be when this season started – was given entry into the NIT in the first place. Much more than that, however, Miami – which finished two slots below Maryland in the ACC standings (Maryland finished seventh) – watched on the night of Selection Sunday as the NIT didn’t even allow Maryland into the 32-team tournament field. Truly, Miami’s presence in the NIT was a somewhat improbable occurrence… at least in light of the fact that Maryland got snubbed.

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The gift-giving theme doesn’t end there, either. Miami, despite its lower-rung finish in an ACC that was weak when compared to previous seasons, gained a No. 2 seed, which allowed the Canes to play their first two NIT games – including this one – on home hardwood. To Miami’s everlasting credit, it has made the most of all the opportunities it’s been given so far in the college basketball postseason.

Missouri State finished its season at 27-9. Adam Leonard led the Bears with 26 points, hitting 7 of 8 shots beyond the arc. Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Kyle Weems was held to 18 points in the loss. In the end, Missouri State was unable to respond to Thomas’s intensity in the second half, and could not unable to regain the lead despite pulling within six points, at 78-72, with under a minute remaining.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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