Miami has bounced back nicely so far after a dismal 2006-07 season.
The 19th-ranked Hurricanes will try to keep their perfect record intact on Saturday when they face Winthrop in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla.
Miami (12-0) is just two wins shy of the best start in school history, set in 2001-02. Sunday’s 95-64 win over North Carolina A&T gave the Hurricanes the same number of wins they had all of last season.
Miami is one of just two teams in the top 25, along with No. 25 Rhode Island, that did not play in the postseason in 2006-07.
“We just want to win games,” coach Frank Haith said. “We only won 12 ball games last year. I don’t care how we get them.”
Jack McClinton leads the Hurricanes with 14.4 points per game and had 17 in the win over the Aggies. He is averaging 17.8 points over his last four games.
Miami shot a season-best 58 percent from the field.
“I think we’ve improved especially from last year in our second-half performances,” McClinton said. “Every day we’re working hard in practice just trying to get better. Guys are staying after practice and coming in early. Guys are staying after for extra shooting. So we are really maturing and getting better for when we step onto the court.”
James Dews and Raymond Hicks each scored 16 points for the Hurricanes, who opened the game on a 17-0 run. Hicks, who came off the bench and matched his career high in scoring, is averaging 13.7 points in his last three games after scoring just 3.0 points per game in his first nine.
“He’s started two games prior to this. I think he got a little confidence,” Haith said of Hicks. “I like bringing him off the bench because he’s an energy guy.”
Miami is allowing just 58.8 points per game, the best mark in the ACC, and are defeating its opponents by an average of 18.3 points. Last season, the Hurricanes ranked second-to-last in the conference with 72.9 points yielded per contest.
“I am proud of how our kids stayed focused and attacked the game,” Haith said. “They were really focused practice-wise and it showed.”
Winthrop (6-5), meanwhile, ranks second-to-last in the Big South with just 66.1 points per game. The Eagles have dropped five of eight, but are coming off a 62-59 win over Old Dominion on Dec. 21.
Winthrop, which starts four seniors, beat Georgia Tech 79-73 on Nov. 18 in its only other game this season against an ACC opponent.
“When we get back, we have to get ready for a Winthrop team that’s already beaten Georgia Tech and beat an Old Dominion team that beat Virginia Tech,” Haith said. “I anticipate a great challenge after Christmas.”
Taj McCullough scored 14 points against the Monarchs and is tied with Michael Jenkins for the team lead with 14.5 points per game.
Miami is 2-1 all-time against Winthrop and won 81-56 in the last meeting on Dec. 16, 1995.
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