Miami got off to a surprising start last season before stumbling down the stretch.
Coming off their first loss, the No. 22 Hurricanes will try to bounce back quickly and avoid another slide Monday when they take on San Diego in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Miami (2-1) won its first 12 games last season, but finished 23-11 - still a surprising result after going 12-20 in 2006-07. The Hurricanes came into 2007-08 with high expectations after receiving its first preseason ranking in nine years, and responded with back-to-back wins to open the season, winning by an average of 23 points.
After holding each of its first two opponents to exactly 60 points, including Southern Mississippi in the first round of this tournament, Miami struggled in a 76-63 loss to No. 2 Connecticut on Sunday. Jack McClinton scored a season-high 27 points and Dwayne Collins added 16 and 14 rebounds, but Miami trailed the entire game and shot a season-low 35.3 percent.
“They played hard,” coach Frank Haith said. “They played extremely hard.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, McClinton was outstanding. He came in averaging 15.5 points and shooting 41.7 percent but was 10-of-23 from the field Sunday, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
McClinton was the top returning scorer from a team that brought back the majority of its offense from last season. He averaged 17.7 points last season.
On Monday, the Hurricanes will face a pesky San Diego (2-2) team, which advanced to the semifinals following a 73-66 win over Valparaiso on Friday, but lost 64-49 to No. 25 Wisconsin on Sunday in a game much closer than the final score.
Brandon Johnson had 19 points, going 5-of-8 from 3-point range, and Gyno Pomare added 10. Johnson is leading San Diego with 15.0 points per game.
The Toreros made several runs at Wisconsin, which led the entire half, but couldn’t get closer than seven in the final five minutes. They shot 34.5 percent for the game and were outscored at the free-throw line 17-6.
“I thought we did some good things defensively in stretches, but offensively we were careless with the ball and had too many turnovers,” coach Bill Grier said. “And we didn’t shoot the ball well. … Hopefully our team can learn from the way (the Badgers) play.”
This is the first meeting between the teams. The Toreros came into Sunday’s game having won three of their last four games against Top 25 opponents. Miami has won 16 of its last 17 against unranked, non-conference opponents, including four straight by an average of 21.5 points.