Jack McClinton is a big reason for rejuvenating Miami’s basketball program, but he was left apologizing after his performance in the team’s last game.
McClinton and the No. 21 Hurricanes visit Kentucky on Saturday, looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss the last time out.
Miami (4-2) started the season ranked for the first time in nine years, in large part due to McClinton, who was the first Hurricane to make the All-ACC first team in 2007-08.
McClinton averaged 17.7 points as a junior, but has struggled to be as consistent this season. He came into the Hurricanes’ last game averaging 15.8 points on 40.3 percent shooting and was held to 12 in Miami’s 73-68 loss to Ohio State on Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. McClinton played just eight minutes before he was ejected after taking a swipe with the palm of his hand at an opposing player, brushing his face.
“That was definitely not me,” McClinton said Thursday after Miami announced he had been cleared to play against Kentucky. “I am not that type of person. I would never do anything to put myself or my team in jeopardy. It was a bad reaction on my part. You have to stay composed. The best ones do that.”
Without their leading scorer against the Buckeyes, the Hurricanes unraveled, blowing a 15-point lead.
“I know Jack feels really bad about what happened,” coach Frank Haith said. “He handled it with his teammates, and he knows his actions hurt us.”
While Miami is looking to bounce back and put the loss to Ohio State behind it, the Wildcats (5-2) are trying to continue their improved play after a slow start.
Kentucky started the season with losses to Virginia Military and top-ranked North Carolina, but has reeled off five straight wins by an average of 23.6 points and is coming off a 103-61 victory over Lamar on Wednesday.
The Wildcats shot 64.4 percent from the field—the second time in three games they have shot better than 60 percent—while holding the Cardinals to 33.8 percent shooting. Patrick Patterson scored a career-high 31 points on 11-of-12 shooting, and Jodie Meeks added 19 and six assists.
Freshman guard DeAndre Liggins, who clashed with coach Billy Gillispie after refusing to enter the game against Kansas State the previous week, finished with season highs of 16 points and seven rebounds.
“He plays better every time,” starting forward Perry Stevenson said. “DeAndre will be a special player.”
As the Wildcats look for just their third win over a ranked opponent in the last 18 tries, they hope to have Ramon Harris back after he was wheeled off the floor on a stretcher when he collided with teammate Michael Porter in the victory over Lamar. Harris, who is averaging 8.7 points, spent the night in the hospital but was released Thursday and is considered day-to-day.
Kentucky has won all three meetings against Miami, including a 60-57 victory in the most recent game in 2000.