It was Miami’s less-publicized and soap opera-free Monday night game, but it was not devoid of drama.
With the scandal-plagued Dolphins playing across the state at Tampa Bay, the University of Miami went to overtime for the second time in four nights. This time, the Hurricanes managed to escape, 81-80 over Georgia Southern.
Freshman guard Manu Lecomte sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds to go in overtime to seal the win. The Belgian newcomer made two other critical plays down the stretch — a three-pointer to open overtime and a late-game layup off a steal that brought the UM bench and the BankUnited Center crowd to its feet.
With 26 seconds to go in regulation and the score tied at 65, Lecomte stole an inbounds pass from Tre Bussey, raced up the sideline and dumped in a layup to give the Canes the lead with 22 seconds left.
“Manu’s steal was absolutely huge,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “He anticipated that play, took a risk and made the bucket.”
But Eagles junior guard Jelani Hewitt, a Northeast High grad from Miramar, wasn’t ready to go back to Georgia just yet. He made two free throws with six seconds to go to force overtime, and with the overtime clock expiring, he heaved a 30-foot shot that clanked off the rim.
Hewitt was playing back home for the first time in his collegiate career and made it a memorable homecoming. He led the Eagles with 27 points, much to the delight of his spirited rooting section.
“It would have been a great storybook ending if he’d have made it,” said Eagles coach Mark Byington. . “He was so excited for this game, had a huge smile from the moment we boarded the plane at 4 a.m. two days ago.”
Hewitt scored a team-high 25 points in their 110-74 season-opening win over Columbia International.
“I talked to my dad before the game, and he told me to be calm, not be overexcited,” Hewitt said. “I felt like that last shot was going in. It looked good, good arc, but didn’t fall in.”
Donnavan Kirk led UM with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Rion Brown added 15 points and Lecomte 12.
The Canes were coming off an overtime loss to St. Francis in their season opener. For much of the first half, it looked like another night to forget. UM missed 10 of its first 11 shots, Georgia Southern made five of its first eight three-point attempts, and the Eagles led the Canes 19-10 midway through the first half.
UM pulled ahead 35-32 at the half with an 11-2 run, and went up by 10 with 8:52 to go. Hewitt made a pair of threes to give the Eagles a 65-60 lead with 2:44 to go, but Davon Reed and Kirk scored the next five points to tie it up.
Marvin Baynham (Miami Norland) led Georgia Southern with six rebounds.
The Hurricanes are back home Thursday night at 7 against Texas Southern.