The women’s basketball team (17-4, 6-4 in the Big East) bounced back from its three-game dry spell, defeating St. John’s (9-13, 3-8) 85-74 Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.
The Hurricanes were coming off back-to-back-to-back losses against Notre Dame, Rutgers, and UConn, which dropped them out of the Top 25 in the AP Poll. They entered the game Tuesday at No. 23 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll and eighth in the Big East.
UM leads the all-time series with the Red Storm 18-6 and has won the last eight meetings, including a 79-60 win in Jamaica, N.Y., on Jan. 4 of this year. The ‘Canes did not have their best stuff in reaching the 11-point win margin, but were happy to escape with a victory.
“I think we played hard,” sophomore leading-scorer Tamara James said. “We shot well from the free throw line, but not as well as I thought we would shoot. We came out and played hard cause we needed to win and despite the turnovers and the fouls, I think we showed up.”
The ‘Canes shot 48.3 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from three-point range, and 78.1 percent from the line. They held St. John’s to 32.8 percent in total field goals, including 23.1 percent of three-pointers. However, they struggled with a whopping 25 personal fouls, 31 turnovers, and a mere 17 offensive rebounds. James and senior Shaquana Wilkins each had 16 points, and Wilkins added a team-high seven total rebounds. Junior Yalonda McCormick had six steals. Senior Chanivia Broussard went seven-for-seven from the line and added three blocks on the night. Junior Fallon Phanord enjoyed her first career start, while sophomore Tatjana Marincic was also able to play some quality minutes.
The first half started with a James lay-up as the ‘Canes pulled ahead early on. They began to lose the lead, however, in the middle of the half when St. John’s closed in. After two free throws from St. Johns’ Kati Kurtosi, the Red Storm had the score tied with five minutes remaining, but Miami awakened once again, gaining a 38-31 lead going into halftime.
UM picked up the pace and shot ahead 57-40 early in the second half. The ‘Canes held a 24-point lead with just under 10 minutes remaining, but couldn’t hold onto it. The Red Storm came alive in the final minutes, providing a few scares, but the Hurricanes kept St. John’s momentum down at the very end and finished their opponents off. There were 15 personal fouls in the second half alone for Miami.
“Obviously, 25 personal fouls is way too many in a ballgame, especially when you have a lead,” Head Coach Ferne Labati said. “We had a 24-point lead with 9:45 to go, and we lost the lead and didn’t score…We changed the combination of the lineup and told them they really had to work hard to maintain and increase the lead.”
James felt the shakiness of the game, but noted that a win was necessary.
“I don’t think we’re back on track because we still have to box out and rebound way better than we did,” she said. “[But] we played as a team tonight, and I think we’re satisfied with ourselves.”
The victory was sweet, indeed, but one is not nearly enough for the Hurricanes.
“That was a big drought but we had three tough games,” Wilkins said. “It feels good to beat [St. John’s], but that’s not the end. We have to win some more games to make a statement.”
Miami takes on Virginia Tech Saturday at 2 p.m. in Blacksburg.
“We’re one-and-one in the month of February and we’ve got to fight our way into the tournament,” Labati said. “February’s huge, and that’s important to us.
“I’m satisfied with the effort; we’re not satisfied with the focus yet. That’s the thing. A win at Virginia Tech would be huge. So, we’re looking forward to the trip up there.”
Melissa Teich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.