Just one year ago, the Hurricane women’s basketball program sat at the bottom of the ACC, and though the team had plenty of potential, it hadn’t yet found its way onto the court.
After defeating Georgia Tech (21-9, 9-5 ACC) on Sunday afternoon, the Canes completed the first part of their incredible turnaround.
Riquna Williams exploded with 32 points and Selina Archer contributed 8 points and four rebounds off the bench as Miami (26-3, 12-2 ACC) took down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 70-59. The win gives the Canes at least a share of first place in the ACC, and if Duke loses at home to North Carolina, Miami would have first place to themselves.
“We don’t care, we won this thing,” said head coach Katie Meier after the game. “Whether we’re tied or by ourselves, we’re worst to first.”
In the final game to be played inside of Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum, both teams kept it close throughout the first half. After Miami opened the game with a 16-8 lead, Georgia Tech closed the gap with 9 straight points and the teams exchanged leads five times over the rest of the half. Miami ended the half up just one, leading 30-29.
Williams led the way in the first half with 13 points, but the real story of the half was Shenise Johnson’s struggles. Johnson, who has made a case for ACC Player of the Year considerations, got herself into foul trouble early, picking up two with more than 10 minutes left. She was held to two points and only played nine minutes in the first half.
Enter Selina Archer. In taking over for Johnson, Archer scored six of her eight points in the first half and kept the game in check for the Hurricanes.
“I love how all season people have just looked at Miami as a two-person team when we are so much more than that,” Meier said.
After halftime, the Canes came out of the gates on a 12-3 run, which included 8 points by Williams, and Miami gained a 10-point lead with 10:45 left in the game. Johnson scored nine in the second half to give her 11 points total on the afternoon.
“When she gets hot, no one can guard this young lady,” said Johnson of Williams. “I keep saying it, no one in the country can guard Riquna Williams. I love having her on my team. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else in the country.”
The Yellow Jackets were led by Tyaunna Marshall’s 15 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Montgomery had 13 points for Georgia Tech.
“Georgia Tech is the toughest team in the league,” Meier said. “They’re as tough as nails. No one was going to give us anything. We had to go and get it.”
With this win in the bag, Miami will now begin preparing for the ACC tournament, which starts on Thursday afternoon. The Canes have already earned a bye in the first round, so the earliest they will play is 11 a.m. Friday.
Although Miami has already accomplished a lot by going worst-to-first in the ACC, don’t expect them to slow down just yet. This is a team on a mission, and coach Meier and her squad won’t be satisfied until they are at the top.
“I love this team and I love just how versatile we are,” she said. “Miami, we’re bringing you home a championship.”
Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.