Miami’s first loss of the young basketball season was accompanied by disappointment as well as some silver linings for the future, but, most importantly, the 92-76 road defeat to No. 3 Tennessee did one thing for the Canes.
“We got a great lesson here,” said Shenise Johnson, who fell one rebound short of notching her second double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points in a team-high 38 minutes.
Johnson and her teammates had come to Knoxville with the ambitious goal of knocking off Tennessee, and the first half showed a lot of promise.
The Canes displayed an extraordinary offensive performance early on, shooting 60 percent from the field, even though starters Morgan Stroman and Sylvia Bullock were out due to foul trouble. Tennessee wasn’t far behind with 50 percent shooting, as both teams came out swinging in a fast-paced showdown.
Sttrong play from senior guard Riquna Williams enabled the Canes to hang around and go toe to toe with Pat Summit’s Lady Volunteers. Williams ended the game with a team-high 24 points and tied the game up at 42 apiece when she was fouled on a wild runner with 3.5 seconds left in the first half.
But while Miami went on a 13-6 run before the break and out-rebounded Tennessee 28-15, the second half was marked by costly turnovers for the Canes.
“When you have a weakness or you do something wrong against a great team like Tennessee, they … burn you for it and they did,” head coach Katie Meier said.
Just seven minutes into the second half, the Canes had accumulated 18 turnovers. Tennessee took advantage of the Miami miscues, many of which were unforced, and was up by as much as 16 with roughly 13 minutes to go in the contest.
Meier’s Canes upped the intensity by switching to the press and were able to cut the deficit to five when Johnson banked a two-pointer home.
But shortly thereafter, Tennessee guard Taber Spani would stop the bleeding for the Lady Volunteers with a big three pointer as the shot clock wound down. The timely shot ignited Tennessee, and they pulled away for good.
The disappointment after the loss was apparent, but Meier was also able to take away some positives.
“I mean, we’re not crushed,” she said. “Nobody comes to Tennessee and nearly out-rebounds them. They’re the best rebounding team in the history of women’s basketball. That’s what they do. So I’ll take that. I thought [Shawnice Wilson and Maria Brown] did a fantastic job in the first half. I learned some really good things about my team.”
The Canes will try to get back to their winning ways when they return to the BankUnited Center on Thursday night to take on Prairie View A&M.