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19 February 2012

Miami tied with Duke atop ACC after win

In Miami’s second-to-last game at the BankUnited Center this season, the sixth-ranked Canes beat archrival Florida State 67-60 to extend their home winning streak to 39, the second-longest active streak in the nation.

Just as it has been so many times this season, it was the Canes’ senior guards Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams that stepped up when coach Katie Meier needed them most. They combined for 47 points with 23 and 24, respectively, to help Meier earn her 200th career victory as a coach.

Coming off their first ever win at North Carolina State, the Canes (24-3, 13-1 ACC) were fired up to play their nemesis for the second and final time this season. But Florida State (13-15, 5-9 ACC) was able to keep the game close throughout the first half by taking advantage of their length and size.

Forward Natasha Howard, who scored 13 points in the first half, gave the Canes all kinds of trouble and accounted for a big portion of the Seminoles’ 22 first-half points in the paint.

After Miami’s Shawnice “Pepper” Wilson picked up two fouls in the span of 10 seconds early on and was consequently restricted to just four minutes of play in the first half, the Canes struggled to defend Florida State’s bigger post players down low.

“We knew we were going to get exposed by Florida State,” Meier said. “Obviously, it was a little bit more of an exposure when Pepper couldn’t play many minutes at all and that really hurt us, because you could see down the stretch there when Pepper was in, our defensive schemes we were a lot more efficient and smart, and when she was out we struggled.”

After being held to a mediocre 40.6-percent shooting performance in the first half, Miami came out swinging in the second by going on an 8-2 run. Florida State hung tough for most of the second half, however, and even tied the game at 57 with 5:21 left in the contest.

Johnson and Williams took control of the game late, scoring the Canes’ final 10 points to secure the win.

Another notable result from this game: With No. 5 Duke losing to No. 7 Maryland, the Canes have climbed into a tie at the top of the ACC standings with the Blue Devils.

Miami travels to Durham, N.C. to play Duke in a showdown of conference juggernauts this Friday.