Hartlaub, Saake pace Lady ‘Canes

The University of Miami women’s basketball team hopes to call upon a mixture of youth and experience to improve upon last year’s 13-15 record. The coaching staff emulated that plan for the exhibition opener.

Miami defeated the Virgin Island All-Stars 80-74 on Friday at the Knight Sports Complex. Twelve Hurricanes saw action in the contest, including several members of Miami’s strong freshman class.

One newcomer, 5-11 Melissa Knight, got the start at small forward, scoring seven points in 19 minutes. Highly touted freshman Yolanda McCormick received ample time off the bench, putting up eight points and a pair of assists in 15 minutes.

According to assistant coach Robin Harmony, giving the entire roster minutes on the court was a major part of the game plan.

“We were able to accomplish giving everyone a little bit of playing time and that way they could see what they were doing and what they needed to work on,” Harmony said.

By far, Miami’s most impressive performance came from forward/center Alicia Hartlaub. The 6-2 junior scored 18 points on a variety of shots from inside and outside the key. Twelve of Hartlaub’s points came in the first half, which helped the Hurricanes cling to a 42-38 advantage at intermission.

“I worked on my outside game a lot during the offseason because I felt that my game would be a lot more effective that way,” Hartlaub said. “Overall, I thought our frontcourt did real well tonight, especially on turnovers.”

Another surprise for Miami was the offensive play of guard Megan Saake. Often referred to as the defensive specialist, Saake scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Getting Sheila James back in the lineup turned out to be the biggest plus for the Hurricanes. Expecting to see only limited time due to a stress fracture, James saw 23 minutes of action, scoring ten points and dishing out eight assists.

“In the heat of the moment, coaches want to win,” James said. “So I just went out there and gave it everything I had and if I got tired, then I got tired.”

Although the Hurricanes were pleased with a lot of Friday’s results, there were still some glaring negatives. Miami struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 12 of 22 free throws. The Hurricanes also turned the ball over 11 times in the second half, and were outshot overall 44 to 38 percent.

The players recognized these weaknesses and also feel other aspects of the game need to be improved.

“We need some work on the defensive end, getting the team’s chemistry down and learning our rotations,” James said. “If we do that, then we should be a pretty good ballclub.”

The Hurricanes conclude their exhibition schedule at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the Knight Sports Complex against the All-Star Girls Report.