The University of Miami women’s basketball team got off to their best start since 1992 by winning their first three games. Then their momentum faded as they moved away from their comfort zone at the Knight Sports Complex.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes fell to fellow unbeaten South Florida (5-0) 76-68 at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. The loss dropped Miami’s record to 3-1 and marked the first time that a Hurricane squad fell to USF in thirteen years. Despite Miami’s three home victories over Iona, Northwestern and IUPUI to start the 2001-2002 campaign, the players were somewhat concerned over the Hurricanes’ debut showing away from Coral Gables.
“This was our first road experience and we have a relatively young team,” said guard Sheila James. “At the same time, we need to learn that we have to play better on the road because any team there can beat you on any given night.”
Against South Florida, the Hurricanes fell victim to the Bulls, suffocating full court defense and turning the ball over a season-high 27 times. Seventeen of the giveaways came in the first half, which had Miami trailing 35-26 at intermission. The Hurricanes were able to fight back for most of the second half, tying the game at 57 on a Hutashi Wilson jumper with 6:34 in the game. However, South Florida responded with an 8-0 run and never relinquished control from that point on.
James and Meghan Saake led the Hurricanes with 16 and 15 points respectively, but it wasn’t enough for a squad that shot just 39 percent from the field.
“Tonight we just didn’t have it,” Wilson said. “We had all trouble controlling turnovers, and even though we played hard, it was still a loss that shouldn’t have been a loss.”
Despite the loss, Miami has discovered several pleasant surprises to start the 2001-2002 season. Wilson, who averaged just a point a game in spot duty last season, led Miami with 16 points in the Hurricanes’ 71-52 victory over Iona on Nov. 18. And in Miami’s Nov. 21 86-69 thrashing of Northwestern, Wilson turned in an even better performance, leading the Hurricanes with 19 points. For now, the point guard spot is Wilson’s to lose, and the sophomore from Canada likes it that way.
“Coming in, point guard has been an opportunity for me and it’s been a big thing gaining confidence from the coaching staff,” Wilson said.
Last Friday, Miami defeated IUPUI 72-58, holding the Eagles to just a 39.6% clip from the field. The defense has been solid in the Hurricanes’ three victories, and according to Saake, improved defense means better results.
“We’ve been working a lot on our man to man defense,” Saake said. “I think between that and us being an athletic team, that’s where our defense is better.”
Miami leaves this morning for Lexington, Kentucky, where they will take on the Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow night. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. at Rupp Arena.