Women take ‘one step closer’

After Miami’s 80-52 loss at Villanova last Tuesday, Hurricanes head coach Ferne Labati’s top priority was to make sure that result didn’t carry over to the rest of Miami’s games.
On Saturday, Labati accomplished that goal, as Miami defeated Pittsburgh 77-61 at the Knight Sports Complex. The win boosted the Hurricanes’ record to 14-7 (7-4 in the Big East), while the Panthers fell to 6-14 (1-8).
“We had to redeem ourselves after Villanova,” Labati said. “Today was a great win because we are trying to claw back up towards third place in the conference, and now we are one step closer.”
Sophomore Chanivia Broussard had one of her strongest games shooting the ball, converting 10-of-18 from the field for a team-high 22 points. She also added five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots.
“I felt more in the zone today,” Broussard said. “I was able to shoot in my area and was able to get down low and play offense from there.”
Fellow sophomore Shaquana Wikinis rebounded from an off night at Villanova, scoring 19 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Labati said that the sophomore’s high point totals were a result of the whole team’s play.
“I think the whole team stepped up,” Labati said. “They got the ball to the people who had the best opportunities, which where Shaquana and (Chanivia), and both of them finished.”
Senior point guard Shelia James also had a strong all-around performance, scoring 12 points while recording three rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Coming in, James knew the magnitude of this game, and she wanted to give 100 percent out on the court.
“I was playing as hard as I could for the team today,” James said. “Last year, we blew a big lead against Pitt so the emphasis was making sure we held the lead, and everyone had to play hard.”
Despite an attempt by Pittsburgh to dramatically increase the tempo of the game, the Hurricanes had control for most of the contest. Miami shot 43 percent from the floor in the first half, which helped them get out to a 40-27 lead before intermission.
The Hurricanes also dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Panthers 62-43. In addition to Wilkins, two other Miami players posted double-digit rebound totals, as juniors Meghan Saake and Alicia Hartlaub each grabbed 10.
Tonight, the Hurricanes are in Blacksburg, Va., as they take on Virginia Tech. Including tonight’s contest with the Hokies, Miami has six games left before the Big East tournament, and Labati says it is very important for the Hurricanes to be at the top of their game.
“We need to play well, because right now it’s a war in the Big East and every game is a battle,” Labati said. “We’re trying to look for an opportunity to try and advance to the NCAA Tournament.”
Labati is not the only one thinking about a possible invitation to the NCAA Tournament. According to Broussard, the NCAA’s are a major goal for the entire team.
“We think about the NCAA’s night and day,” Broussard said. “We know that every team is coming out to play, so we really have to step our game up in these last six games.