The Miami women’s basketball team took a step back in the quest for an NCAA Tournament bid, falling to the Florida International Golden Panthers on Saturday night, 71-65.
The game looked like it might turn into a blowout in the first half as FIU jumped out to an early 17-2 lead, but Miami battled back to the delight of a full house at the Knight Sports Complex. After the initial run by FIU, the Hurricanes responded with a 16-4 run of their own.
With the loss, the ‘Canes fall to 15-9 (8-5 in the Big East) and the Golden Panthers improved to 21-5 (11-1 in the Sun Belt). Despite the loss, UM Coach Ferne Labati was pleased with the team’s effort.
“I think that this team has a lot of heart,” Labati said. “It was a huge game for us. We just played hard. We have three games left and they are all Big East games. So we’re going to be ready for Big East competition.”
Gergana Slavtcheva led FIU with 18 points. Cheryl Moody and Mandy Shafer each had 15 points, while Cormisha contributed 11.
The ‘Canes were led by Shaquana Wilkins who had her second straight double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Chanivia Broussard scored 14 points and Sheila James added 11.
Wilkins downplayed her individual effort in light of the team’s loss.
“I just want to win,” Wilkins said. “I don’t really look at the points.”
The ‘Canes had trouble on the glass after both Broussard and Martha Bodley fouled out in the second half, being outrebounded, 48-35.
“Us being in foul trouble really hurt us,” Labati said. “We were minus two of our two top players, and that hurt us with the rebounds. The rebounds were critical and two of our best rebounders were not in the game.”
FIU was led by a front court that featured 6-8 center Sivia Mesa.
“They didn’t intimidate us,” Wilkins said. “We played good as a team but we didn’t put down the points that we needed.”
Trailing 32-28 at the half, Miami came out on a 7-0 run and took their first lead on a James free throw. Shafer put FIU ahead 52-51 with just under ten minutes to play, and FIU would never relinquish the lead.
After the game the focus was clearly on the road ahead.
“We have bigger things to worry about,” Broussard said. “We have the tourney to think about.”
Miami next plays host to the Hokies of Virginia Tech tomorrow night. The ‘Canes travel to Providence next Saturday before finishing the regular season at home against Boston College on Feb. 26.