Second round loss may prove costly

The Miami Hurricanes were able to turn in a better performance at the Big East Tournament in Piscataway N.J., than last year, when the team lost in the opening round. However, it may not have been enough to get the Hurricanes a bid into the NCAA Tournament.

On Sunday, Miami fell 68-49 to No. 4 seeded Villanova in the second round of the Big East Tournament, dropping its record to 18-11. The No. 5 seeded Hurricanes were outscored by ‘Nova 38-20 in the second half after trailing by only one at halftime. The loss came one day after Miami defeated Georgetown 69-52 in its opening round game. Despite their 18-11 mark, Head Coach Ferne Labati thinks the Hurricanes deserve an invitation to the NCAA’s.

“I believe our kids have fought so hard,” Labati said. “We deserve the opportunity.”

Miami, who was routed by the Wildcats 80-52 at Villanova on Jan. 29, played a tough first half, shooting 45 percent from the field, while holding ‘Nova to just 37 percent shooting, and more importantly, a 24 percent clip from three-point range.

However, things fell apart for the Hurricanes in the second half, as Villanova reeled off 16 unanswered points early in the half, and took control from there. The Wildcats shot only 39 percent during the final 20 minutes, but hit five three-pointers during that span, including several from Trish Joliene, who finished with a game-high 22 points.

Junior Meghan Saake, who earlier in the week was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, led Miami with 14 points, although only two of them came in the second half. Sophomore Chanivia Broussard added 13 points, and sophomore Shaquana Wilkins chipped in with nine points and a game-high eight rebounds. As a team, the Hurricanes shot 35 percent from the field, including a dismal 27 percent in the second half, and were outrebounded 42-33.

On Friday, Miami started out sluggish against No 12. seeded Georgetown, trailing 31-30 at halftime. However, the Hurricanes shut down Georgetown in the second half, holding the Hoyas to just 23 percent shooting, and outscoring them 39-21 to run away with the victory. Four Hurricanes scored in double digits, led by Broussard, with 16. Saake added 12 points and Wilkins scored 11. However, the most surprising performance came from freshman point guard Yalonda McCormick, who had 10 points, while grabbing five rebounds, and handing out five assists.

So, with a 1-1 showing at the Big East Tournament, all Miami can do now is wait for the NCAA Tournament Selections, which will be announced Sunday evening. With most at-large teams needing at least 20 victories to receive a bid, the Hurricanes best bet seems to be a berth into the NIT Tournament, which begins next week. However, Miami finished fifth in what is arguably the best conference in the country, and Labati thinks that the reputation of the Big East should get the Hurricanes a berth into the NCAA’s.

“I know you guys think I’m so prejudiced towards the Big East,” Labati said. “But I think the Big East is so underrated. I think at least six[teams] should go[to the NCAA’s.] That’s how good our conference is.