The battle for the Big East just became a little tighter
The Syracuse Orangewomen (7-11, 2-5 in the Big East) left the Miami Hurricanes helpless, pulling off a 62-59 victory over UM at the Convocation Center Saturday night. The loss at home was a much different result from the last time these two teams met on Jan. 8 in Syracuse, a game that Miami (12-5, 4-2) showed no mercy, winning 85-68.
Syracuse dominated play in the first half, grabbing a 17-point lead with a little more than five minutes to play before intermission. UM looked sloppy on offense, turning the ball over nine times during that span, and the Orangewomen took advantage, putting up point after point. The ‘Lady Canes converted on just 28 percent of their shots, a far cry from their first-half performance at Syracuse earlier in the month, when they made 48.6 percent.
“We were having difficulty scoring, so we tried to pressure and cut the lead,” head coach Ferne Labati said. “But it goes back to [being beat on] the boards. 28-11 is inexcusable.”
Freshman sensation Tamara James shot just one of nine from the field in the first half. Meanwhile, the Orangewomen used James’ rough first half play to build a cushy 11-2 lead six minutes into the half. Thanks to a confused Hurricane defense, Syracuse didn’t miss a beat, continuously driving to the hoop and went into the locker room with a 34-21 lead.
The second half proved to be a different story for Miami. Sophomore guard Yalonda McCormick sank two three-pointers while the ‘Lady Canes turned up their full court defense. Those two factors, plus better play from James, gave the ‘Canes their first lead of the game, 42-41, with just over 11 minutes to play. Moments later, sophomore Melissa Knight hit two free throws with less than five minutes remaining, giving UM its biggest lead of the night (57-51). However, Miami came up empty on its next six attempted shots, and allowed the Orangewomen to regain the lead back 60-59 with 19 seconds to play.
Any glimmer of hope left for the Hurricanes faded when James missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer after Syracuse’s Julie McBride hit two free-throws with seven seconds remaining, to make the score official.
“In the second half we’d play hard at times, but made really poor decisions, especially when we had the lead,” Labati said. “We stopped playing and we did not attack the basket the way we should have. When you do that to a team in the Big East they’re going to come back for you.”
McCormick played a large role in putting Miami back in the game. The sophomore point guard felt that she showed personal improvement since Miami’s visit to Syracuse earlier in the season.
“It was different in this game than in the other [Syracuse] game because I shot more,” McCormick said. “I felt like if I played unpredictably, they wouldn’t know what to do.”
The loss dropped Miami into a tie for fifth place with Virginia Tech. The two teams will battle it out tonight at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center, a game that can be heard on WVUM (90.5 FM)
“Virginia Tech is a very good, very patient team,” Labati said. “They’re very disciplined in the sense of running their offense, and that’s something we have to be able to defend.”
-You can reach Melissa Teich at email@example.com