Women’s basketball unable to hold lead late
Saake and Hartlaub end careers with loss
In a year of ups and downs for the UM women’s basketball team, it was the most unfortunate recurring trend that led to the end of the ‘Canes season.
The No. 11 seeded Hurricanes fell 91-85 in overtime to No. 6 seed New Mexico Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional. Miami held an 11-point lead at halftime but allowed the Lobos’ to shoot 68 percent from the field in the second half.
The ‘Canes also struggled mightily with their shot in the extra period, hitting just 4-14 from the field. Despite blowing another double-digit second half lead, head coach Ferne Labati attempted to put a positive spin on the final result.
“My kids played with their hearts,” Labati said. “They never gave up. The crowd was a factor.
The Hurricanes were unable to tune out 16, 151 fans at the Pit, the largest crowd ever to attend a first-round game in the NCAA women’s tournament. While Miami silenced the Lobos faithful in the first half with mistake-free basketball and effective shooting, nothing could prevent the noise that came with every New Mexico basket in the second half.
Mandy Moore hit four three-pointers during a 17-6 Lobos run early in the second half, cutting a 14-point Miami advantage down to three (55-52). Moore scored 16 of her 18 points during the final 20 minutes, while Jordan Adams led all scorers with 27 points.
UM guard Tamara James was one of several Miami players caught off-guard by Moore’s long-distance shooting.
“She really wasn’t a threat to us in the beginning of the game,” James told the Sun-Sentinel.
James led the ‘Canes with 23 points, while Yalonda McCormick, arguably Miami’s most improved player this season, scored 20. Following two missed free throws by Adams, McCormick had a chance to win the game in regulation, but came up short on a jumper from the left elbow.
The overtime brought out the best of the Lobos offense as Adams scored four quick points, and Cristal Garcia and Chelsea Greer each hit buckets to give New Mexico an insurmountable 87-79 lead.
“We felt at halftime that we could close the gap a little at a time and gradually get control of the game,” New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. “If we could do that, we felt the crowd would be a factor.”
Saturday’s loss marked the final time Meghan Saake and Alicia Hartlaub would don a Miami jersey. Saake played a strong all-around game, scoring 11 points, pulling down seven rebounds and dishing seven assists. Hartlaub scored two points in eight minutes of action.
The Hurricanes, who earned their first NCAA tournament bid since 1998, end the season with an 18-13 record.
Jeremy Marks-Peltz can be reached at email@example.com.