Women’s basketball suffers tough loss to Mike Ward All-Stars

The women’s basketball team came into their first exhibition game Monday with high hopes after an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Their loss to the Mike Ward All-Stars was disappointing, but it showed encouraging signs for the regular season.
Tamara James, the Big East scoring leader last season, had 27 points in the 91-82 loss. The ‘Canes’ offense was impressive, as they had three players score 15 or more points. James’ effort was complimented by Shaquana Wilkins, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Yolanda McCormick also recorded a double double with 15 points and 10 assists. As a team, the Hurricanes shot 53 percent from the field.
“I think offensively this is the most talented team we’ve ever had,” Head Coach Ferne Labati said. “We have never had this many kids with the ability to score loads and loads of points.”
The Hurricanes struggled on the defensive end of the court, however, and never found the answer to stopping All-Stars sharpshooter Alicia Abernathy, who had a game-high 32 points, going five for seven from three point range. Abernathy also grabbed nine rebounds.
“We really struggled in our man to man defense and our transition defense, and those are the two things we really need to work on,” Labati said. “We still got our 15 steals, but we aren’t capable of playing really good team defense right now and that is the foundation that our whole team has to be built on this year.”
In addition to their problems on the defensive end, the ‘Canes did not take care of the basketball well. The Hurricanes turned the ball over 26 times, 17 of which came in the first half where UM relinquished a nine-point lead and trailed 44-40 at the half.
“A lot of the turnovers were not even forced,” Shaquana Wilkins said. “They were stupid turnovers like not catching the ball and making sloppy passes. Trust me, we will get better.”
The Hurricanes’ glaring weakness in this contest was defense. Allowing 91 points in their first exhibition team is not encouraging, but the team has no reason to panic yet.
“Basically, our help defense was horrible tonight and we need to fix that in practice,” Wilkins said. “That [defense] is our weakness right now, but this was our first game, so now we have film to break down, which will help us a lot.”
In the talented Big East conference, however, the ‘Canes are going to need to fix their problems in a hurry if they want to remain competitive. The team was picked to finish sixth in the conference this season.
“Sixth is not very good, we are so much better than that, all I can say is they don’t like Miami and we will just have to prove them wrong,” Wilkins said. “We are going to go farther than we did last year, I think we can go to the Sweet Sixteen.”