CORAL GABLES-The women’s basketball team entered Saturday’s game against Seton Hall at the Convocation Center determined to separate itself from a logjam in the middle of the Big East standings. Thanks to relentless defensive pressure and a crisp transition offense, the Hurricanes were able to cruise to an 81-43 blowout victory.
The ‘Canes (20-4, 9-4) were led by sophomore Tamara James, who followed a 26-point effort in Syracuse with 22 points and five rebounds against the Pirates. Senior forward Chanivia Broussard added 18 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes of action.
Head Coach Ferne Labati said that the savvy play of junior point guard Yalonda McCormick, who totaled 13 points and nine assists, was a key factor in dominating Seton Hall.
“I thought our kids played hard and together,” Labati said. “I thought that our guards made really good decisions, especially Yalonda McCormick.”
The Pirates (14-10, 6-7) were led by forward LaNedra Brown, who was the only Seton Hall player to reach double figures with 15 points. Leading scorer Ashley Bush (10.7 points per game) was held to six points in 22 minutes. Bush was locked down by Melissa Knight of the Hurricanes.
“Melissa did a great job, but you also have to look at what we did with their high-post screens,” Labati said. “That was Chanivia. She was giving a great hedge, and that’s what we talked about before the game, to not let Bush turn the corner because she is so good off of screens.”
The Hurricanes attacked Seton Hall from the outset, jumping out to a 12-0 lead after a Broussard lay-up. The Pirates did not get on the board until the 13:10 mark of the first half, when Brown drove past two Hurricane defenders for a lay-up.
The ‘Canes continued to add to their advantage as a James basket made the score 31-12 with 5:28 left in the half. The first half ended with the Hurricanes leading by 23 points.
“Our kids played great defense in the first half by getting in the passing lanes, but offensively we were able to take the turnovers that we got and we were able to score on them,” Labati said.
The second half began in disastrous fashion for Seton Hall, as the Hurricanes scored the first nine points of the half, opening up a 50-18 lead on a James steal and lay-up. A three-pointer by Hutashi Wilson gave the ‘Canes their largest lead of the contest at 48 points (73-25). A late run by the Pirates cut their deficit to 39 points when the final buzzer sounded, but Seton Hall left the Convocation Center demoralized and embarrassed.
The blowout gave Miami an opportunity to utilize its bench, as 11 Hurricanes earned playing time, including Vera Arsova, who enjoyed her first action since December.
James said that what makes the Hurricanes dangerous is the amount of offensive weapons they have on the roster.
“I think that other teams are not so much worried about me as much as [they are of] my other teammates,” she said. “It’s hard to key in on one player on our team because we are very versatile so whomever the other team slacks off of is the person we’ll give the ball to.”
The ‘Canes will look to continue their winning streak in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday, as they will take on Notre Dame at 8 p.m. Labati said that the team must play its best basketball of the year as the regular season winds down.
“All the good teams step up in February and March and raise the bar,” she said. “This is what February is all about, because now we have three games left, and then we start a whole new season…We have raised the bar for ourselves in February.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.