The women’s basketball team earned more than just a “W” Tuesday night when they defeated Providence College 81-62 at the Convocation Center: they won an extra day of rest as well.
Miami (22-5, 11-5) clinched their best season since 1997-1998, which was the last time they earned a bye in the Big East Tournament. The ‘Canes, who are No.19 in the RPI, earned the fourth seed at this weekend’s tournament, being held at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Conn.
With a bye in the first round, the Hurricanes will play the winner of the Boston College and Syracuse match-up Sunday at noon. If they advance, a date with the hometown Connecticut Huskies could be looming in the semi-final round.
“[The bye] is very important for us,” senior Shaquana Wilkins said. “We want to rest that first night.”
As for the win over Providence, it was senior night in Coral Gables, as the ‘Canes honored their four seniors in their final home game. Vera Arsova, Chanivia Broussard, Shaquana Wilkins, and Hutashi Wilson all started against the Friars, the worst team in the Big East. Providence (4-23, 0-16) entered the game on a 15-game losing streak and had trouble with the Hurricanes’ inside game. Miami doubled up Providence on the glass 56-28, including 25-8 on the offensive end.
“This was a very important win for us,” Broussard said. “No one wanted to lose a home game, the final game, and especially us seniors wanted to go out with a win.”
Sophomore Tamara James led the Hurricanes with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, as she did not start for the second straight game. Wilkins added another double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Broussard also scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Arsova, who earned her first start of the season, scored two points. The Hurricanes improved to 12-2 at the Convocation Center on the year and finished the regular season with a record of 20-1 when leading at halftime.
In an ugly first half that saw each team commit 12 turnovers each, the Hurricanes led 40-25 at the break after going on a 19-9 run in the last eight minutes.
Providence, playing with only eight players, didn’t fade away in the second half, however. The Friars went on an 18-9 run to cut the Miami lead to 49-43. The ‘Canes countered with a 20-6 run to create their largest lead of the game, 69-49, with 7:51 to play.
From that point on, Head Coach Ferne Labati made sure that everyone on the roster saw action.
Gayle Nwafili led all scorers with 25 points on 12 for 20 shooting for Providence. The Friars shot 40.6 percent from the field, compared to 43.1 percent for the Hurricanes.
“Tonight was the end of one season,” Labati said. “We are about to start a whole new season in post-season play.”
Miami will compete in the Big East tournament this weekend, and then will most-likely travel to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season.
“We have the ability to go as far as we let ourselves go,” Broussard said. “It is basically about how far we can take ourselves because no team usually kills us. We usually beat ourselves [when we lose].”
Douglas Kroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org