Women’s basketball sweats out victory

For the first time in five seasons, the women’s basketball team went 2-0 in the pre-season, but it was not easy.

The Hurricanes defeated the EA Sports All-Stars 82-81 Saturday night at the Convocation Center.

Yalonda McCormick led the ‘Canes with 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, falling one assist shy of a triple double. As the point guard, the Hurricanes are relying on her to play solid basketball all season.

“Everything will be in Yalonda’s hands, starting with running the point, and we are trying to keep her steady because we need her to play 40 minutes and play really smart basketball and make sure that she shows up every night,” Assistant Coach Robin Harmony said.

Freshman Albrey Grimsley hit five three pointers on her way to 17 points and junior Tamara James had 19 points, leading all scorers. Fallon Phanord added 16 points as well for the Hurricanes.

“Albrey is a talented freshman and we want to get her as much exposure as possible before we get to the ACC, so you will see a lot of her.” Harmony said. “Fallon was tired of sitting on the bench. She is a senior and this is her last opportunity, and she knows that. She is really athletic and a good defender and she is taking Melissa Knight’s spot so we really need that.”

The Hurricanes led throughout the game but almost blew a 10-point lead with five minutes to go. Leading by three with 4.6 seconds left, Yalonda McCormick’s inbound pass was stolen by Brandi McCain of EA Sports, but her game-tying three point attempt hit the front of the rim. A tip-in by McDaniel as time expired made it a one-point game.

“We were definitely holding our breath [on that last play]. We wanted to come into Albrey but she didn’t get through the screen, and then Bebe gave a bad pass to Fallon and things like that happen. Next time we will have more options,” Harmony said.

McCain led EA Sports with 14 points, all of which came in the second half. The Hurricanes struggled with their defense in the second half, getting outscored 48-41.

“Offensively, we think we are just as good as we were last year, if not better. Our question mark is our defense and we want to go in the ACC and dominate and let them know we are Miami,” Harmony said. “Our expectations are to get back to the NCAA Tournament.”

The Hurricanes were picked to finish fourth in the pre-season ACC rankings, behind three ranked teams. That is higher than they expected.

“We were surprised that we were picked fourth, we never thought we would be that high, but they are giving us our respect because of what we have done in the Big East,” Harmony said. “However, we know at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything whether we are ranked last or first. We have to show up everyday.”

Darren Grossman can be contacted at d.grossman@umiami.edu.