As Head Coach Ferne Labati put it, life for Miami women’s basketball was “miserable”-until Thursday night.
Yalonda McCormick led all scorers with 23 points and Tamara James added 18 as the Hurricanes (9-10, 1-5) finally posted their first ACC victory by outlasting No. 19 Florida State (18-3, 5-2) 62-57 at the Convocation Center.
Florida State was led by guards Ganiyat Adeduntan, who had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Roneeka Hodges, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds. The Seminoles committed 19 turnovers while forcing only 13.
After losing its first five ACC contests, Miami was low on morale and desperate for a win over its rivals.
“Pat Riley says, ‘there’s winning and there’s misery,’ and everyone: players, coaches, you name it, we’ve just been absolutely miserable,” Labati said.
Labati actually had the team meet with a sports psychologist to improve its focus and concentration, but she said the players ultimately had to look within themselves for inspiration.
“They were very self-motivated,” she said. “It wasn’t about what we said, and I think our kids understand that if you’re self-motivated, as a team you’re going to rally and be able to play.”
The coach’s efforts appeared to be futile early in the first half when an 8-0 Seminole run sparked by an Adeduntan three-pointer opened up a 23-14 FSU lead. The Hurricanes fell behind by as much as 11, but a late 7-0 run brought them within three points at halftime.
The second half was tightly contested throughout, as McCormick hit a three-pointer to close within two points with 16:44 left. Miami took its second lead of the game after an Albrey Grimsley lay-up at the 14:10 mark.
Florida State fought back and regained a three-point lead, but James hit her only three-pointer of the game to tie the score. A James lay-up with 5:46 left gave the Hurricanes a 52-51 advantage.
Clinging to a one-point lead (58-57) with under a minute left, Miami relied on McCormick, the senior point guard, to put the game away with a lay-up and two made free throws. Florida State did not manage to score again, and McCormick tossed the basketball high in the air when the final buzzer sounded.
Labati did not hide her emotions after the game.
“Needless to say, we are extremely happy tonight,” she said. “These are the stats that were really important to us: to stop their penetration, the amount of turnovers we had, to be able to defend on the boards and just to go out there and take really great shots.”
McCormick said the team has a renewed hunger and drive to compete in the ACC after notching its first conference victory.
“I feel that we shouldn’t just be content,” McCormick said. “We have to, from here on out, play just like we played tonight. Don’t relax just because we won our first game.”
The Hurricanes return to action Monday night when they travel to Clemson for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.