I do not believe that anyone, including women’s basketball Head Coach Ferne Labati, would disagree with the notion that it has been a disappointing season for the Hurricanes.
The ‘Canes were projected to be fourth in the ACC but struggled right out of the gate with a 3-5 record and never really recovered.
One thing that really hurt this team was the loss of forward Melissa Knight for the season. Knight was one of the veterans on this team and the type of player that could fulfill almost any role. She could hit shots when they needed points and clamp down on defense when they needed a stop. Knight would have helped this team significantly because it desperately needed a consistent scoring option besides Tamara James.
James, who was named to the first-team all ACC squad, averaged just under 23 points a game, but only one other Hurricane averaged double figures, point guard Yalonda McCormick (12.9). McCormick, however, shot only 38.8 percent on the season.
Behind James and McCormick, no other Hurricane averaged more than seven points a game, compared to last season when the Hurricanes had four starters averaging double figures. The lack of scoring balance was one of the main reasons that the Hurricanes finished the regular season 12-15 and just 4-10 in the ACC. The Hurricanes failed to eclipse the 60-point mark nine different times this season, scoring only 35 points against George Mason. They were 1-8 in those nine games.
In the pre-season, Albrey Grimsley looked like she was going to be a legitimate scoring threat, but Grimsley struggled with her shot most of the season and never really got on track. She shot just 37.5 percent and averaged 6.3 points a game, which was actually good enough for third on the team.
Another huge factor in the Hurricanes struggles was the lack of a legitimate center or power forward. Last year, Chanivia Broussard and Shaquana Wilkins were post presences for this team on both offense and defense. However, they both graduated and this season the Hurricanes really had no one who could contribute inside. Imani Dhahabu, despite playing over 21 minutes a game, averaged just 5.9 points, while freshman JoJuana Jones and sophomore Amy Audibert never became scoring threats. The good news is that Dhahabu, Audibert and Jones are all young players who will only improve as they gain experience.
Lost in the disappointing season was James, who led the ACC in scoring this season. She was the only player in the ACC to score in double figures in every game this season, eclipsing 20 points an astonishing 21 times. She also broke the 30-point mark on five different occasions. However, one player could not win in the tough ACC conference alone, and the Hurricanes struggled as a result.
Still, there are reasons to be optimistic. James has one more season in Miami, so the Hurricanes will have their leading scorer back next season. The ‘Canes will return most of the roster, minus McCormick and forward Fallon Phanord. Grimsley will be a year older and could show the potential the Hurricanes saw in her this season. Plus, Melissa Knight will be healthy and likely back for her senior season after a medical red shirt.
Overall, it was a disappointing season that will likely conclude with an early exit in the ACC Tournament. Don’t expect this to be a trend, however, because Labati is a great coach who desperately wants to win and will do everything she can to make her team better next season.
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.