On Jan. 2, in a game that came down to the final possession in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Miami women suffered their last loss to the same Tar Heels they faced Wednesday night at the BankUnited Center.
If you ask coach Katie Meier, this game wasn’t about revenge, but if deep down inside there was any added motivation to beat this North Carolina team because they handed the Hurricanes the lone blemish on their conference record, the Canes satisfied it.
No. 6 Miami (21-3, 10-1 ACC) crushed No. 22 North Carolina (17-7, 7-4 ACC) 61-37 to win its 10th consecutive game and 38th straight at home in an ugly, physically-demanding contest.
“It’s not always going to be pretty in February, but gritty is better than pretty right now,” Meier said.
The Hurricanes knew never to let up against UNC after losing leads to this team not only earlier in the season, but also in the ACC Tournament a year ago.
“We usually have one tank of fuel, and I said, ‘You’ve got two tanks tonight,’” Meier said. “So when you think the one’s about to run out, just flip the switch and go to your second tank.”
ACC Preseason Player of the Year Shenise Johnson led the Canes with an efficient 19 points off 8-of-15 shooting.
“We wanted to make sure we came out and played Miami basketball, and do what we do well for 40 minutes,” Johnson said. “We didn’t do that up in Carolina.”
Riquna Williams, who left Sunday’s game against Clemson with an apparent head or neck injury, was cleared to play Monday and scored 17 points in 31 minutes. While Williams, who was in the starting lineup, only shot 6-for-21 from the floor, she sparked the offense with her four 3-pointers.
The 3-point shooting was critical, considering how difficult UNC made it for Miami to get easy baskets in halfcourt sets with the way they stuffed the lane.
“We got frustrated offensively but didn’t lose our composure,” Meier said.
The Canes, while struggling to score in the paint, outscored UNC off of turnovers alone with 39 points.
Miami held the Tar Heels to their second-lowest scoring output of the season. The Canes, with 22 steals, forced 35 Carolina turnovers, a season-high in that category for UNC.
“I wanted to see that Miami scrap and claw, and flying to the ball,” Meier said. “I’m just really pleased that we don’t have to be scoring 85 points to win basketball games. We enjoyed the scrum, we enjoyed the physicality.”
Stefanie Yderstrom, in addition to her 10 points, led the Canes with seven steals. The offensive fouls she drew also impressed Meier.
“We wanted to play with intention and have attention,” Meier said. “We thought we were really smart in how we could attack them, but we just didn’t want to be undisciplined like we were the last time we played them.”
Miami went on a six-minute, 17-0 run early in the game that let North Carolina know the Canes meant business. Williams led the charge throughout the run, nailing three 3-pointers to account for nine of the 17 points.
The defense swarmed, holding the Tar Heels 0-for-9 shooting and forcing seven turnovers during the run.
Miami’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Canes now travel to College Park to face No. 8 Maryland. The two teams have already met once on Jan. 12, when Miami won 75-63 to mark the program’s first-ever victory against a top-five team.