Miami claims first victory over Duke

Junior guard Krystal Saunders passes the ball to a teammate during Thursday's game against Duke. The girls won the game 69-65. Holly Bensur // Staff Photographer
Junior guard Krystal Saunders passes the ball to a teammate during Thursday’s game against Duke. The girls won the game 69-65. Holly Bensur // Staff Photographer

On the final day of January, the Miami women’s basketball team was demolished by 39 points on the road at Duke.

On the final day of February, Miami exacted its revenge, handing the No. 5 Blue Devils their first ACC loss of the season. The 69-65 victory, which came on Senior Night at the BankUnited Center, sent fans streaming onto the court to celebrate with the players this past Thursday.

It was Miami’s first-ever defeat of Duke, where coach Katie Meier was formerly a standout player.

“You get some special moments, and you go through a grind, and you have some disappointments and some tough losses along the way,” Meier said. “Then something like this happens to people who truly deserve it. These three [seniors Stefanie Yderstrom, Shawnice Wilson and Morgan Stroman], it’s such a great script for them, and I’m not sure it would have happened if we hadn’t had some bitter losses along the way.”

Each of those seniors scored in double figures to help UM (19-9, 10-7 ACC) bounce back from a demoralizing 68-64 road loss against Georgia Tech just four days earlier.

Yderstrom, a 5-foot-8 guard from Ostertalje, Sweden, tied for a team-high 16 points and led the way with four assists in 37 minutes on the court.

Wilson posted a double-double, as she scored 16 points and used her soaring height to collect a game-high 12 rebounds.

Stroman concluded her career at the BUC with 11 points and six rebounds.

“Just to have my fellow seniors there and my coach and … everyone who loves us and we love them, it was just a great feeling to have out there,” Stroman said. “To have that one loss in the ACC that Duke has lost to, that just makes it great, and we had nothing to lose, so might as well go out with a bang.”

Miami struggled to shoot the ball, finishing at just 34.3 percent from the field. But the Canes forced 19 turnovers and limited Duke – the nation’s best 3-point shooting team – to just 23.1 percent from deep.

Sophomore center Elizabeth Williams, the reigning consensus National Freshman of the Year, led the Blue Devils (26-2, 16-1 ACC) with 17 points.

When the two ACC elites met in January, the game was tied at 29 before Duke outscored Miami 53-14 in the second half, coasting to an 82-43 win.

This time around, Miami led 33-30 at the break, but did not let up in the final 20 minutes of play.

“The last time we played them, we were satisfied with our first half, and then we were embarrassed out of our second half,” Meier said. “So that wasn’t going to happen again, and if that’s what needed to happen for this moment, for these three seniors on their Senior Night, maybe it was worth it because we’ve gotten a lot better – obviously – in a month.”

The biggest play of the game came with 20 seconds left when Wilson scored off a quick drive and dish from Yderstrom, extending Miami’s lead to four and making it a two-possession difference. That was the final bucket of the contest.

“She was really good down there,” Yderstrom said. “She was catching every pass almost throughout the game, so I was just confident. I saw her open in the lane, so fortunately I passed it to her.”

The resume-boosting win over the Blue Devils likely moves Miami from the NCAA Tournament bubble into a pretty comfortable position leading up to the big dance.

Meier hopes the Canes will build on this momentum.

“I think this is a springboard and not the final chapter,” she said. “We can’t have this be the final chapter. We say, ‘The rest is still unwritten,’ and I hope we have a lot more pages left to write.”