Instead of welcoming one Associated Press top-five team into Coral Gables, Miami women’s basketball played another on two days’ notice due to COVID-19 protocol.
Trailing by three with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Miami battled No. 5 NC State for offensive momentum. But then, the Wolfpack initiated a 7-0 run to keep the Hurricanes away from a late comeback and dealt a 76-64 loss inside the Watsco Center Sunday afternoon.
“[It was] just a great basketball game, and I think we got a heck of a lot better in a day since the last time we played,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “[NC State is] absolutely as advertised.”
Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall scored a team-high 17 points for the Hurricanes (7-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and freshman guard Ja’Leah Williams added a season-high 15 points.
“[Ja’Leah] doesn’t care if you’re a freshman, a sophomore or a senior. She’s always going to go at you,” Miami graduate guard Kelsey Marshall said. “She doesn’t back down to any competition and she’s always ready.”
As much double-digit scoring as three different Hurricanes provided, Miami shot 31.3% in the final 10 minutes after heating up to an 8-of-16 mark in the third quarter. NC State (14-2, 5-0 ACC) made six of its last 11 shots to win its fourth consecutive contest, despite allowing 21 offensive rebounds.
“They’ve got great scoring, and great post play and an unbelievable coach,” Meier said. “So, they’re very, very difficult to defend. You’re not usually happy when you give up 76 points to a team, but I think some of those points at the end added to the total.”
Wolfpack forward Elissa Cunane paced NC State with 19 points and five rebounds. The ACC Preseason Player of the Year tacked on nine points in the third quarter, after guiding NC State to the Sweet 16 and a No. 5 or higher ranking in the major polls this season.
“[We] just had a couple of flat offensive possessions where we tried to generate something for our go-to player, and they had a more significant go-to player inside with Cunane,” Meier said. “When they needed a bucket, they could just go into Elissa and she can make the play or make the pass, and then a couple of big-time threes. That’s why they’re so good. They’re really poised and they’re veteran, that whole team played together last year, and they’re playing together again this year.”
Miami shot 32% in the first half, and yet remained three points from a tie ballgame at halftime. Neither team had a lead of greater than seven points in the 35-32 first half.
The Wolfpack, the ACC’s leader in scoring offense at 80.6 points per game, led for the final 18 minutes after the Hurricanes pulled ahead by one on a Williams layup early in the third.
“We try our best to hold teams to under their average for the season,” Marshall said. “I feel like what we do really wellis playing good defense and hold teams below their average in not giving them what they want. So, I feel like that’s what’s been helping us compete with these top-five teams in the country.”
Marshall also passed former Miami guard Riquna Williams as the all-time leading 3-point field goal scorer in program history with 273 total. The South Florida native collected her ninth double-digit scoring performance of the season and leads the Hurricanes with 14.5 points per game.
“Passing the record, it’s a huge blessing. It’s something I’ve been doing all my life and I’ve working on it all my life,” Marshall said. “I’m extremely proud of myself to be able to have a mark to leave here at Miami with, having the 3-point record.”
Given the loss, the Hurricanes are 0-2 against top-five teams this season, the other coming in a two-point loss to No. 4 Indiana in the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in late November.
“We’re a team that doesn’t give up and doesn’t back down to any type of competition,” Marshall said. “We don’t care if you’re the No. 1 team in the ACC or in the bottom of the ACC. We’re always going to come out in every game competing and giving our all. So, there’s a lot of games left for us and I think there’s a lot of capable wins we can get, and we’re ready and excited for it.”
Miami is in Clemson, South Carolina, Thursday night for a matchup versus Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.