Miami looking for continued improvement in preparation for road game at Clemson

Graduate student guard Kelsey Marshall shoots a jump shot during the first quarter of Miami’s game versus NC State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 9, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

The Miami Hurricanes (7-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are a team that has shown tremendous promise throughout the early stages of this year’s campaign, but that promise has yet to translate into winning results.

In three contests against top-eight opponents, two of those opponents ranked in the top-five, in which the Hurricanes have lost by a combined 18 points. In each of those contests, Miami was firmly entrenched in the game before faltering down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Add in a two point loss at home vs. Wake Forest, this season has been defined by close losses rather than narrow wins.

Now, head coach Katie Meier and company will travel on the road for the first time in over a month as they take on the Clemson Tigers (6-9, 0-4 ACC) and look to kickstart a stretch of four conference games in seven days.

The Hurricanes defended their home floor well for 3 ½ quarters on Sunday as they hosted No. 5 NC State. However, the Wolfpack outscored the Hurricanes 20-13 in the final frame and held on for a double-digit win.

“I thought we did everything we needed to do to win that basketball game but we just had a couple of flat offensive possessions,” Meier said. “We got a heck of a lot better in a day since the last time we played.”

One of the positives from the loss is the continued emergence of freshman Ja’Leah Williams, who scored a career-high 15 points in the contest. Williams has forced her way into the starting lineup at the point guard position, with senior Mykea Gray to the bench.

“[Williams] is very competitive,” Meier said. “She made some great plays and great assists — that was a breakout performance for her. I think [she] is really special.”

Supplementing the play of Williams is the return of redshirt senior guard Destiny Harden, who played in just her second game of the season versus NC State. Harden, who was second in scoring on the Hurricanes last season, scored eight points and added four rebounds in just over 14 minutes of action.

“Destiny gives us an ability to stretch the defense and adds another scoring option,” Meier said. “That makes a really fun offense and [her absence] was a reason we were struggling earlier in the year.”

On the other side, the Clemson Tigers have also experienced their fair share of struggles this season as well. The Tigers, who won an NCAA tournament game in the 2018-19 season, sit three games below .500 and are searching for an identity.

Clemson is led by graduate guard Delicia Washington, who leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding. Washington scored 12 points in their most recent game, a 80-74 loss to Boston College at home.

The Tigers struggle behind the arc on offense, shooting just 25.1% from three while allowing their opponents to shoot almost 35%.

Miami guard Kelsey Marshall, who became Miami’s all-time leader in 3-point makes in the loss versus NC State, hopes to get good looks from distance Thursday night.

Despite the recent string of losses and close losses, Meier still has the utmost confidence her team will reverse course and start turning these promising losses into exciting wins.

“There’s going to be a lot of wins ahead of us when we get back on track and in our flow,” Meier said.