Miami women’s basketball has had its fair share of heartbreaking losses this season, but none like the one Sunday afternoon.
After downing Syracuse last Thursday at the Watsco Center, the Canes went into Carmichael Arena and put up two first-quarter points against No. 23 North Carolina. They would go on to lose 85-38 — a season-low in scoring.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Miami (12-9, 5-6 ACC) is tasked with another top-25 road game when it faces No. 18 Notre Dame (18-5, 9-3 ACC), which is fourth in the ACC, at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana.
Now, the 47-point loss to the Tar Heels no longer matters, but Hurricanes’ response does. An ACC team shows its responsiveness in the face of adversity.
“The best thing about the ACC this year is that every opponent, except for one, is in the top 100 for NET, and most are in the top 50,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “The ACC is an incredibly powerful conference. Every game we have remaining is an opportunity for us to improve our resume and that is why you join these leagues.”
Following a tough three-point loss to then-No. 4 Louisville last week, freshman guard Ja’Leah Williams, who is no stranger to hardship, knows her team can battle a top-25 team with an executed game plan.
“This [kind of] game let us know that we are a tough team … It gives us hope that we can stick with [top teams],” Williams said. “Once we’ve got a lead, we’ve got to learn how to take it away.”
Miami is facing a Fighting Irish team with a previous five-game win streak – which included a victory against No. 5 NC State – that ended Sunday with a narrow loss at Florida State.
If the Canes are going to win, they must stop Olivia Miles, a candidate for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the NCAA’s best point guard each year. Miles is a huge reason the Fighting Irish are considered an offensive juggernaut, averaging a team-high 16.1 points in ACC play while recording 7.2 assists per game, good for second most in the NCAA.
“Notre Dame has fire power in every spot and they are very balanced,” Meier said. Our offense will have to answer our defense and we are going to do everything we can to be that gritty team.”
Notre Dame is also strong on the boards, gathering 42.2 rebounds a game compared to Miami’s 38.3. UM must assert itself on the glass if it wants to emerge victorious.
Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall was the lone bright spot in Sunday’s agonizing defeat, netting 15 points — seven of which she scored in the third quarter. With eight consecutive games in double figures, Marshall must provide an offensive spark when the shots aren’t falling; otherwise, the Canes won’t be able to keep up.
Every game is now crucial for Miami if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive. Last week, it was projected as a “Next Four Out” team in an edition of ESPN’s Women’s Bracketology. In the latest version, the Canes are not mentioned.
However, with a tough stretch of remaining games — including an opportunity to sweep No. 11 Georgia Tech — UM has plenty of chances to pick up some quality wins and propel itself into the Big Dance.
Notre Dame has won 21 of 26 meetings over Miami, as the Hurricanes will show how the rebound from their worst loss of the season Thursday night.