The calendar says November, but University of Miami coach Katie Meier said her players will get an early taste of March on Thursday night when they play No. 6 Penn State at the BankUnited Center as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Eleven days after losing to traditional power Tennessee, the Hurricanes will get another big-time test against the Lady Lions (5-0).
“We’re still a team forming our identity, different people popping up, different people popping down, so we’ll learn a lot from facing a team like Penn State this early,” Meier said. “We’re probably a tough scout [report] because we really haven’t locked into a set lineup yet.”
Seniors Morgan Stroman and Stefanie Yderstrom are the team leaders and best-known players, but sophomores Michelle Woods and Suriya McGuire could be the keys to beating Penn State.
Woods has had a breakout season thus far with 19 and 20 points in her first two games, and McGuire’s athleticism could give the Lions fits.
Stroman is averaging 13 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Woods is averaging 12.8 points and Yderstrom 11.8.
Penn State has size, so 6-6 senior Pepper Wilson could get significant minutes inside, but Maria Brown impressed in the past few games and will likely start.
The biggest challenge for the Canes will be containing guards Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley. Lucas’ idol growing up was Pistol Pete Maravich. She has said she was “obsessed” with his instructional videos as a child, and it shows. She is deadly from three-point range and difficult to corral anywhere on the floor.
“Maggie is so much fun to watch,” Meier said. “She’s that very special kind of player, like Alex Brantley, too. Those are the kinds of players that when their teams are in close games, they know they have the ability to make plays and make a difference.”
The game will be a reunion for Meier and Penn State freshman center Candice Agee, who played for Meier last summer on the U.S. Under-18 national team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas championship in Puerto Rico.