Four games into the post-Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams era, the Miami Hurricanes saw their 41-game home winning streak snapped in a double-figures loss to then-No.20 Tennessee.
A month later, they suffered a hiccup on the road against unranked Rutgers. But they have recovered nicely since then, winning their next three by at least 20 points.
That would include Saturday night’s 67-44 victory over Wisconsin to capture their third consecutive UM Holiday Tournament championship at the BankUnited Center.
“We are a ton better than we were at the beginning of the year,” UM coach Katie Meier said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a team that got so much better through November and December in all of my years of coaching this team. A lot of it is the seniors staying consistent and people popping up now that make us a heck of a ballclub that just weren’t ready early on.”
For the third consecutive game, senior guard Stefanie Yderstrom led the Hurricanes (10-2) in scoring, collecting a game-high 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting (5 of 8 from three-point range).
“It was about time,” said Yderstrom, who was awarded tournament MVP. “I feel really good about it. I got good open looks. We had a lot of skip passes and they were worried about [Pepper Wilson] and our inside threat — [Morgan] Stroman as well in the high post — and once I got open looks and started hitting them I was in the flow.”
Stroman, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder who fouled out after just 17 minutes in the opening round against Central Connecticut State, scored 12 points in the first half and 15 overall.
Meier called Stroman, Wilson and Yderstrom the cornerstone of a team discovering a solid rotation of nine others, including freshman forward Keyona Hayes, who also earned all-tournament honors for her combined 17 points and 24 rebounds. She recorded a double-double on Friday.
After trading leads early on, Wisconsin mustered just four points after scoring 12 by the 14:08 mark in a tie game. Three different times Miami’s defense shut down the Badgers for at least three minutes, twice for stretches as long as six.
With the score 19-14, the Hurricanes went on an 11-0 run with 7:59 remaining in the first half before sophomore guard Jacki Gulczynski’s jumper. Miami ended the half with a 34-16 lead.
“I do think our depth in the first half — we kind of burned them out a little bit running up and down the court,” Meier said. “Maybe in the second half when they were open they might have been a little fatigued.”
Wisconsin (8-5) couldn’t solve its shooting woes in the second, failing to connect on a basket until five minutes had already gone by on Gulczynski’s lay-up.
Miami hosts Clemson on Thursday to open a stretch of 17 consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games. Six of those will be against Top 25 opponents.
“We’re not a one-on-one team,” Stroman said. “We need everybody on this team and we can’t win without everybody, so us getting that jump early and playing team basketball is what gets us these wins.”