It took nearly two weeks, but the University of Miami women’s basketball team has finally gotten over a flu bug that had the team — and staff — dragging since the semester started in mid-January.
“We’re getting our legs back,” UM coach Katie Meier said. “I hate excuses, but obviously, we were lacking energy for a week and a half. I might have been too hard on some players when I’m yelling at them to play harder and the next day, she comes down with 103 fever. It’s good to have everyone healthy again.”
And just in time for Sunday’s 2 p.m. nationally televised home game against No. 11 North Carolina. The Tar Heels are 18-2 and 6-1 in the ACC, having just suffered their first conference loss to No. 10 Maryland on Thursday. They had won the previous 11 games in a row.
Meier said it’s tough to survive the ACC season without a few bumps — UM lost 86-65 at Florida State, 84-62 at Maryland and 62-52 at Virginia. The Canes are 14-5, 5-3 in the ACC, and have been in and out of the Top 25.
“Week after week you look at the Top 25 and there are five or six ACC schools in there,” she said. “Who you play, and when, and what happened before can be the difference. There are so many good teams. People say, ‘What happened? Why’d you lose two games?’ Hey, that’s life in the ACC. Every game is a battle.”
UM is coming off a 79-78 road win Thursday at Wake Forest, and eager to play in familiar surroundings. A large crowd is expected, as the game is part of a doubleheader with the 25th-ranked UM men’s team, which plays Florida State at 6 p.m. The men’s game is a sellout, and the women’s game should have a better crowd than usual.
“A win like that [men’s] one over Duke on Wednesday can help establish UM as a basketball school, and that helps our team, too,” Meier said. “But winning is the best way to gain fans.”
One of the keys to beating North Carolina, she said, is to take particularly good care of the ball. The Tar Heels lead the nation in steals.
“There are 20 points hanging in the balance in the simple pass and catch,” Meier said. “We have to avoid live ball turnovers because they will capitalize on every one of those. We have to be very, very conscious of that.”
Meier said she is very proud of how her team has come together after the loss of last year’s stars, Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams.
She was also happy to see sophomore Suriya McGuire have a “breakthrough” after hitting the game-winning layup with 5.3 seconds remaining at Wake Forest.
“We’ve done some really special things, answered a lot of questions,” Meier said. “We’ve done it quietly, internally, but the improvement is there. You see Ray Ray [McGuire] score 17 points on the road, Michelle Woods contributing like she has, Pepper [Wilson] getting so many double-doubles we now expect it, that’s amazing. A lot of people have stepped up. There’s a lot of hard work going on over here, and it’s showing.”