UM women 79, North Florida 39

Jessica Thomas excels in debut as Miami Hurricanes women defeat North Florida

 

Jessica Thomas, the sister of former University of Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas, had 13 points in UM’s rout.

Special to the Miami Herald

Friday night was about six years in the making for Jessica Thomas.

The little sister of former University of Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas knew she wanted to be a Hurricane ever since the seventh grade.

On Friday, she finally put the Canes’ uniform on, and the 5-6 freshman guard found it was a perfect fit.

Thomas made her first shot attempt — a three-pointer — and finished with 13 points to help the Canes rout North Florida 79-39 in both teams’ women’s basketball opener at BankUnited Center.

“Before the game, I told the coaches: ‘I was behind you at this time last year, just in the stands,’ ” said Thomas, who played her high school ball at Gainesville Buchholz. “I was surprised I wasn’t that nervous [Friday].”

Lamar Thomas was unable to attend the game — he is coaching receivers at Western Kentucky. However, he would surely be proud of his sister’s performance.

Thomas came off the bench with 15:22 left in the first half and got a steal 34 seconds later. Her first shot was the aforementioned three-pointer from the left wing with 14:34 left in the half.

There was no hesitation for Thomas, 19, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who followed her high school career. As a senior, she averaged 32 points, six assists and three steals, leading Buchholz to a Class 7A state title.

“From high school to college is a big transition,” said senior guard Krystal Saunders, who led the Canes on Friday with 16 points. “I told [Thomas], ‘Act like it’s a high school game. You scored then. Just play your game. There’s nothing to be nervous about.’ I was nervous my first game. I’m glad she wasn’t nervous.”

Thomas made 5 of 9 shots Friday, including 3 of 7 on three-pointers. She also had three steals, two assists and two rebounds in 29 minutes.

If nerves played a part in her play, it showed in her game-high five turnovers and her 0-for-4 showing on free throws.

Thomas and Saunders were two of four Canes scorers in double figures. The others were junior guard Suriya McGuire, who had 15 points and was perhaps the most impressive Miami player in terms of driving the lane, and sophomore forward Keyona Hayes, who had 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

Besides Thomas, three other players made their Canes debuts: freshman guard Adrienne Motley (nine points), junior forward Jassany Williams (eight points, seven rebounds) and junior forward Necole Stirling (three points, seven rebounds).

Canes coach Katie Meier was pleased with the win, which was never in doubt after UM took an 11-0 lead.

“I thought the story was Krystal and [McGuire],” Meier said. “I was wondering if they were OK before the game. They seemed very reserved. I was hoping they were not putting too much pressure on themselves. … But they came out very focused.”

Meier added that Saunders, who was 5 of 6 on three-pointers, has flashed similar shooting ability in practice.

“Krystal has been breaking records in all our shooting drills,” Meier said. “She’s been ridiculous in practice, but it’s never the same until it’s live action.”

Thomas would certainly agree, but she no longer has to wonder what it feels like to play for the Canes.

She has finally arrived.

• The UM men played host to St. Francis Brooklyn in the late game at BankUnited Center.

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