Most of the basketball buzz on the University of Miami campus this week centered around the fifth-ranked men’s team and its highly anticipated Saturday road game at No. 3 Duke.
But there was a more immediate UM-Duke showdown closer to home Thursday night, and the students who were aware of it danced at midcourt with the Hurricane women’s team after a thrilling 69-65 upset of the No. 5 Blue Devils.
Miami was 0-10 against Duke before Thursday, and the Blue Devils rolled into BankUnited Center with a 26-1 record and an unblemished 16-0 league record. It was exactly the kind of signature win UM (19-9, 10-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) needed on the eve of March, a win that could make the difference between a WNIT bid and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The victory was even sweeter for the Hurricanes because it happened on Senior Night, and coach Katie Meier was a star player at Duke in the late 1980s.
She had never beaten her alma mater, so when she finally did Thursday night, she jumped up and down, yelled “We did it!’’ and hugged her assistant coaches. Her players were swarmed by students who chanted: “Thank you, Seniors!’’
The seniors came up huge when it mattered most. Guard Stefanie Yderstrom and center Shawnice “Pepper” Wilson each scored 16 points, and connected for the clinching basket after Duke closed to within two with 51 seconds remaining. Yderstrom found Wilson waiting in the lane and sent her a perfect bounce pass, which Wilson turned into an easy layup. Wilson also had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Senior Morgan Stroman added 11 points, and junior Krystal Saunders matched a season high with 15 points. Saunders had a career night at the free-throw line, making 7-of-10 attempts.
“You get some special moments in coaching and you go through a grind, through disappointments, some tough losses along the way, and then something like this happens to people who truly deserve it,” Meier said. “These three [seniors], it’s such a great script for them. I’m not sure it would have happened if we hadn’t had bitter losses along the way. Not sure it would have been as rewarding and fulfilling for them, but they knew they deserved it, knew they earned it, knew they played as hard as they could possibly play. And it was just a matter of finishing that game.”
Meier gushed about her seniors, two of whom — Yderstrom and Stroman — on Thursday were tapped into the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor at UM.
“It is a very career kind of rewarding moment to have three of the favorite kids you’ve ever coached, wonderful people who have depth of character win a game like this,” Meier said. “You pray for moments like this, for rewards like this.”
“All of us had not beaten Duke, first time we have, and that was a really good time to do it.”
With the win, UM avenged a humbling 82-43 loss at Duke when they last played on Jan. 31.
Wilson was “speechless and in awe” after the game. Yderstrom repeatedly shouted “We’re winning this game!” throughout the game.
Elizabeth Williams and Haley Peters each scored 17 for the Blue Devils (26-2, 16-1). Freshman Alexis Jones had 13, including a three-pointer with 49 seconds left to get her team within 67-65.
Meier hopes the win serves as a springboard to a big March.
“This is not the final chapter,” she said. “We say the rest is still unwritten. I hope we have a lot of pages left to write.”