For the second night in a row, the unheralded and overlooked University of Miami basketball program made a statement with an upset of a Top 20 team at the BankUnited Center.
There were no ESPN cameras rolling Thursday when the Hurricanes women knocked off previously undefeated No. 6 Penn State 69-65 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the crowd of 1,286 was one-fifth the size of the one that showed up Wednesday for the men’s win over No. 13 Michigan State.
Still, the women’s win was just as emphatic, and, like the men’s game, ended with students joining players on the floor for a celebration.
Although the boxscore doesn’t show it, the UM men’s team should have gotten an assist for the women’s win because their upset of the Spartans gave the women extra confidence and energy.
“It’s like a family, those are like our brothers,” said senior forward Morgan Stroman, who led UM with 15 points and five steals. “They got their big win last night, it was here, so we had to do the same thing, pull an upset.”
UM coach Katie Meier agreed that the men’s win gave the women’s team a spark. The Hurricanes (5-1) were ranked No. 23 a few weeks ago, but dropped out of the rankings after losing to Tennessee at home. The team had been struggling to find its identity, and Meier said they found it Thursday.
“Our players looked around and thought, ‘Well, if they can do it, we can do it.’ This is a big moment for us in terms of this hopeful, wishful, are we good?, blah, blah, blah attitude. Now, it’s like, ‘Yes we are’, quit hoping, stay tough … I do believe we’re a Top 25 team. I believe we shouldn’t have been in top 25 after losing to Tennessee the way we played. But are we good? Yes. We are legit. … Our identity is toughness. We were resilient. We never laid down.”
Senior Stefanie Yderstrom had 13 points, four steals and seven assists. The steady Swede scored five straight points during a critical stretch with just under eight minutes to go. Penn State had reeled off an 8-0 run to take its first lead of the game, 51-49, with 8:47 remaining. Lady Lions guard Maggie Lucas, who finished with a game-high 20 points, hit a pair of free throws to make it 53-49. Yderstrom then made a three-pointer and a short jumper to put the Canes ahead, 54-53.
UM never trailed again.
Penn State tied it at 60 and 65, both on Lucas three-pointers, but UM’s Suriya “Ray Ray” McGuire drove the baseline for a layup to make it 67-65 and Michelle Woods made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
The Lady Lions (5-1) had 20 turnovers in the first half, and the Hurricanes scored 16 points off those turnovers, compared to just two points off first-half UM turnovers for Penn State. Meier said she was “very surprised” Penn State lost the ball so often because their guard play is usually very reliable, but she was proud that their defensive game plan worked. She said they “did a couple of things I don’t want to give away” to disrupt the Lions’ timing.
“We came out letting Penn State know we’re here to play defense,” Meier said. “Even when we missed shots, our bench was yelling, ‘Do it with our D!’ ”
Penn State’s second-leading scorer was guard Alex Bentley, daughter of former UM and Indianapolis Colts running back Albert Bentley, who was in the stands. She scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting and had four steals.