Katie Meier’s face grew as red as her blouse, and she paced angrily in front of the University of Miami bench as her 18th-ranked women’s basketball team missed 11 of 12 shots in the second quarter against Old Dominion on Sunday afternoon.
The Hurricanes were coming off an overtime road upset of ninth-ranked Ohio State, were riding a six-game win streak, and the home fans — including former UM President Donna Shalala — looked concerned to see Miami struggling against an unranked team. Meier was particularly upset that her players weren’t standing up and slapping teammates’ hands or making eye contact with coaches during substitutions.
But a halftime earful from Meier got the UM players fired up, and they came out with much more intensity in the third period. They regained the lead they had lost and wound up winning 66-56.
“We talked all about toughness,” Meier said about her locker room pep talk.
“Back when Miami was terrible, we got good because we were gritty. Now that’s Old Dominion. They’re at that phase where we were. Every ball matters to them. We came in … yeah, it was a trap game, but it’s so soft to say that. To give that excuse. We just didn’t feel like being tough until the start of the second half.”
Miami was outscored 13-7 in the second period and trailed 25-23 at halftime. But the Canes opened the second half with a 7-0 run, limited the Monarchs to 1-for-7 shooting over a stretch and took a 38-31 lead that they never lost.
Guard Jessica Thomas led the Canes with 21 points, Keyona Hayes scored 18 and Nigia Greene added nine big points off the bench.
Old Dominion’s Jennie Simms, the nation’s second-leading scorer, was the game’s top scorer with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting despite leaving the game temporarily with a knee injury.
“I will write the Old Dominion coach [Karen Barefoot],” Meier said. “She is very good. I let her and her team know in the handshake line. They were the toughest team we’ve played all year ... they were the caliber of an ACC team. And Jennie Simms is one of the best players in the country. They’re a tough package.”
Hayes, Thomas and Greene are all seniors, and they shouldered the responsibility for getting the Hurricanes (7-1) back on track on Sunday.
“We got on each other at halftime,” said Hayes, who scored a career-high 23 points against Ohio State. “It was time to take the blame and pick it up.”
The Monarchs (3-3) cut Miami’s lead to 43-40 on a pair of Simms baskets after she came back from the knee injury. But Thomas made back-to-back threes followed by a three-point play by Hayes and five points in a row from Greene.
“The start of the second half was awesome,” Meier said. “I’m very pleased we got this test. Frankly, if we go into the ACC as soft as we played [Sunday], we’re not going to be top five in the league.”