Tipoff was unusually early, and the crowd was higher-pitched than usual for the University of Miami women’s basketball season opener against Oakland on Friday. More than 2,000 pint-sized squealing school kids added energy at the BankUnited Center for the 11 a.m. game, and the Hurricanes didn’t disappoint.
The Canes beat the Golden Grizzlies 66-53 after taking a 19-point lead in the first half. They pulled away with a 14-2 run that included four three-pointers, and they held Oakland scoreless for seven minutes.
Adrienne Motley led UM with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Suriya McGuire added 12 points, 10 rebounds (seven in the second half) and three steals.
Olivia Nash led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
“At halftime I was real excited, we played very maturely, played everybody, played with a lot of energy, and the school kids absolutely helped our energy level,” UM coach Katie Meier said.
Starting forward Jassany Williams had an energy drink that made her feel sick, so she was unable to play the second half. That hurt UM’s ability to defend Nash.
“Olivia Nash was having a heck of a game,” Meier said. “Tough kid to guard, because she was hitting the three and then getting inside, real sophisticated and we got three freshmen trying to lock it down.
“I thought Ray-Ray’s [McGuire’s] rebounding in the second half was ridiculous and kept us alive. Oakland has a heck of a coach [Jeff Tungate], made some great adjustments at halftime and I stayed stubborn and didn’t change my defenses because all the lessons we need. It was good we were forced to respond.’’
Motley and McGuire were inspired by the kids, many of whom brought home-made posters. One group had a huge banner in Spanish that read: “Vamos, Laura!” for freshman Laura Quevedo, a native of Spain. She greeted them after the game and signed autographs.
Motley said: “When we first got out there, all I heard was ‘Twenty-three! Twenty-three!’ I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It made us feel good to be mentors and leaders.”
McGuire interns at the Branches afterschool program and saw one of her students. “I love our fans to death, but that was a great environment to play in.”
Among the adults in the crowd were WNBA players and former UM greats Tamara James (Washington Mystics) and Riquna “Bay Bay” Williams (Tulsa Shock). James’ afternoon ended badly, as a school bus backed into her car when she was driving out of the BUC parking lot. Her driver’s side door took a hard hit, the window shattered, but she was not hurt.