The University of Miami women’s basketball team heads into the new year — and the Atlantic Coast Conference season — with a 10-3 record after surviving a scare by Louisiana State on Monday in the championship game of the Miami Holiday Tournament.
The Canes watched their 18-point, first-half lead disappear and trailed the Tigers with 11 minutes to go but hung on to win 76-71 at the BankUnited Center.
A pair of timely three-point baskets by Necole Sterling, tenacious play by Jessica Thomas and eight points down the stretch by Adrienne “Money’’ Motley helped secure the victory. Motley led UM with 16 points, Sterling had 15 and Suriya McGuire 10.
“That was an amazing, resilient response,’’ said UM coach Katie Meier, who chose not to yell at her players when they gave up 14 unanswered points to start the second half.
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“When you go into huddles, you have a choice as a coach,’’ she said. “You can yell at your team, tell them they’re blowing the game, blowing the lead. I will tell them that [Tuesday]. But [Monday] I chose to tell them to think forward and positive. After all that, we still had the lead. I told them, ‘We’ve got another run in us. Let’s go on a run of our own and get a little cushion here, and we’ll be fine.’’’
Heading into the locker room at halftime, the Hurricanes had the Tigers down by 16, struggling on the boards, and looking frustrated. Even so, Meier was not shocked to see the lead dwindle.
“We were up 16 on a really good team,’’ Meier said. “They’ve got a ton of talent. We had a great first half, and I’d love to say let’s beat them by 16 again this half, but you’re playing an SEC opponent that’s had a heck of a schedule. Very seasoned and very athletic, so I didn’t like how quickly it happened, but I wasn’t surprised by it.
“They got their confidence, and it snowballed a little bit.’’
Like Meier, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, the former Tennessee star, knows halftime scores don’t matter. The Tigers made seven of their first 10 shots after intermission, the Canes missed eight in a row, and the Tigers (6-6) were down by just two after a jumper by Fort Lauderdale native Raigyne Moncrief that delighted her family and friends.
LSU took a 51-49 lead with 12:20 to go on a layup by DaShawn Harden, who led the Tigers with 18 points. The teams traded leads over the next few minutes, and Moncrief, an American Heritage graduate, sat for a while after her fourth foul with the score tied 56-56.
Moncrief came back in the final few minutes and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, but her absence was felt.
“When Moncrief went out, the game kind of shifted,’’ Caldwell said. “She was our energizer. She’s an incredible athlete. Her intensity and leadership really fuels our team. But a lot of credit to Miami. They had players made plays when then needed to. Their ability to make shots is really impressive.’’
Meier said: “I am proud to bring 10 wins into the ACC, and I feel great about beating a Big 10, Pac 10 and SEC team. That’s going to help us.’’
UM plays its ACC opener at home Sunday at 1 p.m. against Boston College.
Tuesday: Charleston at UM men
When/where: 7 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
TV/radio: ESPN3; WVUM-90.5 FM.
Records: UM 9-3; Charleston.
Noteworthy: The Hurricanes have lost three of their past four games after starting the season 8-0 and slipped out of the national rankings after getting as high as No.15. They are coming off back-to-back losses — 76-62 at Providence and 72-44 to Eastern Kentucky.