The University of Miami had just beaten Wake Forest 71-60 on the shoulders of Keyona Hayes, whose game was as menacing as her face mask, and upon arriving in the locker room Thursday night, the Hurricanes found a trio of visitors who greeted them with some stern words.
Former UM players Riquna Williams, Tamara James and Suriya McGuire gave the team a pep talk and challenged the 21st-ranked Canes to be tougher.
“I wanted them to have the platform, talk to the team and get after us a little bit, and they did,” UM coach Katie Meier said. “They didn’t hold back. They think we need to be tougher, and we agree with them. It was a really good moment for us. There’s a lot of pride in this program down here.
“We’ve got Coach [Octavia] Blue with a ‘U’ tattooed on her ankle. We’ve got a 2,000-point scorer [Williams] playing in Dubai. They’re gonna push this team, and that’s what we needed. We were a little bit soft and sloppy, and Wake Forest did a fantastic job of trying to splinter us. Without an unbelievable game by Keyona Hayes, I think we’re sitting here with a loss.”
Even before she made her first basket, Hayes looked threatening in a black mask she is wearing to protect her fractured nose. She went 8 for 10 and tied a career high with 22 points. She also grabbed a team-high six rebounds, had three steals and two blocks.
“She was awesome, steady Eddie,” Meier said of Hayes. “We all know what Key’s capable of. This was a physical game. We needed Key to come through, and she’s just so reliable. Great performance.”
Adrienne Motley struggled to find her shooting touch in the first half, had only three points at halftime, but wound up with 18.
“I just kept shooting, and my teammates kept me positive,” Motley explained.
The Canes were 4 of 20 from three-point range and shot a dismal 12.5 percent from beyond the arc in the second half.
The Hurricanes (16-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 37-29 at halftime, but the Demon Deacons (9-8, 0-4) scored the first eight points of the second half to tie it at 37. Miami then went on a nine-point run and took control.
Meier said the postgame meeting with the alumni was exactly what the team needed.
“They didn’t rip us, but they were very, very tough, and they have pride in this program,” she said. “They’re watching us in Dubai, Israel, Sweden, Luxembourg, and that’s awesome. You’ve got to remind your team there’s a legacy here now, and I’m awful darn proud of it. We’ve got alum in the pros, overseas. They can come in and it’s still their locker room, and they’re going to talk locker room talk when it’s real talk time. It was real talk time today.”
Motley welcomed the lecture.
“What I got from it is that we have to have more pride having that ‘U’ on our chest,” she said. “We have to be a lot tougher. We knew it, but hearing it from two of the all-time greats [James and Williams] means a lot.”
The Canes play at North Carolina on Sunday.