Like most Americans, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala was interested in the outcome of the Iowa caucuses Monday night. As a political junkie and director of the Clinton Foundation, she was especially curious.
But she spent the first part of her evening courtside at the BankUnited Center, watching the 16th-ranked Hurricanes women’s basketball team struggle against the Syracuse press and lose 57-51.
Shalala has ties to both schools, having earned her PhD from Syracuse in 1970, but the “U’’ on her sweatshirt revealed her rooting interests on this night.
The Hurricanes (18-4, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) committed 26 turnovers, two shy of their season high. Syracuse leads the conference in opponent turnovers (25 per game) and also leads in steals with 14 per game. The Orange had 13 steals against Miami, and the Canes, who average 9.9 steals per game, had only three Monday.
“Obviously, Syracuse did what Syracuse does,” said an unhappy UM coach Katie Meier. “I actually am surprised their pressure bothered us as much. I knew it would get to us because they’re fantastic at it. They’re turning everyone in the ACC over 25 times a game. It was the steals they got … they pursued the balls harder than we did, and those are the things that we got real frustrated about.’’
The Orange went on a 14-0 run over six minutes early in the game and opened a nine-point lead. Jessica Thomas hit a three-pointer to tie the score 22-22 three minutes before halftime, but Brianna Butler answered with a pair of threes, Alexis Peterson hit a jumper and Syracuse took a 30-24 lead into intermission.
UM junior guard Adrienne “Money” Motley, living up to her nickname, scored seven straight points early in the third period to close the Syracuse lead to 32-31. Freshman Laura Cornelius then made back-to-back three-pointers to push the Hurricanes ahead 37-36 — their first lead since 7-2 early in the game.
A pair of Motley free throws capped a 15-4 Miami run to stretch its lead to 39-36. But the Orange regained the lead at the start of the final quarter, and UM never led again. The Canes stayed close, and were tied 49-49 with 1:30 to go, but Syracuse (16-6, 6-3) dominated the glass when it counted most in the closing minute.
UM freshman Emese Hof had a chance to tie it with 37 seconds to go, but missed a pair of free throws.
“That is a characteristic of this team I do love, that they hung in there on a tough night, and created a winnable game out of a very non-winnable game the way we were playing,” Meier said. “It’s a shame we didn’t just finish it in the last two minutes because the fact that game was even in the balance. … I thought we might be able to steal one on a bad night for Miami.”
The Hurricanes hit the road for a Thursday game at Boston College, and return home Sunday against Duke.