Sunday was “Play for Kay Day” at BankUnited Center.
The 18th-ranked University of Miami women’s basketball team was decked in pink in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who died of breast cancer in 2009.
UM coach Katie Meier challenged her players to show the same fighting spirit as the many cancer survivors who were in the arena.
The Hurricanes listened, battling for a 67-56 overtime victory against Virginia Tech.
Chanette Hicks tied the game for the Hokies with seven seconds left in regulation, and the score was 50-50 at the buzzer.
But UM dominated the overtime, getting to the free-throw line and scoring the final 13 points to survive for the win.
The Canes improved to 22-5 overall and 10-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference with two games remaining in the regular season.
Freshman Emese Hof led UM with 15 points on the strength of 9-of-11 free-throw shooting.
She also had seven rebounds — six of them on the defensive end, including a few in critical moments at the end of the game.
Hof was extra motivated because her mother, sister and brother were visiting from the Netherlands and watching her play in person for UM for the first time.
“She’s a real veteran player in a 19-year-old’s body,” Meier said of Hof. “Her mind’s amazing. She’s so reliable. Those defensive rebounds were game-saving. She’s a great enforcer.”
Adrienne Motley added 12 points for UM after going scoreless in the first half.
“We were inspired by the cause we were playing for,” Meier said.
“We talked a lot about it and said, ‘It would be shameful to pout if you’re 0 for 3. You don’t get to do that tonight in front of these people who are fighting for their lives and bringing great spirit and energy to the gym.’ I told them they’re powerful women because they have this platform where they can impact lives and inspire someone by your effort, make them say, ‘They fight like I’m fighting.’ I think that speech resonated in overtime.”
Virginia Tech (15-12, 3-11) led until there were three minutes before halftime, and Meier praised the Hokies for their resilience.
“I know how Virginia Tech feels,” Meier said.
“You know you’re good and your kids play their tails off for you and it’s just that season where they’re not getting the wins. Every game has been like that for them. They never go away, never quit.
“They’re making every team in this league a heck of a lot better [because] of how hard they play. They really pushed us. We just couldn’t put them away, made too many mistakes in the final two minutes of regulation.”
Meier said as they entered overtime, she told her players: “Hit the reset button and close the door. You left it open, they burst it open, so close the door.”
Sidney Cook was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line and led the Hokies with 17 points. Hannah Young added 15 points.
The Hurricanes are home again on Thursday against Louisville.