University of Miami

UM women overcome slow start to beat Wright State

The University of Miami women’s basketball team looked like it was still wiping sleep from its eyes at the start of its 11 a.m. home season opener against Wright State on Friday.

But the squealing of 3,200 visiting school children at the BankUnited Center gave them a buzz. Then, the true alarm jolted them to life. Wright State, led by sharpshooter Kim Demmings, raced to a 17-4 lead in the first four minutes.

The Hurricanes stayed patient, pressed the Raiders, started hitting shots and went on a 13-0 run late to secure an 80-67 victory before the largest crowd (4,034) to watch a UM women’s home game.

Four Miami players scored in double figures — Jessica Thomas with 17 (13 in the second half), Michelle Woods and Keyona Hayes with 14, and Adrienne Motley with 13. Woods added seven assists, six rebounds and two steals. Hayes led the Canes with nine rebounds.

“This is without question the toughest first game I’ve ever had at Miami, and that is a complete compliment to Wright State,’’ UM coach Katie Meier said. “We had to do January adjustments to win this game. This was a total team victory.’’

Demmings, who missed last season after leg surgery, was named by ESPN as “a player to go out of your way to watch.’’ Meier had said before the game: “Demmings can score like you’ve not seen. You’ll have Bay-Bay flashbacks [referring to former UM star Riquna Williams]. She can really score the basketball, like dropping 30 would not be a surprise.’’

When the Canes trailed 15-4, Meier called a timeout and made a few substitutions. But she did not panic.

“The kids expected me come out with fire and brimstone during that timeout, but I said, ‘We’re fine, and I totally expected this,’ ’’ Meier said. “I didn’t want them to see any panic in me. I totally expected [Wright State] to come out of the gates on fire. They’re excited, pumped, playing an ACC team. You could see in warmups they had pop in their step, and Demmings has a lot to prove. I have a feeling she knows I’m on the All-American committee or something because she was really showing off.’’

Demmings hit five three-pointers. Symone Denham added 17 points for the Raiders. In the battle of the Dutch centers, 6-5 Wright State’s Richelle van der Keijl had 12 rebounds to go with 10 points and three blocks. Miami freshman Dutch center Emese Hof, who is 6-3, had eight rebounds, six points and a block in 17 minutes.

One of the most noticeable posters in the arena was a giant hand-drawn head of Hof. Even Meier noticed it.

“We were down 17 to six, I look up and see this big blonde face and I was like, ‘All right, we’re good,’ ” she said. “We needed that support.’’

Hof and fellow Dutch freshman guard Laura Cornelius both made major contributions. A three-point basket by Cornelius gave the Hurricanes their first lead, 32-30, with 4:19 to go in the first half.

“This win was big,’’ Thomas said. “It felt like January, or March Madness. Playing in front of that crowd is what really made the environment so electric. Those kids yelling for every rebound, every stop, every made shot. You don’t get that feeling in a regular-season game.’’