Why not us? Why not us?
That is the question University of Miami guard Adrienne Motley repeatedly asked her teammates before and during Thursday night’s game against No. 4 Notre Dame, the NCAA runner-up, the defending ACC champion, a team that had won 61 games in a row against unranked opponents and an NCAA-record-tying 30 consecutive road games.
“Why not us to be the ones that knock off Notre Dame?” Motley asked. “And with [former Notre Dame star] Skylar Diggins in the building.”
And so, they did. The Hurricanes (12-3, 2-0 ACC) raced to a 20-point halftime lead and knocked off the Irish 78-63 with the help of a career-high 32 points from Motley and a UM-record nine blocks by forward Jassany Williams. When it was over, the coaches and players hugged and danced and mugged for cameras midcourt.
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“To beat a team like Notre Dame, you better have some special, record-setting type performances by not just one, but two, and we had them,” said UM coach Katie Meier. “Adrienne consistently made every big bucket, every time we needed an answer, every time we needed to close the door, it was Money Mot. And then Jass pretty much closed the door with a loud bang. Slammed it. Because those blocks were high-level, straight up in the air, athletic, great timing. We needed every single one of them to win this game.”
UM played relentless defense in the first half, and the frustrated Irish shot 24 percent. They never looked in sync and certainly didn’t look like a team that had won 38 games in a row against conference foes. Starting forward Taya Reimer didn’t make the trip for personal reasons, so the Irish had to make adjustments, but coach Muffet McGraw did not use that as an excuse.
“Every team has one of those nights where everything goes their way, and tonight was Miami’s night,” she said. “They played exceptionally. Motley was phenomenal. She looked like an All-American. We just couldn’t stop her. We tried a number of different options, and nothing really was successful.”
The Irish (14-2, 2-1) came into the game riding a wave of confidence and enjoying the postcard-perfect weather. But they froze once they hit the floor. Miami went on a 20-4 run to end the first half.
“The first half, we were unable to execute, and it snowballed,” McGraw said.
Meanwhile, in the UM locker room at halftime, Meier admitted she was “using every old cliche — it’s 0-0, new game, gotta win this half. I’d be a lying coach if I said I thought we’d be up by 20 over Notre Dame.”
The Irish battled back and closed the gap to six, but UM freshman Laura Quevedo hit a three, and “that was one of those nail-in-the-coffin kind of shots,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner got easy baskets in the paint and finished with 17 points. Jewell Loyd played tough and scored 27 points. But it wasn’t enough.
On Wednesday night, Meier said of her team: “I keep peeling back layers of the onion and, oh my God, they keep coming through. When you challenge them, they respond, and there is not another team that can challenge like Notre Dame in the entire country. I’m excited to see what is revealed.”
They came through again. Why not?