UM women pick up crucial Big East win

The Hurricanes’ women’s basketball team (15-9) routed the Providence College Friars (9-16) 77-64 Saturday at the Convocation Center. The win snapped a two game losing streak and improved the ‘Canes Big East record to 7-6.
Freshman Tamara James made another strong case to be selected as Big East Rookie of the Year. James, who already has six double-doubles and five Big East Rookie of the Week accolades under her belt, proved to be too much for the Friars, out-hustling her opponents for rebounds and using her ball-handling skills and court-awareness to out-maneuver the defense underneath the basket.
“Tamara just goes to prove that she is Big East Rookie of the Year,” head coach Ferne Labati said.
Miami out-scored the Friars in the paint 26-6, and outrebounded Providence by a margin of 25-11 in the first half.
Guard Melissa Knight also caused trouble for the Friars defense. The sophomore product out of Pennsylvania scored seven points in the first half, including a three-pointer to perpetuate the Hurricanes’ rally. Knight finished the game with 15 points on 5-9 shooting.
“I thought that Melissa came up big for us, from the land of three,” Labati said. “We need that and I think that she is capable of scoring like that every night.”
Miami scored first on a jumper by Shaquana Wilkins and subsequently went on a 17-6 run to start the game. Throughout the contest, the Hurricanes were able to shred the Friar defense and convert on fast-break opportunities.
Senior Meghan Saake led a formidable Hurricane defense that gave up few scoring opportunities to the Friars. The zone defense and full-court press kept the Friars disorganized and unable to execute plays. Miami had four blocks and seven steals in the first half and used this to score quick transition points.
Miami’s stingy defense is no anomaly. The Hurricanes lead the nation in steals, averaging 15.5 per game, and also lead the conference in blocked shots. Miami finished the game with 19 steals and four blocked shots. Saake and McCormick each finished with eight and six steals, respectively. The Hurricanes went into the locker-room with a 37-28 lead.
The Friars had better success finding holes and open lanes in the second half. Providence quickly went on a 19-9 run to cut the lead to two with 12 minutes remaining. Providence forward Jessica Simmonds was instrumental in the comeback for the Friars, scoring 10 of her 16 points in the rally.
However, the effort wasn’t enough as the Hurricanes managed to regroup and stage a rally of their own to break the game open. The offense-defense tandem of James and Saake helped the Hurricanes go on a 25-10 run that solidified the victory.
“I think that we played well in spots,” Labati said. “We felt that if we did the little things such as, deflections, challenging shots, and creating turnovers, then we felt that we could be better.”

Sandeep Konka can be reached at