Canes win big after awkward start

Even though Miami won its home opener against Texas-Pan American 83-37 last Friday, the mood after the game was far from euphoric.

Nobody was pleased with the Hurricanes’ slow start against a team that sported a 3-14 road record last season.

“Not quite sure exactly why we were so awkward to start the game,” head coach Katie Meier said. “I don’t know a better word. It just felt very awkward and there was no flow, there was no rhythm, there was no energy.”

Early on, the Canes struggled to find a way to score effectively on a visiting team that managed to hang around until late in the first half. Miami was up by just 11 points late in the half when the offense finally started to click.

Two big baskets, including a three-pointer by junior guard Stefanie Yderstrom, helped provide the spark. But a 20-point lead at the half was far from satisfactory for Meier.

“I told them they were playing as bad as my haircut,” she said during halftime. “And I was yelling, I mean, I was yelling and then that flew out and then there was a silence and I was like, ‘You can laugh. That was funny.’”

After Meier’s unconventional halftime speech, the Canes did away with their offensive woes and finished with a field goal percentage of 41.8, even though they started the game at just 23 percent.

The turnaround had a lot to do with the outstanding play of National Player of the Year candidate Shenise Johnson, who finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

Even though Johnson dismissed the notion that Miami was caught looking ahead to Tuesday’s showdown with Tennessee, she couldn’t hide her excitement for the nationally-televised game in Knoxville at the post-game press conference.

“I really think it’s probably one of the highlights of the year for women’s basketball,” Johnson said. “We both like to run up and down, they like to press, we like to press. I think it’s going to be a very intense, competitive, hard-fought chess match. We’re going to leave it out there on the floor.”

Tuesday’s matchup against the No. 3 team in the country will be the first major litmus test for a Hurricane team that hopes to go deep into March play. But while Miami won’t get away with offensive lapses and slow starts against the Lady Volunteers, Meier knows that the game against Texas-Pan American was a wake-up call at the right time for the seventh-ranked Canes.

“I think we needed to see that we got a lot of work to do before Tuesday’s game, and it’s perfect timing, a perfect spot in the schedule,” she said. “It’s just fantastic to have struggled in this game and then have Tennessee looming, because we’ll have their attention in practice.”