Damond: What I learned from Miami’s wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech

Guard Jasmyne Roberts takes a shot during Miami's game against No. 22 North Carolina on Jan. 5 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

It’s been quite the week for Miami women’s basketball.

After dropping their first two Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) games, the Hurricanes bounced back with three straight victories, including a pair of statement wins against No. 22 North Carolina and No. 9 Virginia Tech at the Watsco Center on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.

Has Miami (10-6, 3-2 ACC) turned a new leaf after its up-and-down start to the season? Here’s what I’ve learned from the ‘Canes two Top-25 wins.

The ‘Canes depth is not to be underestimated

Every win in a league as tough as the ACC is an achievement, but defeating two Top-25 teams in a single week is pretty darn impressive. Better yet, Miami did it without veteran starting forward Destiny Harden, who is averaging a career-high 11.9 points in 14 games this season.

Fortunately, the ‘Canes had many talented players to fill the void. Enter sophomore guard Jasmyne Roberts. In her first collegiate start against North Carolina, Roberts was one rebound shy of a double-double, tallying 10 points and nine boards.

On Sunday against Virginia Tech, she exploded for a career-high 23 points by shooting 8 of 12 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The Jacksonville, Fla., native helped Miami shoot 53.1% from the field in the game — its second best mark this season.

“We can’t win without [Roberts]. She uplifts her teammates all the time. Even when she wasn’t getting the minutes she wanted, she still is the heart and soul that uplifts this team and keeps everyone in it,” head coach Kaite Meier said. “Now, she’s just playing out of her mind.”

Even with Roberts in the starting lineup against North Carolina on Thursday, Miami’s bench continued to produce, combining for 19 points and 15 rebounds.

“The bench keeps coming through for us and we keep trusting them,” Meier said.

Three days later, the bench came through again versus Virginia Tech. In her postgame press conference, Meier attributed the victory to the Hurricanes’ large rotation. 10 ‘Canes saw action on Sunday as opposed to seven Hokies.

“Why did we win this game? [Because] Virginia Tech got tired,” Meier said.

The Cavinder twins are for real

An unparalleled sense of excitement immediately revolved around the Miami women’s basketball program when transfers Haley and Hanna Cavinder announced their commitment to the ‘Canes in April of last year.

It was no secret that the twins’ joint Tiktok account has over 4.1 million followers and 120.1 million likes. In a large market like Miami, those numbers would surely grow exponentially.

Thus, questions quickly formed about the Cavinder twins’ true intentions behind their decision. Would they commit to the team and focus on basketball?

Well, I’m here to say that all these questions can be put to rest. The Cavinders’ are for real and they proved it this past weekend.

Haley Cavinder scored a team-high 16 points versus North Carolina and contributed 19 against Virginia Tech. In only her first year with the team, she has quickly become a leader that others look up to.

“Haley is leading and that’s not easy to do on a team that returned four starters. She’s obviously a little bit more comfortable,” Meier said. “She is as competitive as any kid I have ever coached in my life, times 10.”

Hanna Cavinder recorded nine points off the bench against North Carolina, including back-to-back threes in the second quarter that pushed Miami’s lead to double digits.

The former Fresno State stars are having little trouble adjusting to life in the ACC.

New teams take time to mesh, especially in the ultra competitive ACC

In the midst of a three-game ACC winning streak, the Hurricanes are rolling right now. But that hasn’t always been the case this season.

Miami was only one game above .500, at 7-6, before picking up its first ACC win against Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day. The Hurricanes had previously lost to Columbia and Florida on their home court, before dropping their first two conference games.

However, a narrow three-point loss to No. 5 Notre Dame seemed to signal a change was coming, and a winning streak aptly followed.

So, what is responsible for the Hurricanes improved play in 2023?

“When you’re not certain, you can’t play confidently,” Meier said. “[Earlier this season], we just weren’t certain, and now we’re getting to be a little certain … [We] can go full speed now instead of being so tentative.”

The cause of that uncertainty was inexperience. With two new transfers in Hanna and Haley Cavinder, along with an abundance of freshmen and sophomores on the roster, it takes time to build chemistry with teammates and coaches.

Now, the Hurricanes seem to be hitting their stride. Next up, Miami faces Georgia Tech on Thursday, Jan 12. in Atlanta. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.