After pulling off a down-to-the-wire, 67-63 win over North Carolina on Monday afternoon at the Watsco Center, the Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team lost their first road game of the season to the No. 4 NC State Wolfpack, 78-47.
Senior guard Kelsey Marshall, who finished with 14 points and entered the game 16th in the ACC in scoring (14.6 points per game), jumpstarted the Hurricanes’ offense with five points in the first three and a half minutes before the Wolfpack (8-0, 3-0 ACC) initiated a 12-0 run of their own to climb to a 23-8 lead.
Miami (4-2, 1-2 ACC) struggled mightily to score from the field on 27 percent shooting in comparison to NC State’s 54 percent, an offensive performance that saw the Wolfpack convert on seven first-quarter 3-point field goals. Guard Kai Crutchfield and center Elissa Cunane combined for 32 points, while forward Kayla Jones and guard Jakia Brown-Turner totaled 20 collectively.
“We played a really, really great team,” said Miami head coach Katie Meier, who remains four wins away from 300 total in Coral Gables, Florida. “We thought just wanting to win was enough, and it takes a lot more preparation than we showed.”
The Canes were outrebounded 48-29 while the Wolfpack scored at will on the interior, scoring 30 points in the paint. NC State also converted on 10 of their 25 3-point field goal attempts, with Cunane knocking down three.
“I think if you search for the positives on this one, you’re sort of lying to yourself,” said Meier, who also thought that Destiny Harden, the team’s starting forward who totaled 20 points and 12 rebounds against North Carolina, was capable of doing a lot more overall.
Fueled by Cunane’s 16 points and Jones’ 10, NC State would exhibit another 12-0 surge to close the first half, leading 48-16 at the break. Marshall had 10 points for Miami, while Harden and forward Naomi Mbandu had only three points apiece heading into the locker room.
Defending better in the second half were the Hurricanes, as they held the upstart Wolfpack to 28 points. Miami was unable to rally together and create necessary runs on offense as opposed to the season-low 16 points scored in the opening half, despite senior guard Taylor Mason posting 10 points and leading the Canes with eight rebounds.
Despite being scheduled to face Duke on Sunday, a COVID-19 test was confirmed in the Blue Devils’ locker room and Miami instead welcomed the Tar Heels on short notice. Harden, a redshirt junior guard who has notched two double-doubles through the team’s first five games, led Miami with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and two steals on the day.
“I think they gave me a lot of 3-point openings, the opportunity to post up smaller guards and get me a lot of and-ones, or send me to the free throw line a lot,” Harden said. “I just know I was coming off a game I had one rebound, and my coaches just get on me all the time about rebounding and how important it is. As a player, I think getting offensive rebounds are fun, you know having a second chance to score the ball is even much [more] fun. So, I think getting those rebounds and putting points up after that is going to help us win more games.”
Meier also knows how critical it will be for the team to focus on the fundamentals to avoid lapses in what it will take to win against the conference powerhouses in schools like NC State.
“One thing that I think as [both] a head coach and the staff with the decisions that we’re making this particular season is we need to do less game prep, and a heck of a lot more player development,” Meier said. “I’m sure every coach is going to feel that way. I’ve just got to get in the gym with my kids and the film room with them and just talk to them about basketball, and how to make a ball screen read and how to defend certain actions and then just play whoever’s on your schedule.”
Miami will not play until Dec. 31 against Notre Dame, who was recently ranked as high as No. 22 in the AP Top 25 polls. The game will be televised on the ACC Network.