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Hurricanes win one and drop one again through another week of ACC competition

The Hurricanes ended the week on a disappointing note up north in the Empire State, but defeated North Carolina for the second time this season despite not hosting Florida State on Thursday.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse
Hurricanes women’s basketball forward Nyayongah Gony drives to the basket past Syracuse Orange forward Digna Strautmane during the second half at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 18, 2021 (Syracuse, N.Y.).
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball program has traded wins for losses over the last 38 days, which started and ended with two losses to the polished Syracuse Orange by double-digits at home and on the road.

Unable to kindle their first Atlantic Coast Conference winning streak of the season, Miami (6-5, 3-5 ACC) dropped their fourth game in six matchups versus No. 24 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome (N.Y.) on Sunday, 99-64, allowing Orange freshman guard Priscilla Williams to lead her team with a career-high 26 points.

The Canes were unable to contain their second-place conference opponent from the opening tip, allowing the Orange to connect on six 3-point field goals in the first quarter, which resulted in 32 points through just ten minutes. Miami, on the other hand, scored the same number of points in the first half on 13-of-30 shooting. Syracuse also outrebounded UM 38-22, with 10 of those 38 being offensive rebounds.

Miami freshman guard Nyayongah Gony, who has appeared in all 11 games as a reserve, went 4-for-5 and paced her team with 13. Junior forward Jamir Huston also came off the bench and posted 12 points.

“There were three or four players on our team that showed heart, concern, and care and Jamir [Huston] and Nyayongah [Gony] were definitely two of them,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “They responded to the challenges and did what we asked of them. They made an extra effort and owned the hard stuff.”

Though the Canes’ efforts in bench scoring, 56 points total, were not enough to slow down the sizzling Orange post-halftime, despite initiating a 13-0 scoring run in the second quarter. The 50-32 hole would only widen thereafter, as Syracuse would tally 26 points in the third frame on over 71 percent shooting.

Entering the contest at 8-5 all-time inside the Carrier Dome, Miami resembled almost anything but power and consistency against a team that had not competed since Dec. 20 at Boston College. Meier knew after the first meeting versus Syracuse that her program had a road of work ahead in order to top one of the ACC’s finest.

“My seniors did not play at the level that I expect them to play and that they’ll need to play, and that I know they’re capable of,” said Meier after Miami’s Dec. 10 loss to Syracuse. “You gotta believe in yourself enough, so I think it was like ‘fake confidence’ a little bit. We were showing that we had confidence, but really there was inner doubt and fatigue makes a coward of us all.”

Senior guard Endia Banks, who finished with 12 points, remained the only standout for Meier’s program on Sunday, however. Starting guard Kelsey Marshall, who recently eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau in Miami’s previous win over North Carolina, remained ice-cold from the field (0-4) and did not score.

The Canes forced 23 turnovers, yet allowed 40 points in the paint, while Syracuse freshman center Kamilla Cardoso, one of the program’s top recruits in history, scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Miami conversely began to show life in the fourth period, shooting a slightly improved 6-of-10, but would come nowhere near narrowing the spread.

The week did not bring all misery to Miami women’s basketball, nonetheless. Although a postponed home matchup versus Florida State on Thursday was moved to Feb. 7, the Canes rallied in Chapel Hill, N.C., to take down North Carolina for the second time on the season.

Marshall and Banks combined for 33 points and redshirt junior Destiny Harden also scored eight points in the 10-point victory at Carmichael Arena. Miami did allow a double-double once again to North Carolina’s senior center in Janelle Bailey, though even losing the rebounding battle was still enough for the Canes. The program dished 19 assists, nonetheless.

“We gotta take this road win because road wins in this conference are incredibly hard,” Meier said.

Wyoming transfer guard Karla Erjavec, who was cleared by the NCAA’s immediate eligibility waiver in mid-December, also drained two 3-point field goals after making just one in over 15 attempts.

It was clear the afternoon belonged to Marshall’s milestone, however, as she has been heavily relied upon to fill in for senior guard Mykea Gray, who has remained the Canes’ floor general over the past three seasons.

“I was really hard on Kelsey after the last game, as hard as I’ve probably been on her,” said Meier despite Marshall’s 16 points at Wake Forest. “I was really proud of her [today] and the team felt really good about that.”

The battle remained nothing but uphill, as the size disparity did not favor Miami. Winning the 3-point contest, a 10-of-24 performance, was what pushed the Canes past the Tar Heels, though.

“Obviously, we were undersized,” Meier said. “We neutralized it with the 3-point shot. Our percentages for the game from the field and from the 3-point line were so much better than the last game we played. Very similar defenses, so we really had to take some ownership in our shot selection and mainly when you have 19 assists on 24 baskets, you gotta feel good about it.”

Despite another roller-coaster ride of a week, Miami will remain on the road to take on Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-2 ACC) for the first team this year on Thursday. Similar to Syracuse, the Panthers have not competed since Dec. 20 due to COVID-19 implications resulting from the ACC’s health and safety protocol. The Canes and Panthers will tip off from Peterson Events Center at 6 p.m. as the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.