It wasn’t the start they anticipated – empty seats at the Watsco Center, eight misses on their first 10 shots – but it’s one that University of Miami head coach Katie Meier will use to progress.
The Hurricanes (1-0) hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) Wednesday afternoon, the first of four non-conference games in their 2020-21 schedule.
Miami edged past coach Darnell Haney’s team, 74-58.
It was closer than expected, largely due to poor shooting on UM’s side. It was a buzzer-beater triple that gave them a 15-12 lead at the end of the first.
“We haven’t played in a long time, and that first quarter was tough to watch,” Meier said. “I liked that we kept the faith, worked through some lineups, got a little spark off the bench.”
The Hurricanes led by six at the half, thanks to their impressive rebounding from Destiny Harden, who finished the game with a game-high 13. Additionally, a full-court press implemented late in the second quarter made the Dolphins extremely frustrated.
The third and fourth quarter leaned on Miami’s end, with shooting and experience favoring coach Meier’s group.
“Encouraging thing for us is that the shooting percentage each quarter kept going up,” she said. “It was a miserable first quarter, less-than-average second and third, and fourth we adjusted at halftime and got them better shots.”
The redshirt junior Harden led the all-around effort, scoring 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, adding 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior Kelsey Marshall garnered 22 points on 5-of-12 shooting, including three shots from beyond the arc.
As for the Dolphins, freshman guard Ashley Malone had 17 points off the bench, while senior forward Jada Perry held a team-high 10 rebounds and four steals.
Here’s my final take on Wednesday’s victory:
A season-opening win over Jacksonville didn’t hint at any major strides in the right direction, rather a group of women who understand work has to be done to get back on track.
This group hasn’t taken on a team not wearing orange and green since early March, so that says something. And with senior Mykea Gray – torn ACL – out for the season, it’ll be on Destiny Harden to lead the team when things get scrappy. On Wednesday, it was her efforts to fight for boards. In their upcoming contest against North Florida, it may go down to that and more.
“I think Destiny Harden is going to be a real story for us this season,” Meier said. “She played a phenomenal game.”
As coach Meier specifically stated post-game, her squad has to start strong early on. That starts with not settling with three-pointers off the gate, and instead attacking the basket and taking advantage of those open mid-range shots.
A simple pump-fake and dribble did the work for Harden, and it can work for everybody else, too.
“When things got tight, I was thinking, ‘Don’t panic, be patient, don’t force anything.’ We just followed the coach’s game plan,” Harden said.