CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The University of Miami women’s basketball team dropped its WNIT opener against Stetson Wednesday night at the BankUnited Center, falling to the visiting Hatters 70-63.
Miami, which earned the ACC’s automatic berth into the WNIT as the top-rated team from the conference not to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, was paced by Adrienne Motley’s 16 points. Senior guard Krystal Saunders, playing in her final game with the Hurricanes, added 16 in the disappointing first-round exit.
Head coach Katie Meier said she was surprised by the disappointing effort of her team, who finished the season 16-15 overall and 8-8 in conference play.
“I thought we practiced very, very hard,” she said. “We seemed very excited to be in the postseason, and we didn’t show it tonight.”
It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the night, but a 14-5 Hatters run during the opening stages of the second half sent the visitors to their largest lead up to that point at 50-40 with 13:21 remaining.
Down 10 points, the Hurricanes struggled to get much going offensively in the final period. Miami shot just 28.8-percent from the field for the game and 25.6-percent in the second half.
On the other side of the floor, the Hatters (27-7) connected at a 37.9-percent rate, but a solid 42.9 percent in the second half. Sasha Sims led all Stetson scorers with 20 points.
“I want to give Stetson a ton of credit,” Meier said. “They’re a sharp basketball team, they won 26 or 27 games for a reason. They’ve only lost to one team since January…they came in here a lot more confident and with a lot more chemistry.”
Neither team was able to separate itself in the first period, as the Hurricanes and Hatters maneuvered through a tightly contested frame. Miami’s largest first-half lead was five at 23-18 with 14:02 remaining, and it was
Stetson who carried a slight three-point lead (34-21) into the halftime locker room.
The Hurricanes were led by freshman All-ACC selection Motley’s 11 first-half points and three three-pointers from Saunders.
“We weren’t really sure we deserved it. I think the most disappointing thing was we didn’t have any personality,” Meier said. “Krystal started off the game with that personality.”
Both Saunders and Maria Brown, who helped guide Miami to postseason appearances during all four of their years with the Hurricanes, drew praise from their head coach in postgame commentary.
“They’re great citizens. I never had a meeting with them about anything bad – they never got in trouble…never missed study hall,” Meier said. “I look at them, and I see two adults. As a coach, you have a lot of different personalities that come through, but those two, steady, consistent personalities mean so much to me.”
Stetson began to widen its lead in the second half, stretching it to seven points with 15:34 remaining in the contest and upping the Miami deficit to 10 points with 13:21 left. The Hatters led by as much as 16 with 3:37 to go.
Motley fouled out after holding Stetson guard C.J. Coddington with less than one minute remaining, drawing a round of applause from the Hurricanes faithful for another impressive effort.
A frenetic Miami comeback cut the deficit to six on a three-pointer from sophomore Caprice Dennis with less than 20 seconds remaining, but that was as close as the Hurricanes would get, as Miami ended another competitive season on a disappointing note.
Seven of the Hurricanes nine players that took the floor Thursday will be back in 2014-15 – an encouraging sign for Meier and her staff, who have guided Miami to five consecutive postseason appearances.
“We had this game, and we kind of gave it away,” Motley said. “I was telling the team in the locker room, we have to grind in the offseason. We have to get in the gym, refocus ourselves. It was a great opportunity, but we want to be in the NCAA [Tournament] next season. We’re focusing on getting better, getting stronger and getting in better shape.”