`Canes Await NCAA Fate After Semifinal Loss in Greensboro
March 5, 2011
By Rob Dunning
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Tar Heels had an answer for everything the `Canes threw at them Saturday afternoon and it eventually was too much to overcome.
The second-seeded Hurricanes (27-4) were eliminated from play at the 2011 ACC Tournament with an 83-57 loss to sixth-seeded North Carolina (25-7) in the semifinal round.
UNC took advantage of a UM drought midway through the first half and never looked back, staying comfortably ahead the rest of the way much in part thanks to the play of UNC center Jessica Breland, who turned in a game high 28 points on 13-of-22 shooting.
Miami’s star guard and ACC Player of the Year Shenise Johnson struggled in the first half – scoring just two points on 1-of-8 shooting – before bouncing back in the second half to finish with 19 points, four assists, three steals and a game-high 14 rebounds.
The `Canes were led offensively by the ACC’s leading scorer Riquna Williams, who finished with 21 on 8-of-24 shooting.
Overall, Miami struggled as a team shooting the entire night, as UNC held a 46.9-to-30.8 advantage from the field. Stefanie Yderstrom, one of UM’s hottest scorers over the last few weeks, finished 0-of-7 from the field – including 0-of-6 from three-point land.
But the story of the game was Breland, who missed the entire 2009-10 season recovering from cancer. Every time Miami hit a big shot and it felt like momentum was going the way of the `Canes, Breland was there on the other end with a big bucket to help UNC maintain its consistent double-digit lead.
“Even I had a couple of wow moments out there with Jessica Breland tonight,” Meier said. “I was more surprised that she missed a turnaround, fade-away 15-footer than I was when she made those unbelievable, timely, timely, timely, timely baskets. We have a heck of a spirit. It takes a lot to break our spirit. It really does, but we were broken a couple of times when she made unbelievable baskets.
“I hugged her after the game and said that was such an inspirational performance,” Meier said. “And I even saw it and I was fixing my own problems. But even I had enough perspective to understand what she has been through and how emotional and how unbelievable a performance that was.”
Early in the first half, action went back and forth before UNC got a little separation midway through the period when the `Canes went over four minutes without a bucket. The Tar Heels took advantage of Miami’s struggles to go ahead 27-19 and then 43-27 before going into the half up 14.
Miami made several brief runs in the second half but Breland and the Heels just wouldn’t give in. In the end, UNC was moving on and UM was going home.
“We had a lot that we could have fixed in that game,” Meier said. “There is a lot going on with Miami. We will be very raw and very direct and fix that as a team.”
With under a minute to play and the game out of hand, Meier made two final line-up changes, taking Johnson and Williams out of the game to give the fans a chance to acknowledge their play. And as each player walked past Meier to their spot on the bench, the leader had a few quiet words for her stars.
It’s unclear what was said, but it was likely a reminder that despite the loss, a bigger stage is just ahead.
“We just have to buckle down and realize who we are and the potential that we have,” Johnson said after the game. “I don’t think we did that tonight. I feel like they punched us and we stayed down. That is not the Miami that we are and the Miami that we showed all season.
“We need to figure out what we want to do as a team and what we want to accomplish.”