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UM Opens Season with Dominant Exhibition Win

UM Opens Season with Dominant Exhibition Win

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Barely 10 minutes into the first game of her collegiate career, Khaila Prather was already validating Katie Meier’s excitement surrounding her new freshman forward from Baltimore.

Prather had pulled down four rebounds and drawn a foul in just four minutes since entering as a substitute against Nova Southeastern, earning at least one “towel slap” to the floor from an excited teammate on the bench. She may have had one turnover – the team had already had six by that point – but she was hustling.

And that’s what Miami’s head coach wanted to see.

“Doesn’t she just catch your eye?” Meier said afterwards, beaming about her talented youngster.

Miami won the exhibition 69-42, and Prather led all players with 10 rebounds.

“Her first half was just the most active first half since Suriya [McGuire] was a freshman, probably,” Meier said. “You see that body, her long arms getting every ball in the air, just playing her tail off. She’s going to be pretty special.”

Alongside forward Laura Quevedo of Madrid (seven points, six rebounds) and guard Nigia Greene (12 points, four rebounds), Prather was among those getting their first taste of college basketball Thursday at the BankUnited Center.

Prather is one of seven on Miami’s 13-player roster who did not wear the Hurricanes jersey a season ago. Two of those seven – Greene and redshirt junior Michelle Woods – missed last season due to injury, which wasn’t lost on Meier before the opening whistle.

“I was in tears at the national anthem thinking about those two kids and what they’ve been through. The fact that they got to play again in the Miami uniform – I tried to shake it off, but I got real emotional.”

Greene said her first minutes of college basketball “felt great.”

“I was really excited just to be back on the court and be with my team,” said Greene, who tore her ACL during training camp last season. “I had pressure on myself, but it wasn’t a lot. I wanted to go out and help my team any way that I could.”

Woods – who missed the 2013-14 season with a broken sternum – didn’t miss a beat in her return to action, scoring seven first-half points and ending the afternoon with nine.

McGuire led all scorers with 13 points.

“It brought tears to my eyes as well, just seeing her play so vocal, so aggressive, not afraid,” McGuire said of Woods, one of her best friends off the court. “She’s the same Michelle, if not better.”

Miami shot just 12-for-33 in the first half, but carried a 12-point lead into the locker room after ending the period on a 16-6 run. Miami boasted a 30-19 first-half advantage on the boards, with half of those rebounds coming from freshman. Prather led the way with eight.

“She has a very, very active mind so we can play her at multiple positions,” Meier said of Prather. “She gets a lot of time, because even when she makes mistakes or missing her layups…she’s going to get the ball back, regardless.”

Not to be outdone, veterans comprised Miami’s starting lineup for both halves. McGuire, Thomas and Woods combined with senior forward Jassany Williams and 2014 All-ACC Freshmen selection Adrienne Motley at the opening whistle.

The Hurricanes opened the second half on a 13-0 run, pushing their advantage to 44-21 until Molly Blomer’s three-pointer at 15:07. Blomer finished with 10 points, while Danielle Robinson finished with a team-high 11.

Miami went on an 11-2 run sparked by a three-pointer at 10:28 of the second half, with Greene and Quevedo combining for all 11 points over that stretch. 

Quevedo’s three-pointer at 7:06 put Miami ahead by 28 points with seven minutes remaining. More impressive to Meier than Quevedo’s shooting prowess, however, was her defense – a quality that she sees in all of her freshmen.

“They’re challenging the ball, they’re putting bodies on people, and we really need that,” Meier said of her freshman contingent. “I think for our fans to see the length and the size we have coming off the bench, that’s something we were very lacking in last year.”

Miami shot 40.3-percent for the game (27-for-67), while the Hurricanes outrebounded the Sharks 52-35. The hosts held Nova to just 16-for-54 shooting (29.6-percent), and just 2-for-24 from three-point range.