“I Was Just Ready When My Number Was Called”
GREENSBORO, N.C. – It was a fitting end to an already memorable evening.
Moments after the Hurricanes punched their ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2023 Ally ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, Lashae Dwyer smiled broadly, danced just a little bit, took the Miami “U” sticker handed to her, and advanced it on the tournament bracket decorating one of the walls at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Around her, teammates and coaches cheered her on loudly.
But it wasn’t the first time on Thursday that Dwyer got the Hurricanes excited.
Far from it.
The guard – who entered the tournament averaging just 14.4 minutes per game – scored 10 of her team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Hurricanes pull away in what was eventually an 84-69 win over Boston College.
For much of the night, Miami couldn’t create much separation from the Eagles on the scoreboard and throughout the first half, the Hurricanes (19-11, 11-7) could seemingly do little more than trade baskets with Boston College.
Dwyer, though, came off the bench late, found ways to score, and in the end, Miami got a crucial victory when it needed one most.
“What the team needed tonight was Lashae Dwyer’s grittiness and toughness and pressure on the ball and [her readiness] to step up and take it,” Hurricanes head coach Katie Meier said after Thursday’s win. “We talked about toughness being contagious and you’re not tough alone, and I thought we were very tough together.”
For Dwyer, Thursday night’s performance was one to savor.
Though she scored a career-high 23 points in the Hurricanes’ loss to Florida State in December, she’s scored in double-digits just seven times this season and has yet to start a game.
Meier acknowledged on Thursday that’s been a challenge for the sophomore from Toronto.
“The other thing about toughness is everybody is tough when the wind is at their back, right? And Shae hasn’t always had the wind at her back…It hasn’t been easy for Shae this year,” Meier said. “She’s been inconsistent, had inconsistent playing time. I’ve been inconsistent in my choices on whether to play her or not and that’s tough.
“That’s what I’m talking about [when I say] tough. She hasn’t been given a starting role and been able to do whatever Shae wanted to do. Shae has had limited minutes in a lot of really important games and it has hurt her, but I think that’s where her growth and her toughness come from.”
Now, with the Hurricanes set to face eighth-ranked Virginia Tech on Friday, Dwyer hopes she can continue to build on her success – and she expressed gratitude Thursday for her teammates’ continued faith in her, even through her struggles.
“This game means a lot to me because I was just ready when my number was called,” said Dwyer, who also had three rebounds and three steals in the win. “My teammates put their trust in me to just keep feeding the hot hand. I’m thankful for them, for [how they keep] pushing me in practice and in the games, too.”
A balanced effort
Though Dwyer shone late, she wasn’t the only Hurricane to post big numbers Thursday.
Senior forward Lola Pendande was a force early, scoring eight of Miami’s 14 points in the first quarter. She finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
That balance and versatility, Meier said, made a difference against the Eagles.
“I think the start of the game was the Lola Pendande show…She started the game establishing – and I think we’re difficult because we can reinvent ourselves from one media time out to another. We can totally reinvent who Miami is,” Meier said. “We can be a zone team, a man team. We can shoot the three. We can score inside and just look around and tons of communication on the staff, tons of communication from the players to the staff. Players [were] coming up to me saying ‘Why don’t you call this? It just worked well. Why did you call that play?’ I love it. It’s raw. It’s authentic and it’s like in the moment and we just want to win.”
Scouting Virginia Tech
The Hurricanes know they’ll face a challenge when they take the court Friday against Virginia Tech.
The Hokies, who had a double bye to open the tournament, have won eight straight and have risen steadily in the AP Top 25 poll in recent weeks.
Hokies senior center Elizabeth Kitley, a two-time ACC Player of the Year, is averaging 18.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. She leads the conference with 18 double-doubles and is the only athlete in the conference to record a 20-rebound game.
She is a three-time first-team All-ACC selection and a two-time All-Defensive Team selection as well. Also named to the All-ACC first team was Hokies point guard Georgia Amoore, who is averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 assists this season.
Miami and Virginia Tech met earlier this season, with the Hurricanes notching a 77-66 upset of the then-ninth-ranked Hokies. In that game, Miami guard Jasmyne Roberts notched a career-high 23 points to lead the Hurricanes. Kitley posted a team-high 20 points for Virginia Tech, but was one of just two Hokies to finish in double figures.
“I think Virginia Tech is one of the most talented teams in the country,” Meier said on Thursday. “I have mad respect for them and I know they’re very difficult to defend. I think it’s kind of good that we put some points up there tonight and got some confident kids because you can’t keep that team in the 40s or the 50s. They’re too talented. We’re going to try though.”