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''March is a Lot of Opportunity''

''March is a Lot of Opportunity''

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Jasmyne Roberts still can’t help but smile when she remembers it all.

The way she and her teammates silenced a sold-out crowd in one of college basketball’s most renowned venues. How the Hurricanes stunned a pair of higher-seeded foes on their way to making history and advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

And how bit by bit, she grew – as a player and as a teammate during that magical March run of a year ago.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” Roberts said with a smile. “And I want everybody on this team now to experience that feeling and know what it’s like.”

Roberts and the ninth-seeded Hurricanes (18-11, 8-10 ACC) will have their first opportunity to start making their postseason presence felt on Thursday afternoon when they open play in the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament against eighth-seeded North Carolina (19-11, 11-7).

It’s a chance for Miami to build its NCAA Tournament resume ahead of Selection Sunday and a chance for Roberts to show how, once again, she thrives when the spotlight is the brightest.

“When I think back on it, what we did last year was very hard, but it’s so doable. We just need to take it one game at a time,” Roberts said. “Now, going into this year, I’m like, ‘Okay, we’ve done this before. We have players who have done it before. We have some experience from last year.’ Taking that, carrying it over and trying to implement it so that everybody else on the team, who didn’t do it last year, can have that confidence. I want to show them ‘Hey, we can do this. It’s right here.’”

Last March, the junior emerged as an absolute force during the Hurricanes’ remarkable run.

She had 12 points in Miami’s NCAA Tournament-opening comeback win over Oklahoma State and followed that with 16 points in the Hurricanes’ stunning 70-68 win over top-seeded Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home floor in the Round of 32.

Days later against Villanova in the Sweet 16, Roberts posted a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds to help Miami secure a 70-65 win. And while Miami came up short in its Elite Eight game against eventual national champion LSU, Roberts was a spark that day with 22 points and seven boards.

She averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament and earned a spot on the Greenville 2 All-Region Team when all was said and done.

She was, as head coach Katie Meier noted, Miami’s ‘something extra’ during a most crucial time.

“In Louisiana, they call it ‘lagniappe,’ a little something extra. You order your meal, and the appetizer comes out, but if the place really likes you, they give you a little lagniappe before,” Meier said. “Jas was that for us because Destiny [Harden] had a lot of focus. Lola [Pendande] had a lot of focus. Haley [Cavinder] had a lot of focus. Jas didn’t have to run the show. She didn’t have to talk a ton. … I think when Jas is composed and calm, that’s when she’s at her best. And she likes pressure.”

Said Roberts, “I love big games. I love big crowds. I love those moments when you can just shine and be a great player. That’s what March is – it’s about being a gamer. That’s what Coach says and bringing your best effort. In those moments, that’s when I thrive. I love the pressure. I love having the confidence from my teammates and my coaches. They always reassure me and tell me ‘Jas, you’ve got it. You’re good.’ Those moments in general, I’m ready for them.”

A series of those moments could await Roberts and the Hurricanes now.

Miami and North Carolina have already met once this season, with the Tar Heels edging the Hurricanes 66-61. But, in that game, the Hurricanes rallied from a 19-point deficit to push North Carolina late.

And the resiliency Miami showed that day has Roberts feeling confident about what she and her teammates can do in Greensboro, especially because it’s March.

“It’s a different mindset. I feel like March is a new chance. It’s a new chapter, a new beginning,” Roberts said. “You’re able to make a big run, build off things from early in the season, but it’s a new page, a new chance. You get a second chance. You can make a great run in the ACC Tournament. You can make a great run in March Madness. March is a lot of opportunity. So much opportunity.”

Coming in hot

Hurricanes guard Shayeann Day-Wilson enters the ACC Tournament with plenty of reason to be confident.

The guard had a career-high 27 points in Miami’s regular-season finale against Georgia Tech on Sunday. She finished with five 3-pointers and had 10 field goals – another career high – against the Yellow Jackets and has scored in double figures in 14 of Miami’s 18 ACC games this season.

Forward Lazaria Spearman also had an impressive showing in the regular-season finale, with 12 points and 12 rebounds to pick up her third double-double of the season.

Scouting the Opponent

The Tar Heels enter the ACC Tournament coming off a 63-59 rivalry win over Duke in their regular-season finale.

Three players – Deja Kelly, Alyssa Ustby and Lexi Donarski – are all averaging double figures for North Carolina, with Kelly leading the way (16.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 3.4 apg).

Number of note

As the Hurricanes prepare to open play in Greensboro, they do so having scored 1,171 points in 18 ACC games. That’s the exact same number of points their opponents scored in those games.