Canes' Women Host Golden Panthers

One of the things that University of Miami women's basketball coach Ferne Labati wanted to find out before the start of the season was if the Hurricanes could win on the road.

"We wanted to go out and see if we could win away from home," says Labati. "Obviously it was a good experience for them and we're pleased with where we're at right now."

No kidding.

Five games later the Hurricanes (5-0) are still undefeated and will go for the best start in school history when they host Florida International University (1-3) tonight at the Convocation Center in Coral Gables.

Thanks to a starting five that has provided balanced scoring so far the Hurricanes have averaged 79.4 points per game as a team, including posting 90-games twice. Leading the charge is sophomore Tamara James who is averaging 16.6 points per game.

But unlike at times last season James isn't the only putting the ball in the basket for the Hurricanes. Senior forward Shaquana Wilkins is averaging 13 points a contest, and is coming off a 14-point performance. Melissa Kinight (13.0), guard Yalonda McCormick (11.4) and forward Chanivia Broussard (10.8) have also contributed significantly on offense.

"One of the things that has made a difference is the balance we've had," said Labati "We're trying not to be one-dimensional team and have a good supporting cast. I think we've done that."

Labati is concerned with the team's lack of production from the bench. Freshman Imani Dhahabu, who had 10 points in the season opener, is the only UM reserve player to finish a game with double-figure points this season.

"We need our bench to start producing better numbers," said Labati.

The Hurricanes will play six more games at home before hitting the road again, and Labati wants to take full advantage of that opportunity.

"There's no doubt we have to play well during this stretch of games," says Labati. "Whether its in December or February they all count the same, and our team is fully aware of that."

Following the women's game the Hurricanes men's team will try to snap a two-game losing streak when they host Stetson (2-0).

The Hurricanes (2-2), coming off consecutive one-point losses in the Las Vegas Tournament, were edged by Bradley 83-82 in their last outing after not being able to hold a 10-point second half lead. A last-second loss to Rhode Island was especially tough after a three-point basket by senior forward Darius Rice that replays showed should have count was disallowed by the referees.

But men's coach Perry Clark said that he doesn't expect what happened in Las Vegas to have any lingering affects on the Hurricanes.

"I don't think that's going to be a problem," said Clark. "I don't see our basketball team losing their focus because we loss two games. If anything they are going to play even more aggressive now because they know nothing is going to come easy."

Clark added that going across the country to play gave him a better indication of where his team stands at this point in the season.

"I think they have an understanding of the things we did, and I got a better feel for what guys can and can't do," said Clark. "It gave guys like Guillermo Diaz and Karron Clarke experience."

Diaz, who scored 23 points in the Hurricanes season-opener, has failed to reach double-figures in points the last three games. Rice leads the Hurricanes with 18 points per game. The Hatters, coming off a 74-60 victory over Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, have received balanced production from their starting line-up with guard E. J. Gordon (16.5), Anthony Register (11.5) and forward Boris Djordjic (11.5) all averaging double-figures in points per game. The meeting between both schools will be the first since 1971.

UM leads the all-time series 40-33.

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