Women's Hoops to Face UNC

While the University of Miami men's basketball team has struggled through its first 15 games with injuries and late-game collapses up until the recent Maryland win, there has been a consistent quiet winner at the "U" which has a huge home game Monday night at the BankUnited Center.

We are talking about the Tamara James-led Lady 'Canes that are slowly making a name for themselves under first year coach Katie Meier who has her women running opponents off the court en route to a 11-2 record and 1-0 start in the ACC.

When the basketball seasons began, the men's program had all the expectations while no one talked about the women's program.

Slowly, whispers are being heard about the Lady 'Canes that will play No. 5 North Carolina Monday at 7 p.m. The Tar Heels advanced to the Elite Eight last year and are currently 14-0 with superstars like point guard Ivory Latta and Palm Beach-native power forward Erlana Larkins.

What was talked about in the hiring of Meier has come to fruition through 13 games as Miami has wins over No. 25 Mississippi and an 11-1 at the time Georgia Tech team on the road. Miami dominated them 75-63 Thursday.

Miami administrators were said to be looking for a spark of energy and youth to the program. They found that in Meier whose intensity has surely been acknowledged, accepted and most importantly, thrived off of by her players.

But no one could have expected a team sitting at 11-2 entering the ACC schedule.

While James is the leader of the squad, this team is far from a one-woman show as it's been in the past.

James, who will go down as the best women's basketball player in University of Miami history, leads the team in scoring averaging 21.7 points per game and has a great chance to break the career scoring record of Maria Rivera if she can keep up her current pace, a record that has stood for 18 years.

She entered the year as the fourth-leading scorer in 'Canes history and has already passed Jeannie Herbert and sits in third behind the great Frances Savage who led the 'Canes to the all-time best record in 'Canes history at 30-2 and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 1992 and Rivera whose 2,358 career points have lasted since 1988.

This year she has help in the form of a diminutive 5-foot-2 point guard out of Harlem, New York, in sparkplug Renee Taylor who's made a real splash on the team averaging 14.8 points per game, good for second on the team.

Her speed has given the 'Canes the ability to push the ball up the court and play an up-tempo game they haven't been able to do in quite some time. It has resulted in a lot of points as Miami is averaging 79.3 points per game.

Add in the return of Melissa Knight who missed last season with a torn ACL who is averaging 12.2 points per game and giving the 'Canes an outside presence they really didn't have last year and you are looking at a trio that can fill the baskets at any time.

The 'Canes also have the addition of an inside presence that was clearly missing from last year's team as freshman Brittney Denson has surely helped the cause averaging seven points per game and 6.5 rebounds.

Freshman point guard LaToya Cunningham has also been a pleasant addition to the team as she is good back up for Taylor and is averaging 5.8 points per game, but in addition, has a three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.

But there is no doubt that whatever the numbers show thus far, the 'Canes have not faced anyone like the Tar Heels who have destroyed their opponents by an average of 34 points per game, which included a 77-54 thrashing of UConn. The Heels closest games all year have come in a seven-point win over Arizona State and eight-point overtime win over Old Dominion.

Every other win has been by 20 points or more.

This will definitely be the 'Canes stiffest test of the year and will give them a barometer of where they are as a team at the present time.

So how do they win this game?

There are two keys, contain Latta, easier said than done, and box out Larkins. Other than that, it's simply a matter of playing to its ability as Miami has plenty of talent and can score on just about anyone.

One positive is that Miami only lost to North Carolina 64-57 in the ACC Tournament last year and had the Heels on the ropes late in the game, so the confidence to be able to play with the explosive Heels which average 86.8 points per game is there even more so with the 'Canes early season success.

Either way, it's something 'Canes fans don't want to miss, and it's time to support the women's program because they are giving us a product that is deserving of fan support and for the price of five dollars a ticket, it's the cheapest family outing there is.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is the Basketball Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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