Miami vs Florida Gulf Coast : Miami again set to host opening-round games in the NCAA Tournament and again set to face Florida Gulf Coast late Friday night at the Watsco Center. The University of Miami women’s basketball team didn’t have to wait until Monday night’s Selection Show to find out it was awarded a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host 13th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Friday night at 9 at the Watsco Center.
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The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, then, might not be the best first-round NCAA Tournament matchup for the Hurricanes.For the second time in the past three years, the Hurricanes are hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Just like in 2017, the 4th-seeded Hurricanes will take on the 13th-seeded Eagles to tipoff the postseason.Florida Gulf Coast enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, despite losing point guard Lisa Zderadicka because of a knee injury. The Eagles have won 19 consecutive games after sweeping both their regular season slate and conference tournament in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
FGCU (28-4, 16-0 ASUN) is the lone squad from its league to make the tourney, so its competition wasn’t exactly as tough as the mighty Atlantic Coast Conference.However, the Eagles outright dominated their competition. FGCU outscored its opponents by a whopping 18.9 points per game, the seventh-best mark in the country.
The Hurricanes (24-8, 12-4 ACC) can be vulnerable against 3-point shooting. Miami allowed 14 triples against Syracuse and Virginia Tech, dropping both contests.The Eagles can exploit opponents with 11 makes from distance per game coming in as the second-most in the nation.
Redshirt junior Laura Cornelius, sophomore Mykea Gray and the rest of Miami’s perimeter players must close out consistently to avoid falling again because of another onslaught of threes.With Zderadicka sidelined, Keri Jewett-Giles has picked up the slack. Jewett-Giles is averaging five assists and increasing her shot attempts greatly in the six full contests without Zderadicka.
Junior Nasrin Ulel leads FGCU in scoring with 14.9 points per game. Ulel has made at least four threes in eight games this season.The Hurricanes main advantage is their size.The Eagles’ don’t have a single player listed bigger than 6-feet tall, which bodes well for Miami’s tandem of 6-foot-3 senior Emese Hof and 6-foot-4 redshirt junior Beatrice Mompremier.
Khaila Prather can still remember the frustration, how helpless she felt two years ago sitting on the bench as Florida Gulf Coast drilled 3-pointer after 3-pointer while trying to upset her Hurricanes in the NCAA Tournament.
Prather, sidelined by an injury, could do little more than encourage her teammates as Miami held off a late surge from the Eagles before the Hurricanes escaped with a 62-60 win that sent them to the tournament’s second round.The Hurricanes’ run ended two days later when another sharp-shooting team — Quinnipiac — upset Miami by again using the 3-point shot to its advantage.
Now, with Miami again set to host opening-round games in the NCAA Tournament and again set to face Florida Gulf Coast late Friday night at the Watsco Center, Prather says Miami can’t afford another performance like that one two years ago.
The Hurricanes know now they might not be able to escape a second time.
“What I remember is that they’re a great 3-point shooting team and they love to rebound. That’s two things we have to nip in the bud early,” said Prather, a redshirt senior who is the only player in Miami basketball history — male or female — to be a part of five NCAA Tournament teams. “We can’t let them linger around in the fourth quarter and get very critical rebounds or hit big-time 3-point shots uncontested. That’s a big thing for us, but I think we’ve got it down pat. I’m excited.”
There may be different faces on this Florida Gulf Coast (28-4) team that Miami will host, but the Eagles, who enter the tournament riding a 19-game win streak, rank third in the nation in made 3-pointers. They’ve attempted 1,071 3-pointers on the season, a number that ranks second in the nation behind only DePaul’s 1,086 tries.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have struggled at times to defend the perimeter.Two weeks ago in the ACC Tournament, Syracuse connected on a tournament-record 14 3-pointers that helped the Orange upset higher-seeded, higher-ranked Miami.
And ahead of Friday night’s matchup with FGCU, the Hurricanes (24-8) rank 129th in the nation in 3-point percentage defense with opponents converting on 30.6 percent of the shots they take from beyond the arc.
hree-point defense isn’t enough of a weakness for the Miami Hurricanes to call it a full-fledged Achilles’ heel, but the issue does seem to crop up too often this time of year.
In 2017, the Quinnipiac Wolves canned 15 three-pointers to upset Miami in the second round of the NCAA tournament. A year later, Quinnipiac hit 10 to beat the Hurricanes in the first round. Even in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament March 8, the Syracuse Orange hit 14 to end Miami’s run in the quarterfinals.