Posted: 10:14 pm Friday, March 16th, 2012
By Matt Porter
CORAL GABLES — If the Miami Hurricanes’ women’s basketball team is to reach the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament, they will have to do so without All-ACC senior guard and Pahokee alum Riquna ‘Bay Bay’ Williams.
Williams, the Hurricanes’ second-leading scorer, has been suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to a university statement and did not accompany the team on its flight to Spokane, Wash., for tonight’s first-round game (6:30 p.m.) against No. 14 seed Idaho State (24-7).
Williams, averaging 16.6 points per game, will remain at home even if the third-seeded Hurricanes (25-5) advance into the second round against the winner of the Rutgers-Gonzaga game.
“She’s one of the best players in the country,” UM coach Katie Meier said of Williams during a press conference Friday in Spokane. “We have already moved forward. I am disappointed. And we are more than ready to take the court with who’s here.”
Meier declined to directly answer when asked if Williams was permanently off the team.
UM is making its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but is trying to win two games in the tournament for the first time. The Hurricanes won their first-round game last season before getting eliminated by Oklahoma.
That will certainly be far tougher without Williams.
“I guarantee we’re going to play our tails off,” Meier said. “I guarantee and I know they are going to respond. If we didn’t have that resiliency and we didn’t have the character, I would be a little more panicked right now.”
The Hurricanes are playing tonight for the first time in 15 days, having last taken the court while losing in the first round of the ACC Tournament to Wake Forest on March 2 .
Before losing Williams, the long layoff seemed exactly what the Hurricanes needed after dropping two of their past three games, including a forgettable showing during a 81-74 upset loss to the Demon Deacons in the conference tournament.
Senior guard Shenise Johnson, the Hurricanes’ three-time All-ACC selection, thinks the quick knockout in the ACC tournament was a good wake-up call.
“It definitely lit a fire in our belly,” Johnson said. “We were like, ‘Oh, Final Four this and Final Four that.’ There’s nothing written out for us. Nobody is going to give us anything. I think that’s what we forgot.”