Miami, FL -- In front of a program-record crowd, the Miami Hurricanes started off their season on a high note with an 80-67 win over Wright State on Friday at the Bank United Center.
The crowd of 4,034 screaming fans seemed to lift Miami against an opponent that would not go away. The Hurricanes managed to pull away late, but it wasn't easy.
"Getting our team prepared for this game was very difficult," Hurricanes coach Katie Meier said. "So this is without question the toughest first game I've ever had at Miami, and that's a total compliment to Wright State."
Miami hit the snooze button one too many times to start the game, and Wright State took full advantage. The Raiders stormed out to a 17-4 lead over the Hurricanes by creating space and setting up their three-point shooters.
Facing a big deficit early, Meier was forced to call an early timeout to regroup her team.
"I told them ‘we're fine' because I didn't want them to see any panic from me," Meier said. "I totally expected [Wright State] to come out of the gates on fire. They're pumped up at an ACC game and the crowd affects them too."
Wright State star Kim Demmings, let Miami know early that she was ready to play, scoring seven points during the first period. Though Wright State pushed the game early on, the Hurricanes maintained their poise and ended the quarter with a 13-6 run and trimmed the deficit to 23-17.
"The crowd helped us get our groove back," said Miami forward Keyona Harris, who nearly notched a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
"It felt like March Madness," Hurricanes guard Jessica Thomas added. "Playing in front of that crowd made it even bigger, and that's what really made the environment so electric."
Miami came out during the second quarter in the same fashion it ended the first: on a tear. The Hurricanes outscored Wright State 23-14 in the second by pushing the pace offensively and catching the Raiders napping in transition, while also pressing after almost every made basket. Since trailing 17-4 to start the game, Miami went on a 36-20 run to take a 40-37 lead into halftime.
Demmings paced the way in the first half, scoring a game-high 17 points on an efficient 7 of 12 from the field. While Keyona Harris and Michelle Woods led the way for Miami with 10 and nine points, respectively.
After halftime, it was Thomas that took over the ball game for Miami, scoring 13 points in the third quarter after an array of three-point baskets. Thomas, who struggled in the first half and was pulled from the game early in the first, enjoyed a team-high 17 points after three-quarters, as Miami held onto a 61-53 lead.
"At the half, had [Jessica Thomas] been a freshman I would have been worried, but she's played in a ton of big time games for us," Meier said of Thomas' big third-quarter performance. "She flushed the first half down the toilet and got back out there. I can't coach without her."
In the fourth, both squads withstood big runs early, but Miami enjoyed one last run with over three minutes to play that put them up by a game-high 15 points.
Thomas led the way for the Hurricanes with a team-high 17 points. Hayes and Michelle Woods both added 14 points, and Adrienne Motley scored 13 points.
Wright State's Demmings proved to be more than the hype as she finished with a game-high 27 points on 11 of 22 shooting from the field.
"I have a feeling she knows I'm on the All-American committee or something because she was really showing off," Meier said of Demmings' outing.
In a game of runs, Miami withstood the efficient play of the Horizon League power and came out with a 1-0 record before suiting up again on Sunday against Bethune-Cookman University.