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Williams leads No. 9 Miami to Alaska title

November 25, 2011

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Both the Miami and South Florida women’s teams had to fly nearly 5,000 miles to meet on the basketball court.

No. 9 Miami won the all-Florida final in the Great Alaska Shootout on Thursday night, downing its in-state rivals 92-72 while light snow fell outside the arena.

“It’s kind of ironic,” said Miami coach Katie Meier, who didn’t know the other teams in the tournament when the school signed the contract.

“I don’t think either AD is happy,” she joked.

“This is what being an NCAA student-athlete is all about,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. “It’s about going to play a couple of games and experiencing a beautiful part of the country.”

Meier said there’s never any guarantees in the Great Alaska Shootout, and noted the host team, Division II Alaska Anchorage, gave the Hurricanes a tough game in the opening round.

But Meier’s Hurricanes (4-1) used two strong second-half performances to win both of their games in the Shootout.

In the final against South Florida (4-3), Miami led 44-32 at the break, but blew the game wide open to start the second half.

The Hurricanes went on a 24-7 run during the first 9 minutes to put away the Bulls.

“The biggest growth has been our team’s performance in the second half,” Meier said.

Meier attributes it to the Hurricanes’ strong bench.

“We’re not exhausted at halftime,” she said.

Riquna Williams scored 17 points to lead Miami, and was voted the player of the game.

Shenise Johnson added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Hurricanes (4-1). She was selected the tournament MVP.

Sylvia Bullock, a Miami forward playing in her hometown of Anchorage, scored 10 points.

“We definitely came out here for reasons, one of those was to bring Sylvia home,” Meier said. “We have five opportunities to win championships this year, there’s four to go.”

Jasmine Wynne led South Florida (4-3) with 21 points. Kaneisha Saunders added 11 points for the Bulls, and Akila McDonald and Andrell Smith had 10 apiece.

South Florida was down 75-46 with 8:30 left, but a scrappy performance by the Bulls made the final score a little more respectable, Fernandez said.

“If a game is out of reach, you need to win a game within a game, and I think we did that,” he said. “I was disappointed we gave up as many points as we did. We didn’t play defense particularly well here in Alaska.”

Central Michigan beat Alaska Anchorage 90-84 in overtime in the third-place game.

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