Worst to first. Co-ACC champions. The first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years and an 18-point blowout win over Gardner-Webb in the first round.
All season long, the women’s basketball team has been on a magical ride that ranks among the top comebacks in UM history. But on Tuesday night, the magic fizzled out for the Canes.
Miami battled back from a 15-point deficit late in the first half and led by two with 3:12 remaining in the game. Still, the comeback fell short as the third-seeded Canes were upset by sixth-seeded Oklahoma, 88-83.
Shenise Johnson led the charge for the Hurricanes (28-5) with 25 points, and Morgan Stroman added 18 points and 14 rebounds, but the Sooners’ (23-11) offense proved too much to contain.
“I feel like we just played one of the best basketball games I’ve ever been in,” head coach Katie Meier said. “I can’t believe how entertaining that was, how both teams were themselves. Both teams played very hard for each other and you just saw that on the court.”
Riquna Williams, the ACC’s leading scorer all season, played only 28 minutes after getting into foul trouble early.
Before the tournament started, it was widely projected that even though Miami went in as a No. 3 seed, they would have trouble in a matchup with an Oklahoma squad that made it to the Final Four two years in a row and four out of the last five. Even President Obama, in his bracket, predicted the Sooners to take down the Canes.
The team used that as added motivation heading into the game, and although the Sooners eventually proved the critics right, Meier was able to appreciate the effort her team demonstrated.
“It’s two very special programs,” she said. “Oklahoma had to play one of their best games of the year; they had to hit 11 threes and get a double-double off the bench from Joanna McFarland to beat us.”
Redshirt sophomore Whitey Hand had a career game for the Sooners, scoring a game-high 27 points en route to a win that sent Oklahoma to the Sweet 16. Team leader Danielle Robinson contributed 18 points and 11 assists, and Carlee Roethlisberger always came up in the clutch, making four 3-pointers in the game.
“Feels like every time we got close, they would scramble, we’d make a great play, they would tip out and end up with the three,” said Johnson of Roethlisberger’s performance. “Very frustrating and backbreaking, but we never broke. I’m so proud of my girls, proud of everybody. But there are no moral victories here at the University of Miami and we wanted this game very bad.”
Looking ahead to next season, Miami will retain everyone on the current roster, as there are no seniors on the team. Shawnice Wilson, a 6-foot-6-inch center who transferred to Miami from Pittsburgh last season, will also join the team after having to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer restrictions.
“This was a great experience, a great opportunity,” Stroman said. “We’re just going to keep working. Next year we’re going to have a better year.”
Although their season officially came to an end with the loss, some players are already looking forward to hitting the courts once again.
“We have experienced juniors, we played a lot of minutes in the ACC our freshman year. Now we have minutes in the NCAA,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be scary next year. I can’t wait to start the next season up.”
Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.