Riding high from their first round upset over Washington, the 11th-seeded Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team fell to third-seeded host Iowa Hawkeyes 88-70 Sunday at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena, denying the Canes their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1992.
“That was just – that second half, their offensive performance was incredible,” said Head Coach Katie Meier. “It was the team destined to go to the Sweet 16 the way they were playing.”
Miami shot just under 40 percent from the field on 29-73 shooting, while struggling from three, where they went 5-21. After holding the Iowa to 36 percent shooting in the first half, the Hawkeyes rebounded to shoot 75 percent in the second on 18-24 shooting, finishing the game 52 percent from the field but only 5-9 from three.
The Canes were led by Jessica Thomas’ 20 points, while Adrienne Motley added 18 points of her own, but the guard duo needed 22 and 16 shots respectively to do so. Necole Sterling added seven boards and Jassany Williams had five in 19 minutes due to early foul trouble.
The Canes held the lead only three times, all coming in the first half – the largest being a 27-23 edge after a Thomas three with 4:44 remaining in the first half. The Hawkeyes immediately responded with a 15-4 run to end the first half, going into the break with a 38-31 lead that appeared less daunting than the score would indicate.
The Hawkeyes, using a balanced attack that saw all five starters score double digits, began pulling away in the second half.
A three pointer by Necole Sterling brought the Canes within five with 12:28 remaining before the Hawkeyes reeled off a 14-5 run capped off by a pair of free throws by Melissa Dixon. This made the score 69-55 with eight minutes left.
The Canes responded with a brief 6-0 run to bring the score to 69-63 with just over seven minutes left. But the six-point deficit would be as close as the Canes got. The Hawkeyes put their foot on the gas, out-scoring the Canes 19-7, winning their trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996 and the first time under Head Coach Linda Bluder.
“It hurt a little bit,” said Thomas, who watched the Hawkeyes celebration after. “Somebody had to lose today. Coming back next year, putting in the motivation, just putting more work in and be ready to be a Sweet 16 team as well.”
The Hawkeyes were led by center Bethany Doolittle’s 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. Ally Disterhoft added 15 points of her own while Samantha Logic and Dixon added 12. Logic grabbed seven rebounds as well. If there is any consolation for the Canes, it was holding Dixon, the nations leader in three pointers per game at 3.75 on 48 percent shooting, to just 2-3 from beyond the arc, rarely giving her a good look.
“That team is full of great players and she just had a great performance,” Motley said of Doolittle. “She played like a Division I basketball player trying to get to the Sweet 16.”
The Canes were done in by their 24 fouls, allowing the Hawkeyes to go 23-33 from the line, including 13-13 to start the game. They didn’t miss their first free throw until Disterhoft missed the second of two free throws two and a half minutes into the second half.
Miami was without Motley for much of the second half, as the sophomore guard was forced to watch from the bench due to foul trouble. The Hawkeyes used that as an opportunity to pull away. Michelle Woods fouled out with 1:52 left in the second half.
The Hawkeyes (26-7) also dominated the Canes (20-13) on the boards, out-rebounding UM 44-35, and adding 17 assists to Miami’s 10.
“I told my team, we’re quite young and they have got some great experience, and I think that showed,” said Meier. “That the mental toughness, they were just sharper than us in key moments, key plays. We did something that wasn’t really smart, like get a rebound and throw it right to Iowa, and they never did something that wasn’t really smart in the last 10 minutes of that basketball game.”
The Hawkeyes now move on to the Sweet 16 to face the winner of Sunday’s Gonzaga-Arkansas winner.
The Canes, however, will head home after making their fourth tournament appearance in the last five years under Meier.