With the hopes of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 16 University of Miami Hurricanes fell in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament 57-52 to the No. 13 Duke Blue Devils.
Seven-seeded Miami, who upset the two-seed Florida State Seminoles just 24 hours before squaring off against Duke, was up 52-51 with 1:27 left, but a surging Blue Devils team closed out the game on a 6-0 run to send the Canes home early.
“To see these players just completely spill their guts out, on both teams, yet be exhausted – that is a credit to the entire season of work in the ACC and how difficult this conference is,” Coach Katie Meier said.
Miami (23-8, 10-6 ACC) was led by redshirt senior Keyona Hayes, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.
“We had a game plan, and they have holes in their zone, and we just found the holes,” Hayes said. “I found the holes, and I just played from there.”
The Hurricanes, who only trailed for three seconds in the entire tournament coming in, were down 10-9 after a defensive first quarter.
In the second frame, Miami grabbed its first lead of the game with a 14-12 advantage. However, Duke took a 23-20 lead into the intermission.
Miami failed to hit a three pointer in the first half, missing its first eight attempts from distance, but 10 offensive boards kept the Canes in it at the break.
Coming out of the locker room, Duke extended its advantage to as many as six, but a resilient Miami team cut the lead to 38-37 heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Hurricanes grabbed their first lead since the 1:20 mark of the second quarter on a Hayes layup with 8:07 remaining in the fourth period.
Miami shot just 37 percent from the floor and 12 percent from distance.
“It hurts, you know, as seniors, as a veteran squad it hurts because we let it slip away,” senior guard Jessica Thomas said. “When it came down to it, we had a big possession, didn’t execute the way we wanted to, and could have easily took the lead and the game. Emotionally, it sucks. We’ve got to get better, and we know that.”
Senior guards Jessica Thomas and Adrienne Motley both finished with nine points.
While Duke advances to play the one-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the ACC Championship game, Miami awaits Selection Monday at 7 p.m. on March 13 to see where it will play to open up the NCAA Tournament.
“I like my team, I love my team,” Meier said. “I think that there’s no question we played our best, best basketball in March, which is a coach’s dream. Hopefully, March has still got a lot of adventure ahead of us.”
The Canes are on the bubble of hosting the first two rounds and will look to squeak in as a four seed.