The arena was full of celebration to wrap up the last home game of Black History Month, as the Canes hosted the No. 10 NC State Wolfpack at the Watsco Center for their annual Celebration of Black Culture game.
Decked out in dark green crewnecks, the student section rallied together to support the Canes, but it wasn’t enough as they fell 50-48.
The night opened with the Ambassador Choral from Florida Memorial University, a local historically black university, singing Lift Every Voice and Sing followed by the national anthem. Moments later assistant coach Octavia Blue was honored in front of the home crowd.
“That was great,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “We should honor coach Blue. She’s a special human being and she represents the University so well. The two pre-game anthems were great.”
In a game that many thought Miami was not capable of winning, the Canes (13-13, 5-10 ACC) held their own. This season the team has struggled tremendously against ranked opponents, winning zero of its seven matchups and getting outscored by a total of 118 points. The Canes were able to hold the Wolfpack (23-3, 12-3 ACC) to just 50 points, with only eight of those points coming off the bench.
“The story of the game is holding NC State to 50,” Meier said. “You know just the guts and the effort, just incredible.”
It was clearly a defensive effort, with the Canes only shooting 28 percent from the field.
Led by freshman forward Brianna Jackson, Miami was able to put up a tough defensive front and forced 20 turnovers for 13 points. Jackson finished the night with seven rebounds, three blocks and four steals.
“First half was a heck of a defensive battle,” Meier said. “Brianna Jackson was special and we needed special performances.”
The game was tight, as both teams ended the first quarter knotted up at 11 points each and entered the half with 22 points each. The teams continued to go back-and-forth until forward Destiny Harden stepped up to give the team a seven point lead.
“We got Destiny free in the third, which was exciting for us,” Meier said. “Anytime you can score any points against NC State, you’re excited.”
Harden entered the third quarter having only made one shot the entire night, but the redshirt sophomore hit two unanswered threes to lead the team on an 11-0 run that lasted almost five minutes. She finished the night with a career-high 15, with 10 of those points coming in the third quarter.
“I just thought that we needed somebody to score the ball,” Harden said. “We needed quick points.”
Things fell apart for the Canes in the fourth quarter, as the Wolfpack answered with its own 10-0 run to take the lead. Miami was 2-11 in shooting in the fourth quarter, but oddly enough they still had a chance to win the game. With under 22 seconds left on the clock, junior guard Kelsey Marshall banged in a three pointer to tie the game.
However, the Canes came up short on the last play of the game after NC State’s Jakia Brown-Turner knocked down a jumper to give the Wolfpack their first win in Coral Gables since 2007.
Brown-Turner finished the game with a career-high 18 points shooting 7-11 from the field.
“I think she’s a pretty good player,” Harden said. “Good players come out and play hard. She’s clutch.”
While the Hurricanes didn’t come out on top in this match-up, this two point defeat shouldn’t be taken too heavily. Meier told her team to take it like a win and said the confidence gained against a ranked opponent outweighs the negativity of a loss.
“We’re not going to be devastated by this win,” she said. “Someone said the word heartbreaking and I just don’t agree with that. We’re not heartbroken, we’re resilient. You’re not gonna break us. You’re not going to break this team. This team didn’t break, we just didn’t get the shot that we needed.”
The Canes will travel north to Boston College on Sunday to wrap up the remainder of the season. Right now their postseason future is up for grabs as they sit at a .500 record.