Rust shows as Miami drops ACC opener to Wake Forest at the buzzer

Freshman guard Lashae Dwyer drives to the basket during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022.
Freshman guard Lashae Dwyer drives to the basket during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

With 12.6 seconds to go, Miami stood one possession away from erasing nearly a 20-point deficit against Wake Forest in its conference opener. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi’s layup rimmed in and out, and the Hurricanes were left devastated at the final horn for their first home loss of the season.

The Hurricanes fell just short in their first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the 2021-22 season, falling 47-46 to Wake Forest at the Watsco Center. Miami (7-4, 0-1 ACC) never led throughout the contest, but was still able to hold the Demon Deacons to under fifty points.

The Hurricanes were playing their first game in 25 days, following three cancellations due to COVID-19 protocol. Miami shot as poorly as 20.8% from the field at the midpoint of the second quarter, shooting just 28.1% on field goals against the Demon Deacons.

“We’d been working really hard in practice, but I’d say we really weren’t in rhythm,” forward Moulayna Johnson Sidi Baba said. “We weren’t making the layups that we were supposed to.”

Miami knew how lethal Wake Forest guard Jewel Spear was coming into its conference opener. Spear entered Thursday night first in the ACC in points per game, and provided a 7-0 solo run to put the Demon Deacons (12-3, 2-2 ACC) in front.

Miami ended the first quarter without a make in the final 3:45 of the opening frame, as it fell down by double-digits in the early stages of the second quarter. At one point, UM trailed Wake Forest 17-13, but the Demon Deacons went on a 17-2 run in the first half to expand the lead to as many as 19 points.

“We were dead to rights in the first half, just a really bad performance,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “I believe we had 26 to 30 points of layups missed, 13 of which from what I heard … This is one that we really left on the table.”

Head Coach Katie Meir paces in front of Miami’s bench during the third quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022.
Head coach Katie Meir paces in front of Miami’s bench during the third quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

It might have taken the Hurricanes exactly nine to make their first field goal of the second, but ended the half on their best run. Four Demon Deacon turnovers in the final 1:18 of the first half led to an 8-0 Miami run, scything the deficit to 11 going into the break.

“We weren’t able to press in the first half. It’s hard to press on misses,” Meier said. “When we started and got a few steals, it started to get us [back in the game].”

Meier’s defense was prolific throughout non-conference play, with the Hurricanes holding opponents to just 56.5 points per game. Miami opened up the half holding the Demon Deacons without a make from the field for the first 6:16 in the third quarter, cutting the lead to as low as four.

Their team defense carried into the fourth quarter, with UM stifling Wake Forest to open up the final frame. It took the Demon Deacons over four minutes to score their first points of the quarter, with Wake missing its first four field goals and committing three turnovers.

Freshman Ja’Leah Williams, who was explosive in the second half, was able to get an offensive rebound and a layup to tie the game at 43.

Freshman guard Ja'Leah Williams shoots a jump shot during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022.
Freshman guard Ja'Leah Williams shoots a jump shot during the second quarter of Miami’s game versus Wake Forest in the Watsco Center on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

“I thought she was really a veteran, and she finished like a veteran tonight,” Meier said of Williams. “I thought she generated a ton.”

It all set up for a grandstand finish and trailing by just one point with 17.6 seconds to play, the moment seemed just too big for Miami. The Hurricanes called timeout after five seconds due to their offensive setup, then missed a 13th layup of the contest to fall by one at the gun.

The loss was the first time in history that Miami lost to Wake Forest in an ACC opener, they were 2-0 against the Demon Deacons in history when opening conference play. The Canes dropped their first conference game for the second consecutive season, after losing to Syracuse in the 2020-21 season.

Miami will look for its first ACC win on Sunday against the No. 3 Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals will carry a 13-game winning streak to the Watsco Center. Tip-off is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on ACC Network.