Miami upsets No. 15 Georgia Tech late, earns first win over top-25 team

Freshman Ja’Leah Williams drives towards the basket during the first half of Miami’s win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Watsco Center. Williams had 12 points and 6 rebounds.
Freshman Ja’Leah Williams drives towards the basket during the first half of Miami’s win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Watsco Center. Williams had 12 points and 6 rebounds. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Graduate guard Kelsey Marshall darted down the far sideline with her left hand in the air and let out a celebratory shout.

In a fourth attempt at dethroning a top-25 team this season, Miami at last had enough late momentum.

Marshall and freshman guard Ja’Leah Williams led the Hurricanes in a narrow 46-45 victory over No. 15 Georgia Tech Sunday afternoon at the Watsco Center.

“I don’t know if there’s a better defensive team obviously than Georgia Tech,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “They make it so difficult. I know they were on that unfortunate four-game stretch there, so I was just hoping that in the fourth quarter, we’d have a little bit more energy. And, I think we had a lot more energy.”

Marshall scored a game-high 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, drilling two of Miami’s four 3-point field goals. The fifth-year sharpshooter registered her 10th double-digit performance, continuing a team-high.

Miami’s bench celebrates as they secure the victory over #15 Georgia Tech and their second consecutive ACC win on Sunday, Jan 16. at the Watsco Center
Miami’s bench celebrates as they secure the victory over #15 Georgia Tech and their second consecutive ACC win on Sunday, Jan 16. at the Watsco Center Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Williams scored Miami’s final two baskets to finish with nine points, while swiping four steals and grabbing six rebounds.

“She had a very huge impact on us [today],” Marshall said. “I love her effort every game. She comes to every game ready to play defense, no matter who we’re playing against. She always tries to contribute to the best of her ability, [whether] if it’s her scoring, her passing or taking care of the ball.”

Miami (9-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) jumped ahead 4-0 in the game’s first 1:30. Neither team scored again for four minutes, when the Yellow Jackets’ 6-0 run started.

The Hurricanes never trailed by more than six points in the second frame. Marshall drilled a 3-point field goal with 3:21 left, preventing a nine-point deficit.

Georgia Tech (13-3, 4-1 ACC) shot 29% in the first half, though received 13 combined from Preseason All-ACC honorees Lotta-Maj Lahtinen and Lorela Cubaj. The veterans’ early scoring efforts gave the Yellow Jackets a five-point advantage at halftime.

To start the second half, junior forward Lola Pendande and Williams hit back-to-back shots, but Georgia answered back again. Syracuse transfer forward Digna Strautmane converted an and-one play and guard Eylia Love added a layup along the baseline, extending the margin back to six.

As many shots as Georgia Tech converted upon in the third, Miami overtook the fourth.

Marshall began the Hurricanes’ 11-point quarter with a corner two-point jumpshot. Graduate forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi sank a 3-pointer from the right wing, slicing the Yellow Jackets’ lead to one.

The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, lacked any further momentum.

Georgia Tech entered a three-minute scoring drought, ending the afternoon with one made field goal in its last seven attempts.

Freshman Lashae Dwyer fights past a Georgia Tech defender during the second half of Miami’s victory on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Watsco Center.
Freshman Lashae Dwyer fights past a Georgia Tech defender during the second half of Miami’s victory on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

In a low-scoring battle during which Marshall provided a double-figure scoring spark, Williams closed out the Hurricanes’ second straight ACC win. The Pompano Beach, Florida, native used a right-side ball screen to drive across the lane and flipped in the game-winning layup with 1:23 left.

“I think the confidence just comes from the love of the game,” Williams said. “I just go out there and play my best, no matter the points. I just know my team needs me and I just wanted to be there, even if I didn’t get [any] points or anything. Coach [Meier] could put me in [the game] for 10 seconds if she needed a steal.”

Love missed a contested 3-point shot as five seconds ticked off the clock, giving Miami its first win over a top-25 team since Feb. 17, 2019. The Hurricanes previously defeated No. 2 Louisville on the road, and now stand at 48-165 against top-25 opponents.

“I’m extremely proud of my team, even though we came up close [against] all these other [ranked] teams,” Marshall said. “We came in here ready to fight and compete and not let down. We knew we could compete with them, so that’s what we did.”

In the victory, Miami moves to 8-2 at home, defeating an opponent with the country’s top-ranked scoring defense.

“When it came down to crunch time, as exhausted as they were, I thought they did a really nice job of getting to the later looks in our offense, which is absolutely necessary against Georgia Tech, Meier said. “I love my team and we really deserved that win.”

Up next, the Hurricanes face No. 16 Duke Tuesday at 2 p.m. The matchup had been originally scheduled for Dec. 19, until too many Miami players had entered COVID-19 protocol.