Canes keep rolling in ACC Tournament, advance to semifinals

March 4, 2022: Miami (7) takes on Louisville (2) in the 2022 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum  in Greensboro, NC. (Scott Kinser/ACC)
Graduate Destiny Harden yells in Miami's 61-59 win over No. 4 Louisville Friday, March 4, 2022 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. Harden sparked the Hurricanes' 17-0 run in the fourth quarter in their first win over a top-five team since February 2019. Photo credit: Scott Kinser, ACC

When the calendar strikes March, anything is possible, and fantasy becomes reality.

Trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter against a top-five opponent, many teams would fold, but not the Miami Hurricanes. They rode the hot hand in the final period, with redshirt senior Destiny Harden’s personal 15-0 scoring run, capped off by a game-winning fadeaway buzzer-beater to lift Miami over No. 4 Louisville, 61-59.

In early February, the Cardinals came to Miami and stunned a Hurricane team that held a nine-point lead with just over six minutes to go. At the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, Miami head coach Katie Meier’s team rose to the challenge, defeating the Cardinals and drastically improving its chances of making it into the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Miami will have a chance to improve their odds, even more, when they face the winner of the Notre Dame and Georgia Tech contest in the semifinal round.

“Safe to say we’re off the bubble?” Meier questioned after the win.

March 4, 2022: Miami (7) takes on Louisville (2) in the 2022 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum  in Greensboro, NC. (Scott Kinser/ACC)
Head coach Katie Meier and her coaching staff celebrate Miami's 61-59 win over No. 4 Louisville Friday, March 4, 2022 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. The Hurricanes earned their first win over Louisville and a top-five team since February 2019. Photo credit: Scott Kinser, ACC

Going into the game, the Hurricanes were listed as one of the “Last Four Byes” in ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s latest Bracketology update that was released on the morning of March 4. The win marks the third-ranked opponent that Miami has defeated this year and the highest-ranked team that it has taken down.

Harden, the hero of the contest, finished the game with a season-high 27 points as well as 10 rebounds, coming a long way after missing a large portion of the season due to a lower-body injury.

“I just think it’s March basketball,” Harden said. “It was either win or go home, and we’re not ready to go home.”

March 4, 2022: Miami (7) takes on Louisville (2) in the 2022 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum  in Greensboro, NC. (Scott Kinser/ACC)
Graduate Destiny Harden shoots a perimeter field goal in Miami's 61-59 win over No. 4 Louisville Friday, March 4, 2022 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. Harden tied a career-high 27 points set in the 2021 ACC Tournament. Photo credit: Scott Kinser, ACC

Harden was joined in double figures by senior forward Naomi Mbandu, who poured in 12 points off the bench for the Hurricanes, helping keep Miami competitive before Harden’s fourth-quarter explosion.

“The only two people I could rely on are sitting right here,” Meier said, referring to Mbandu and Harden adjacent to her in Friday’s postgame press conference.

Early in the year, Mbandu started multiple games for the Hurricanes but saw her role become minimized as Harden made her return to the court.

“I know that the team needed my energy, so I brought my energy and that’s it,” Mbandu said.

The win over the Cardinals comes just one day after the Hurricanes took down the Duke Blue Devils in a game that saw four Canes in double figures, with Harden and junior forward Lola Pendande leading the way with 11 points apiece. Guards Kelsey Marshall and Karla Erjavec both put up 10 points in the six-point victory.

“What a conference,” Meier said. “These games are bloodbaths; everyone’s playing their guts out.”

The win over Duke, like the win over Louisville, was a revenge game for the Hurricanes, as the Blue Devils escaped Coral Gables with a 58-49 victory back in mid-January.

“I don’t have any question that we belong in the big dance,” Meier said.

March 4, 2022: Miami (7) takes on Louisville (2) in the 2022 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum  in Greensboro, NC. (Scott Kinser/ACC)
Miami student-athletes exchange reactions in the Hurricanes' 61-59 win over No. 4 Louisville Friday, March 4, 2022 at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. Photo credit: Scott Kinser, ACC

Miami has been hot in their previous eight games, coming out with seven wins over that period. They will look to follow it up in the semi-final round of the ACC Tournament, with tip-off at 2:30 p.m. from Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday.