Miami veteran guard Kelsey Marshall blew a kiss to the Greensboro Coliseum crowd following a late 3-point shot to keep the Hurricanes ahead for good against another top-20 team.
After a miraculous win over No. 4 Louisville at the horn Friday, Marshall and Miami held on again to defeat No. 20 Notre Dame 57-54 in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Greensboro, North Carolina, Saturday.
“I thought it was a great representation of what college athletics is supposed to be,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. You’re supposed to be a high-level character, high-character individual to represent this amazing conference on a stage like that. Your coaching staff is supposed to play by the rules, do things the right way, encourage your players, and lift people up and both staffs do that.”
Leading by six points at the end of the third quarter, Miami withstood a 14-point fourth quarter from Notre Dame to advance to its first-ever ACC championship game. The Hurricanes had yet to defeat the Fighting Irish in an ACC Tournament game in the teams’ first two meetings.
Marshall, who scored only two points as the Hurricanes’ leading scorer this season, produced a game-high 18 points, 13 of which were scored in the second half on 4-of-11 3-point shooting.
“I just tried to play the game possession by possession. I try not to think of what happened before,” Marshall said. “Throughout the game my team was looking for me, and I just tried to hit the open shots, and that’s what happened today.”
As soon as Notre Dame (22-8) took its first lead of the fourth on a three from reigning First Team All-ACC honoree Maddy Westbeld, Miami ignited a 6-0 run. The Hurricanes outrebounded the Fighting Irish 36-31 and scored 17 points off turnovers after entering halftime tied at 26.
With their seventh victory in eight contests, the Hurricanes hold three top-20 wins over their last five games. UM faced eight ranked opponents in the regular season, including a Notre Dame team it lost to by 16 points on the road Feb. 10.
“They didn’t really bring us down, but it showed us that we can be a lot better of a Miami team, that we can work together, we can fight harder than we fought in those two games,” Marshall said of Miami’s back-to-back losses over top-25-ranked foes North Carolina and Notre Dame during the regular season.
Meier emphasized the team’s determination of using what now stands as one of the most historic runs in ACC Tournament history as a point to move past its shortcomings versus top-25 teams in the conference.
“We came into this tournament being sick of the almost. That’s what we’ve really been talking about, the almost,” Meier said. “All these almosts that we went through [in the regular season]. There was not going to be an ‘almost’ today.”
With now their 10th 20-win season under the direction of 17th-year head coach Katie Meier, Miami is set for a rematch with first-seeded NC State. The No. 3-ranked Wolfpack defeated the Hurricanes 76-64 Jan. 9 and have lost only one ACC contest since their road victory.
At 28-3, NC State returns to the conference’s title game as two-time defending ACC champions after winning the ACC regular season title Sunday. Four All-ACC Team nominees highlight a Wolfpack team that averages an ACC-leading 76.9 points per game and 3-point percentage at 37.2%. Tip-off is scheduled for noon and the game will be televised on ESPN.
“This team is just slugging through the bracket, not walking. We were not spoiled. We are just tough as nails,” Meier said. “I think if you’re a Miami Hurricane fan, we embody what ‘The U’ is all about. We’re going to fight. We’re going to show up. We’re not going to be an easy out for anybody.”