Miami cruises to NCAA Tournament first round victory, Meier’s 400th of career

Miami coach Katie Meier encourages her team in Miami's 78-66 win over South Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 18, 2022 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.
Miami coach Katie Meier encourages her team in Miami's 78-66 win over South Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 18, 2022 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

It was a complete team effort in a Round of 64 win for Miami women’s basketball, with five different players scoring in double-figures in a 78-66 victory at Colonial Life Arena Friday.

The Canes took down in-state opponent South Florida for Miami coach Katie Meier’s 400th of her career, and will take on South Carolina, the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, on Sunday in the second round.

Led by Karla Erjavec’s efficient 14 points, the Hurricanes continued their red-hot play, advancing to 9-2 in their last 11 games.

“I have never had more fun when it was hard. I don’t know how else to explain it,” Meier said. “I want to give a ton of credit to South Florida because they are very hard to score against and I always have so much respect for them.”

When the going has gotten tough for Miami (21-12) this year, Erjavec, alongside graduate guard Kelsey Marshall, has always been there for the Hurricanes to rely on. But in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, there was no single scorer to look for as everyone was efficient for Miami, with just one player shooting under 50% from the field.

“29 points of the bench. There is the game. I mean, there is the game,” Meier said.

After missing the Big Dance a year ago, Marshall returned to the Hurricanes with hopes of an NCAA Tournament return for the Hurricanes. The South Florida native has gotten more than just that, helping Miami pick up a win over a tough USF team.

“We knew from the beginning of the game we have to not foul and keep USF off the free throw line,” Marshall said. “We became more disciplined throughout the game, being able to remember the player’s tendencies and being able to stay in front.”

Miami remained disciplined throughout the contest, committing just 12 turnovers, under its season average of 16.6 per game. Turnovers plagued the Hurricanes throughout the regular season, but Miami was able to keep things under control against USF, winning the battle overall.

“Our basic stuff is defense,” Erjavec said. “When we lockdown on defense and can run on teams, that’s when we can score in high margins, and I believe we rebounded well during the game and then that led us to some run-outs where we could get our score higher.”

Defensively, Miami will need to continue to step up in its next matchup against South Carolina. The Gamecocks have held the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 rankings all season long and are coming off a game it outscored the Howard Bison 79-21, going up 60-8 through three quarters.

“I know they’re amazing and I know just like us they lost their last game,” Meier said. “They were mad, and we were mad, so I’m sure they’re going to play great.”

Miami has taken down one of the top seeds in the women’s tournament so far this year, defeating Louisville in the ACC Tournament. The win marked the Hurricanes’ first over a top-five team since February 2019, when they defeated then-second-ranked Louisville on the road.

No scheduled tip-off time has been announced for UM’s Round of 32 matchup, but the game will take place on South Carolina’s home floor in Columbia, South Carolina.