Familiar with facing different top seeds of this year’s NCAA Tournament all season long, Miami women’s basketball arrived at the home court of the nation’s top-ranked team with drive, grit and nine wins in 11 games.
But the eighth-seeded Hurricanes first encountered below-20% shooting that led to frustration in a 49-33 loss to No. 1 South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena Sunday.
“If you didn’t understand the grit and the character of our team, I think we proved that today,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “You know, [South Carolina] didn’t have a great offensive day, but I think Miami got frustrated before South Carolina did, and that was the difference.”
With a 29% start, South Carolina didn’t shoot its way into the ballgame, until building an 8-0 run to conclude the first half with a 23-10 advantage in front of over 9,800 raucous fans. Miami missed 20 of its first 23 shots, scoring only three points on foul shots in the second.
“We were all screaming at each other at one point, but then we started to settle down and that’s when we started to score a little bit more,” Miami guard Kelsey Marshall said. “We always try to feed positivity to each other, try to stay confident and encourage each other to make the next shot that we take.”
South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, a Syracuse transfer and former ACC Freshman of the Year, outlasted former Orange teammate Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi’s career-high five three-pointers. Cardoso’s eight second-half points and eight total rebounds held off the Hurricanes from slicing their deficit to single digits late.
An over 13-minute field goal drought plagued Miami (21-13) throughout the first half and into its season-low in scoring.
“Neither team was going to score 100 points. It wasn’t going to be like that. But we got frustrated first, and that surprised me, because we have played games where we were [scoring] 45, 46 [points]. It shouldn’t have upset us. But it did, and [South Carolina] never seemed upset,” Meier said. “They seemed prepared for it and very composed. I think that second quarter we got a little emotional and gathered ourselves, and I’ll take those other three quarters.”
Djaldi-Tabdi hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the fourth quarter, before Cardoso’s two converted three-point plays closed the door on a late Hurricanes comeback. UM attempted only six other field goals, while South Carolina (31-2) added 18 points in the final frame and controlled the rebounding battle 49-31.
Gamecocks forward Aliyah Boston collected a nation-leading 26th straight double-double, registering 16 rebounds and 10 points. The Associated Press First-Team All-American helped lift coach Dawn Staley to her eighth straight Sweet 16 appearance inside its home arena, despite starting 2-for-10 from the field.
Playing her final game as a Hurricane, Djaldi-Tabdi nonetheless appreciated the opportunity of competing against marquee talent in Miami’s journey to the NCAA Tournament this season.
“It’s good to play against really good players, and I respect them a lot,” Djaldi-Tabdi said. “I learned from this game, obviously. It’s gonna be useful for later on in my life.”
The low-scoring battle remained from beginning to end. The Hurricanes have yet to ever defeat a top-ranked program, after becoming one of 11 teams to top a No. 1 seed in Louisville during the ACC Tournament.
“I know it probably wasn’t the best offensive display for the network TV to show, but if you don’t think women compete, I think we might have changed your mind,” Meier said.