Miami fought with blood, sweat and tears, but its first appearance in the Elite Eight was not enough to keep its historic streak going to the Final Four in Dallas next weekend. The third-seeded Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers took down the No. 9 Hurricanes, 54-42, in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Sunday, March 26.
Sophomore guard Jasmyne Roberts had a phenomenal weekend, bringing the ‘Canes to a win in the last seconds of the Sweet Sixteen and then against LSU, scoring a team-high 22 points with seven rebounds and three assists.
No other player from Miami scored in double digits, and the Hurricanes had a season-low of just 42 points. They shot 0-of-15 from 3-point range and just 31.6% from the floor.
“Things were not going our way … That’s a tough time for that to happen,” UM head coach Katie Meier said.
Senior forward Lola Pendande was escorted off the court after receiving a blow to the torso in the third quarter, followed by a pause in the game due to veteran player Destiny Harden’s mouth pouring with blood, and finally, sophomore La’Shae Dwyer sitting the rest of the game out after rolling her ankle in the fourth quarter.
It was in the third quarter that the win began to slip from the Canes, and the Tigers were steadily pulling ahead and ultimately took home the title of Regional Champions with a spot in the Final Four.
Miami started the tournament strong, making a 17-point comeback in the second half of its game against Oklahoma State. Then, it went up against one-seeded Indiana, where the team gained adoration from much of the country after silencing a packed Hoosiers crowd.
And in the following round, the Hurricanes defeated fourth-seeded Villanova to advance to their first-ever Elite Eight.
Despite this season making history for the ‘Canes, it was evident the players were hurting after falling to LSU. There were tears falling as they walked off the court, followed by a solemn press conference with the haunting sounds of the Tigers celebrating in the background.
“We kept fighting, and we never quit … We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but that was really difficult to have the plays – I’m so proud of my team,” Meier said.
LSU head coach Kim Mulkey also expressed her respect for Katie and the team, stopping to speak to the athletes in the handshake line.
Harden explained some of what she heard from Mulkey, saying that she told her that Miami was “one of the toughest teams they’ve played. [Mulkey was] just telling me that she loved my game, she loved that I played hard.”
That was the last game that Harden will play as a Hurricane. She holds deep respect from the team, especially from Meier, who saw her hit a game-winning basket nearly 10 years ago when Harden was just 15 years old.
“She’s sitting up here because she’s an admirable, honorable, incredible person … She should be proud and her shoulders should be back and her chin should be up because she carried this program. She carried it with her attitude, with her effort, with her toughness and her loyalty,” Meier said.
“I want her up here because I’m celebrating you, Destiny Harden, because you have changed this program and we are never looking back thanks to you.”
Harden was teary-eyed on the stand. She congratulated the men’s team on making it to the Final Four and said Miami women’s basketball has big things ahead.
“I think Miami is in good hands with [Roberts]. I think the world is just now seeing her, but we seen it all year long, all last year,” Harden said. “I can’t be prouder of her.”
Meier left Greenville, S.C., with her shoulders back and chin up, saying, “We’ve shown absolutely raw emotion. No one steals our joy, never can, never will … I think [the future] looks pretty darned good.”