Miami Set to Face Indiana in NCAA Tournament

Miami Set to Face Indiana in NCAA Tournament

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – There was no panic, no anger, no fear.

When Hurricanes head coach Katie Meier walked into the locker room after Miami’s lackluster first half against Oklahoma State on Saturday, she found her team discussing what had gone wrong during the game’s first 20 minutes and how they could turn things around.

Adjustments? Meier quickly realized she didn’t really need to make any. She just needed to help the Hurricanes remember they were a far better team than they’d shown during the first half of their NCAA Tournament opener.

“Maybe the best adjustment I did was to just stay calm and say, ‘Believe in what we’re doing, but you have to play better than this,’” Meier said. “And they played this much better on the defensive end, and they played a lot better on the offensive end. Then our faith reappeared.

“But, boy, if I had pulled the plug and changed the scheme, I think we would have lost by 30. The players did not want a lot of adjustments. They wanted someone to just believe in them and say, ‘Do what you’re doing, but do it better.’”

That’s exactly what they Hurricanes did, outscoring Oklahoma State 20-7 in the third quarter to erase a 17-point halftime deficit before eventually clinching a 62-61 win over the Cowgirls.

And if there’s one thing the Hurricanes (20-12) say they learned about themselves from that experience, it’s that they can handle a challenge when the stakes are as high as they are in March.

“I think we showed grit. We showed a lot of grit. And confidence, communication,” Hurricanes guard Ja’Leah Williams said. “It was like a message. You never know, you can be down by a lot and just as long as you keep going, keep pushing, keep thriving, it can be done. Anything can be done.”

Added graduate student forward Destiny Harden, one of Miami’s veteran leaders, “We worked hard. We stayed together and we stood together and that allowed us to come back as a team. A lot of teams probably would’ve folded. A lot of people in the crowd thought we were done. We even overheard one guy behind the bench say the game is over. But we know the game is never over until it’s zeros across the board. So, we never gave up. Stayed gritty, stayed hungry and we got the dub at the end.”

With one challenge behind them, a new one awaits as Miami prepares to face Indiana (28-3) on the Hoosiers’ home floor Monday night in the Round of 32.

Indiana, a one seed that is 17-0 at home this season, enters the tournament as one of the favorites to advance to Dallas and the Women’s Final Four.

The Hoosiers advanced to Monday night’s matchup against Miami after posting a dominant 77-47 win over Tennessee Tech. Guard Sydney Parrish had a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds for the Hoosiers in the win, while fellow guard Grace Berger had 17 points and seven rebounds and Yarden Garzon added 12 points.

The trio – along with the rest of Indiana’s balanced scoring attack – helped the Hoosiers overcome the loss of All-American forward Mackenzie Holmes, who is nursing a knee injury and is expected to be a game-time decision for Monday’s game.

The two teams do have some recent history, with Miami and Indiana meeting in last season’s Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Classic in the Bahamas.

The Hoosiers – ranked No. 4 in the nation at the time – edged Miami, 53-51, in that matchup, but both teams are obviously different this time.

The Hurricanes were without Harden, who was recovering from a knee injury she suffered during the preseason. And in the year since, Miami has added transfers Haley Cavinder and Hanna Cavinder, along with freshmen Lazaria Spearman and Kyla Oldacre.

This year, Harden and Haley Cavinder have been a potent combination for Miami.

Both earned second-team All-ACC honors after averaging 12.3 and 12.8 points, respectively, during the regular season.

Both scored in double figures during Miami’s win over Oklahoma State, but they – and the rest of the Hurricanes – know they can’t afford a slow start against an Indiana team that averages 81.3 points per game while holding opponents to an average of 61.8 points.

“We have to play for 40 minutes. Play hard, play aggressively, try to disrupt them,” Harden said. “They’re a very good offensive team. They’re a very connected team. We know that we have to disrupt them if we want a chance to go to the Sweet 16 and that’s what we’re going to try and do. Obviously, we came out against OSU kind of slow and we know we can’t do that against Indian because they’re a very efficient team.”

Said Meier, “They just score. They’re a really prolific scoring team. Almost 18 assists a game, which for us…that threatens us. The fact that there’s a team that will share the ball that much and can get that many assists in a game, it’s very difficult to defend no matter what your defensive style is. Teams that will share the ball, that makes them great.”

For the Hurricanes and Hoosiers, a berth in the Sweet 16 is on the line.

Indiana is a regular on that stage, having earned a berth in the Sweet 16 last year and a trip to the Elite Eight in 2021.

Miami, meanwhile, is looking for its first berth in the Sweet 16 since the NCAA expanded the tournament field to 64 teams in 1994.

“They’re always good every single year, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge,” said Hurricanes guard Karla Erjavec. “But it’s not a challenge we’re not familiar with. It’s someone we already played last year and a lot of us were there for that game. We were really close to winning that one, too. We’re aware of what we have to do, and I think being familiar with them and knowing what kind of attack they want to do…will really help us in the game.”