Canes are Elite

Canes are Elite

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The Miami Hurricanes have made history. Again.

And because of that, their dream season will continue, this time in the Elite Eight.

Days after knocking No. 1 seed Indiana out of the NCAA Tournament to secure their first berth in the Sweet 16 since 1992, the Hurricanes defeated fourth-seeded Villanova 70-65 on Friday afternoon in Bon Secours Wellness Arena to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Now, Miami will face LSU on Sunday for the opportunity to play in the Final Four – and keep its incredible run going.

“We didn’t come to the Sweet 16 just to come to the Sweet 16,” said veteran Hurricanes guard Karla Erjavec. “Right now, it’s time to celebrate. But then we’re going to go outside and do some scouting because we have another game to play and that just might take us to Dallas.”

One of the biggest reasons the Hurricanes are moving on is the play of guard Jasmyne Roberts, who gave Miami the lead late and finished with a team-high 26 points and team-high nine rebounds.

Veteran Destiny Harden, the hero against Indiana, added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Like in their Round of 32 game against the Hoosiers, the Hurricanes (22-12) built a big lead and then had to weather a late charge to advance.

But moments after Villanova took a 65-64 lead with 49 seconds left after a layup from Lucy Olsen, the Hurricanes closed the game on a 6-0 run, with Roberts converting on a 3-point play and two late free throws to again give Miami the lead – and eventually, the victory.

“It’s very special to be making history with this team. This hasn’t been done before and we’re playing really well,” Roberts said. “We’re clicking and it’s just an amazing feeling to go to the Elite Eight.”

Early on, the Hurricanes – the lowest remaining seed in the tournament – looked every bit the force they were earlier in the week when they knocked out Indiana.

Using a smothering defense, Miami made Villanova uncomfortable throughout the first half and midway through the second quarter, held the Wildcats scoreless for more than three minutes.

During that stretch, Miami scored 11 straight to push its six-point lead to a 46-29 advantage.

The Hurricanes later opened the third quarter with a quick, 41-second 8-0 run keyed by Roberts and Harden that gave the Hurricanes a 54-33 lead.

But then Villanova – which ended the regular season ranked No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll – went on a run of its own.

The Wildcats (28-4) closed the third quarter by outscoring Miami 18-3 to pull within six just before the final quarter.

Things got tougher for Miami in the fourth.

Another Villanova run – this one, a 9-0 stretch – even gave the Wildcats their first lead since the first quarter, before a Harden 3-pointer put Miami back on top. The teams exchanged leads two more times before Roberts’ 3-point play gave Miami the lead for good.

“I told them in the locker room, you are not going to apologize for blowing whatever the lead was because you earned that lead,” Hurricanes head coach Katie Meier said. “And don’t you dare apologize and don’t you let anyone put something in your head about blah blah blah. No. We’re in the Elite Eight, you’ve got to be crazy if you think we’re going to doubt ourselves. That’s not going to happen, so maybe that’s the spine they have, too.”