BLOOMINGTON, IN. – For Destiny Harden and the Hurricanes, it was a moment to savor.
A sweet, sweet moment to savor.
Seconds after Harden hit a jumper in the paint with four seconds left that clinched a 70-68 win over Indiana at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the veteran guard was mobbed by her teammates.
They all chanted two words: “Sweet 16.”
For the first time since 1992, and the first time since the tournament field was expanded in 1994, the Hurricanes have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and how they did it won’t be forgotten in Coral Gables any time soon.
Miami, a nine seed in the tournament, built an early double-digit lead. It weathered a late charge from the Hoosiers. And ultimately, it defeated one of the nation’s top teams – a one seed – to notch the biggest win in program history.
“I don’t think there are words that can describe what this means to us,” said graduate student guard Karla Erjavec. “I really don’t. We’ve been talking about this moment, but actually standing in this moment, and actually feeling all the feelings and knowing what it means, knowing that when we say we are something special, we actually proved it out there. We had 17,000-something people rooting against us. It was the 12 of us that stuck together and never gave up.”
Harden, one of Miami’s unquestioned leaders, finished with 18 points and scored the 1,000th point of her career. Lola Pendande led the Hurricanes with 19 points and seven rebounds and Jasmyne Roberts added 16 points for Miami.
The Hurricanes (21-12) will now face Villanova in the Greenville Regional 2, for the opportunity to continue advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
Miami, which advanced to the Round of 32 with a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, knew they faced a significant challenge against Indiana.
The Hoosiers had been perfect on their home floor all season. And a sellout crowd did its best to create as hostile an environment as possible for Miami.
But throughout the first half, the Hurricanes more than handled the crowd.
They silenced it. More than once.
Led by a strong early showing from Pendande and Harden, Miami opened the game on a 10-4 run to build a double-digit lead and force an early Indiana timeout.
The second quarter was more of the same, with Miami opening the period on another run – this time an 8-2 stretch – that pushed its lead to 14 and kept the crowd hushed again.
But Indiana answered.
The Hoosiers scored six straight to cut the Hurricanes lead to 28-20 and get the crowd back into the game before a 3-pointer from Hanna Cavinder changed the momentum again.
In the second half, Miami – which overcame a 17-point deficit in its tournament opener against the Cowgirls – saw its own 41-29 halftime lead evaporate.
The Hoosiers chipped at the lead, eventually tying the game at 60 with 3:05 left when All-American Mackenzie Holmes, who had 22 points to lead Indiana, scored on a layup.
Miami regained the lead after a layup from Pendande and a 3-pointer from Haley Cavinder, but again, Indiana fought back.
The Hoosiers, who hadn’t lost a game on their home floor all season, tied it again on 3-pointer by Yarden Garzon with 49 seconds left before Harden and the Hurricanes were able to secure the win.
Megan Barnes – Miami Hurricanes Athletics contributed to this recap