Miami women hold off Indiana rally to advance in March Madness

The No. 9 Hurricanes are next headed to a Sweet 16 showdown with fourth-seeded Villanova.
Miami's Destiny Harden (18 points) puts up a shot against Indiana's Grace Berger (34) during the second half of a second-round game in the women's NCAA Tournament Monday in Bloomington, Ind.
Miami's Destiny Harden (18 points) puts up a shot against Indiana's Grace Berger (34) during the second half of a second-round game in the women's NCAA Tournament Monday in Bloomington, Ind. [ DARRON CUMMINGS | AP ]
Published March 21|Updated March 21

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Destiny Harden wanted the ball in her hands.

After losing to eventual national champion South Carolina on the road last March, after helping her team complete a historic comeback two days earlier and after seeing top-seeded Indiana tie the score on a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left, Harden wanted to close it out.

She did.

Following a timeout, she got the ball into the middle of the lane and made the tie-breaking shot with 3.5 seconds left, giving ninth-seeded Miami a 70-68 road victory Monday night and its first Sweet 16 trip since 1992.

“It was the exact same play as last year so I should have known it was coming to me,” Harden said. “I just thank the coaches for trusting me, the players for trusting me and it feels good to come through and get to the Sweet 16.”

Monday’s stunner capped two monumental moments this weekend for Miami (21-12) and a wild second round in the NCAA Tournament with two No. 1 seeds falling in consecutive days. Stanford was upset on its home court Sunday night — marking the first time since 1998 two top seeds were eliminated before the regional semifinals.

It came as a huge shock to the 14,000 fans packed into Assembly Hall. But instead of celebrating the Hoosiers taking another big step forward, the fans watched in disbelief as Miami ran around and rolled around on the Hoosiers home court as All-American center Mackenzie Holmes broke down in tears before the handshake line formed.

The Hurricanes meant no disrespect.

“I tell my players to act like you’ve been here before, but we haven’t been so we were being foolish,” longtime Miami coach Katie Meier said. “I looked around for any player who wanted to hug me.”

Lola Pendande led Miami with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Harden had 18 points including the biggest basket on a night she scored career point No. 1,000. She also played a key role in Saturday’s rally from a 17-point halftime deficit.

The Hoosiers (28-4) never led in front of a raucous crowd that grew increasingly agitated with how the game was called and uneasy about how it played out. Indiana trailed from the moment Miami broke a 2-2 tie until Holmes’ layup made it 58-58 with 3:53 left to play and fought its way back from a 12-point halftime deficit.

Yet in the waning moments, they blew two chances to take the lead in the final 40 seconds — a missed layup from Chloe Moore-McNeil and an uncharacteristic errant midrange jumper from Grace Berger before Moore-McNeil finally tied it at 68 with a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left.

But the Hoosiers couldn’t stop Harden then turned the ball over on their final possession, sealing their first home loss all season and the second for Indiana basketball in two nights to Miami, whose men’s team also beat Indiana in the second round.

Holmes had 22 points and nine rebounds after sitting out Saturday with a sore knee. Berger finished with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists in her final home game.

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“It’s hard to put into words right now. Obviously, I’m very upset,” Holmes said, her voice cracking as the tears again flowed. “My last game with Grace, she shouldn’t go out like this. It’s been great to play with her for four years. It hurts to go out this way.”

By MICHAEL MAROT, Associated Press