CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. – (CBS/AP) – The 3rd seeded Hurricanes battled Oklahoma from behind, finally evening the score with just over 3 minutes left Tuesday, but in the end they were outplayed, ever so slightly, by the Sooners, who sent the Canes home from the Women’s NCAA tournament, 88-83.
Danielle Robinson and her Oklahoma teammates had led virtually all game, staving off the frenetic, relentless charge of Miami.
The Hurricanes finally pulled even with 3:26 left, and Robinson quickly took over.
“I had been a little bit passive,” Robinson said of her play the first 37 minutes, when she collected all of her career-high 11 assists. “They told me to get to the rim.”
Robinson was fouled on a drive, scored on a drive and was fouled on another drive, and she made all four free throws, capping an 8 for 8 night at the line while also killing some clock.
Katie Meier, who coached Miami to its first NCAA tournament victory in 18 years in the first round, shook her head in disagreement when it was suggested her team got tired pulling even.
“Sometimes there’s an All-American that scores six straight points,” she said.
Robinson, who finished with 18 points, was just the last of the stars to shine for the Sooners (23-11), who will move on to the Dayton Regional two victories away from a third straight trip to the Final Four.
Whitney Hand scored a career-high 27 points. Carlee Roethlisberger had 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Aaryn Ellenberg also hit four 3s and scored 13 points. Joanna McFarland had 15 rebounds for the second consecutive game along with 12 points.
“All year long, I’ve said it they all show up at the same time, look out,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said of her primary scorers, who were 11 of 28 from 3-point territory.
Shenise Johnson scored 25 points to lead Miami (28-5), including the jumper with 3:26 to go that tied it 79-all. The Hurricanes didn’t score again until Sylvia Bullock’s basket inside with 47 seconds to play, experiencing for the last time a frustration that lasted all night.
“I felt like every time we’d get close, they would scramble, we’d make a great play and it would tip out and they’d hit a 3,” Johnson said. “Very, very frustrating — back-breaking.”
Bullock’s basket made it 85-81, giving the Hurricanes hope, but Hand hit two free throws with 41 seconds to go, restoring the six-point lead, and the Hurricanes’ comeback came up short.
Still, with the experience of two tournament games under their belt, the entire team returning and a break-neck style of play that gives other teams fits, the future is bright.
“It’s going to be scary next season,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait to start the season.”
Morgan Stroman added 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Riquna Williams scored 17 for Miami.
The Sooners led almost all the way after a 17-4 first-half run stretched their lead into double digits, but the Hurricanes kept chipping away by using their pressure defense to force 18 turnovers — six more than Coale said her team could commit to ensure a victory.
The Sooners finished with 22 assists on 29 baskets, hit 11 of 29 3-pointers and outrebounded the Hurricanes 45-39. Miami assisted on only half of its 32 buckets with eight 3s.
Oklahoma led 44-35 at halftime and 56-44 with 16 minutes to play, before Johnson’s foul-line jumper started an 11-1 run that pulled the Hurricanes within 57-55. Stefanie Yderstrom hit her third 3-pointer in the burst, and had two others in the half that went halfway down, and out.
Just as quickly as the Hurricanes closed in, the Sooners rebuilt their lead.
Hand scored, and Aaryn Ellenberg hit a 3-pointer. After Williams answered with a 3 for Miami, Hand’s two free throws and another 3 by Ellenberg gave Oklahoma a 67-58 lead.
Miami kept coming, getting two 3-pointers from Johnson, a jumper from Williams and another 3 from Yderstrom to pull within 74-70 with 8 minutes left. A basket by McFarland stretched the Sooners’ lead to six, but a 15-footer by Shanel Williams for Miami, a three-point play by Stroman that countered another 3-pointer, and Johnson’s jumper tied it.
At that point, Robinson finished things off for the Sooners.