CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami and Florida Gulf Coast are about a two-hour drive from one another, and yet the programs have only faced off three times — all in the postseason.
There might be a reason for that.
For the second time in three years, Miami needed to survive a harrowing finish to get a home win over FGCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Beatrice Mompremier scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and fourth-seeded Miami used an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to beat 13th-seeded FGCU 69-62 in a first-round Portland Region game Friday night.
“We knew they were a great team and I think that we prepared our team for a close game the whole time,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “I never thought this would be a runaway game.”
FGCU didn’t let that happen — rallying time and again from deficits, the biggest of those being a 14-point hole in the third quarter. But the Eagles (28-5) missed eight straight shots in the fourth quarter, giving Miami the chance it needed to pull away.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. “Proud of the way we fought back and rallied and gave ourselves a chance to win the game at the end. But it didn’t work out for us.”
Endia Banks scored 14 and Mykea Gray added 10 for the Hurricanes (25-8), who wasted a 14-point second-half lead and were down by one early in the fourth before recovering.
Emese Hof had a 10-point, 12-rebound game for Miami, which plays fifth-seeded Arizona State on Sunday. The Hurricanes turned a 51-50 deficit into a 64-53 lead in the fourth.
Keri Jewett-Giles scored 24 for FGCU, whose 19-game winning streak was snapped. The Eagles cut that 11-point late Miami lead to four, but Hof’s rebound and reverse-layup putback with exactly a minute left put the Hurricanes up 66-60.
“Basketball is a game of runs and teams are going to go on runs,” Washington said. “Once we saw they were going on one, we thought it was our turn.”
FGCU was bidding to become the first No. 13 seed to beat a No. 4 in the first round since Marist toppled Georgia in 2012. It would have also matched the second-biggest upset in terms of seed differential in NCAA women’s tournament history — six No. 13s have beaten No. 4s, and the only one that tops that is No. 16 Harvard’s win over No. 1 Stanford in 1998.
Every time it looked like a blowout was coming, FGCU bounced back.
The Eagles were down 7-0 to start the game, 36-24 late in the half and 40-26 after Mompremier opened the third quarter with a score. And they were never rattled.
Starting with a 3-pointer by Tytionia Adderly — Miami kept playing way off her when in zone, daring her to shoot from deep — FGCU closed the third quarter on a 22-8 run to send the teams into the fourth knotted at 48. Washington made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in the third to tie the game at 45, Banks beat the shot clock with one to put Miami back on top and then Adderly connected again for the 48-all tie.
Jewett-Giles made a 3-pointer early in the fourth for FGCU’s first and only lead. The Eagles missed 11 of their final 14 shots.
“We just had to run them off the line,” Mompremier said.
Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles’ first eight shots were 3-point tries. They didn’t attempt a 2-pointer until 4:11 remained in the first quarter, and 40 of their 66 field-goal attempts were from beyond the arc. … This was the ninth consecutive year where FGCU won at least 27 games, and the fifth NCAA trip in the last six years for the Eagles. … FGCU had only eight turnovers and forced 18.
Miami: The win ends a two-game slide overall — and a two-game NCAA slide for the Hurricanes, who lost a second-round game to Quinnipiac in 2017 and fell to Quinnipiac again in the first round last season. … The Hurricanes improved to 17-2 at home. … This is the fifth 25-win season in Miami history, and the Hurricanes’ first since 2011-12.
Mompremier is listed at 6-foot-4, Hof at 6-foot-3. FGCU countered with a starting frontcourt where nobody is listed at more than 5-foot-10 — those being Washington and Adderly. The Hurricanes had six 6-footers on their roster, and the Eagles had none.
Miami football coach Manny Diaz’s day started with the third practice of the spring season early Friday morning. It ended with him sitting at midcourt for the women’s game that tipped off at 9:28 p.m. — and by night’s end, he was in the student section to help rile up a larger-than-usual crowd at the Watsco Center.
Miami plays Arizona State on Sunday in the second round.