STANFORD, Calif. – Call it an ugly upset.
South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston found plenty of positives as his team’s stingy defense kept coming, which was a good thing considering all the missed free throws down the stretch and turnovers at all the wrong times.
Macy Miller and Gabby Boever combined for three free throws over the final 35.6 seconds to bail out their teammates’ poor shooting late at the line, and No. 12 seed South Dakota State stunned fifth-seeded Miami 74-71 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
“We had a bunch of people knocking down shots that were critical for us,” Miller said.
Miller finished with 18 points, while Madison Guebert scored 19 points and matched an NCAA program-best with five 3-pointers as the Jackrabbits survived despite their second-half struggles handling the Hurricanes’ trapping full-court press and 22 turnovers.
“Nobody knows how difficult that is to make free throws in those situations until you’ve actually been out there on the court with so much on the line. So much is internal pressure,” Johnston said. “There were just too many other good things that happened for me to dwell on some of those things that didn’t go our way.”
Ellie Thompson hit a key 3-pointer with 3:58 remaining on the way to 14 points and South Dakota State (27-6) advanced to the second round for the first time since 2009, snapping a five-game losing streak in the NCAAs.
Adrienne Motley scored 19 points and freshman Laura Cornelius added 18 for Miami (24-9) in her NCAA debut.
The Summit League tournament champion Jackrabbits will face the winner of Saturday night’s second game between No. 4 seed and host Stanford and 13th-seeded San Francisco.
Cornelius made a long jumper – at first counted as a 3 – with 6:03 remaining to pull the ‘Canes within six at 61-55, but was immediately called for a technical foul. Miller made the two free throws before Cornelius answered with another jumper at the 5:39 mark, and Motley scored off a turnover moments later with Miami in its trap.
Cornelius drew a charge against Guebert on the other end, then hit a 3-pointer with 4:30 left. But Cornelius was whistled for her own offensive foul with 1:44 to play.
Both coaches knew the teams’ contrasting styles would make for an interesting matchup, and both played stingy defense for much of the game.
Miami star Jessica Thomas was held to seven points on 3-of-15 shooting, missing all but one of her six 3-point tries.
Last March, Miami lost on Iowa’s home floor with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line and coach Katie Meier pulled Thomas back onto the Hawkeyes’ home court to watch the opponent celebrate. That fueled the Hurricanes to go further this year.
With all but one of his 12 players from Minnesota or South Dakota, 16th-year Jackrabbits coach Aaron Johnston was able to keep his players just poised enough to hold on despite all the mistakes.
South Dakota State showed from the opening tip it could match Miami’s hustle and energy on both ends. The Jackrabbits used an 11-1 run in the third to build a 48-40 lead as Miami missed its first 10 shots after halftime.
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