University of Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier wasn’t in the mood to apologize for a couple of close officiating calls that went her way or a two-point escape against a lower-seeded opponent.
Shortly after the fourth-seeded Canes had defeated No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast 62-60 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Saturday night at the Watsco Center, Meier asked a rhetorical question.
“I can be happy, right?”
Yes, Meier is allowed to be thrilled, if not about how well her team played at least in the mere fact that Miami (24-8) advanced to play host to 12th-seeded Quinnipiac (28-6) on Monday night. Quinnipiac upset fifth-seeded Marquette 68-65 earlier Saturday.
The Canes survived FGCU (26-9) despite losing star guard Adrienne Motley, who fouled out with 1:53 left in the game.
Motley’s performance — she scored just four points on 1-of-6 shooting — was one of many things to go wrong for Miami. The Canes turned the ball over 20 times, scored zero points on the fast break and made just 1 of 14 three-point attempts.
But the Canes were saved by 6-1 senior forward Keyona Hayes, who posted up 5-9 guard Taylor Gradinjan for the game’s winning basket with 1.5 seconds left. Gradinjan fell while trying to guard the much-stronger Hayes, but no offensive foul was called.
“It’s disappointing, but that’s what the refs thought it was,” Gradinjan said of the no-call.
Hayes had a different perspective.
“It’s the NCAA Tournament, and it’s the last couple of seconds of the game — I’m just happy the refs let us play,” said Hayes, who finished with game highs in points (16) and rebounds (10). “It was a good no-call.”
Meier said her film study of the Eagles indicated they would try to draw charges, and she was pleased that Hayes was “balanced” when she went up for her winning shot.
After Hayes’ bucket off glass put the Canes up 62-60, the Eagles had one last chance. From just inside half-court on the left side, they tried a long inbounds lob that was broken up by Miami’s Keyanna Harris, ending the game.
The Eagles wanted a call on that play, too.
“It’s frustrating,” Eagles reserve Haley Laughter said, “but you can’t base the game on one or two plays.”
Indeed, the Eagles didn’t play exceptional basketball, either. They shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, got just two fastbreak points and were outrebounded 41-26.
Using superior size, Miami outscored the Eagles 12-2 on second-chance points and led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter. Besides Hayes, Miami also got double-figure scoring from reserve forward Emese Hof, who added 14 points.
But the Eagles, who were just 2 of 18 on first-half three-pointers, started to find their range in the second half, making 7 of 16 from long distance.
Meanwhile, Miami’s guards were not hitting. Motley, Jessica Thomas and Laura Cornelius — Miami’s three best perimeter threats — combined to make just 7 of 25 shots.
In the final minute, Harris made two free throws to give Miami a 60-57 lead. But Gradinjan made a three-pointer from the right corner to tie the score with 7.1 seconds left.
Meier indicated that forward Erykah Davenport didn’t get over to that corner in her defensive rotation.
“Clearly, Davenport shouldn’t have pinched off the corner to give her that shot,” Meier said. “I may have yelled at her in the locker room, but I wasn’t going to waste a timeout to yell at her then.”
UM closed the game out with Hayes, who became the first Canes player to post an NCAA Tournament double-double since Pepper Wilson in 2013.
“I felt her,” Hayes said about the defense of Gradinjan on the final basket. “She’s a lot smaller. I just took my time and laid the ball up.”
No apology necessary.