Miami Wins ACC Tournament Debut
March 4, 2005
GREENSBORO - ACC scoring leader Tamara James was held in check for most of Miami's opening-round tournament game against Georgia Tech - until it counted the most.
James took a three-quarter court pass from Yalonda McCormick, wrestled the ball away from a defender and hit a difficult shot at the buzzer as the expansion Hurricanes won their first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game 60-58 over the Yellow Jackets on Friday.
Ninth-seeded Miami (13-15) now advances to play top-seeded North Carolina in the quarterfinals Saturday. Meanwhile, No. 8 seeded Georgia Tech closed its season at 13-14.
Georgia Tech rallied to tie the score at 58 with 2.2 seconds left on a layup by Janie Mitchell, who scored 21 points off the bench on 9-of-11 shooting.
After a Miami timeout with 1.8 seconds left, McCormick threw the long pass to James, who powered her way up with the game-winning shot.
It was close enough for the officials to review the play on TV monitors, but relays showed James got the shot off with 0.2 seconds left as the Hurricanes advanced in front of a crowd of 8,841.
"There was a lot of talk (in the huddle) that we weren't going to let James catch the ball and we were trying to take the long pass away," said Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph. "The bottom line was I thought we had somebody there, we got a deflection, she just came through with a big play.
"To have the fortitude to grab that ball ... that's just a great player making a great play. She has done it all year long."
James, a junior, averaged an ACC-best 22.9 points this season, but was limited to 13 before the biggest two points of the game.
"When I shot the ball I didn't hear the buzzer, but I didn't know if it was because of the hype or the noise in the gym," James said. "I was just excited to get that shot in."
Miami coach Ferne Labati called a play her team has run hundreds of times in practice.
"We've done it so many times," she said. "Tamara did a great job. She's got great hands. She was able to catch it and get it off quickly because we didn't have much time."
The Hurricanes used a 22-4 run to take control of the game in the first half, building its lead to as many as 14, and held that margin with 14:23 left before the Yellow Jackets staged their comeback.
Georgia Tech tied it at 52-52 with 3:22 left and with 2.2 seconds remaining, but never could take the lead down the stretch.
McCormick missed three free throws over the final 45.8 seconds that allowed the Yellow Jackets to remain close.
Katie Hayek, making her first start in 58 career games, scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half to help stake Miami to its big lead.
The Greensboro Coliseum crowd of close to 9,000 was mostly made up of students from the ACC-School Day Partnership Program.
"That was just a tremendous showing out there for an 11 o'clock game," Joseph said. "The crowd was amazing. They were cheering for both teams and they got really excited as we came back. They swung in our favor and it kind f helped our momentum a little bit."
By DAVID DROSCHAK