GREENVILLE, S.C. — The round-of-16 game was slipping away from Miami, as Villanova closed a 21-point gap.
But the ninth-seeded Hurricanes stopped the reversal in the final minute, scoring 6 straight points to beat fourth-seeded Villanova on Friday, 70-65, to advance to its first round-of-8 game in the women’s N.C.A.A. tournament.
“I can’t believe it,” Miami Coach Katie Meier said. “I’m not going to act cool. This is awesome.”
Villanova had cruised to the round of 16, beating its lower-seeded opponents by an average of 18 points. The Wildcats seemed to be building for a run behind their star, Maddy Siegrist, the top scorer in Division I.
But from the beginning of Friday’s game, it was clear that this matchup would be much different from Villanova’s earlier games.
Miami’s defense smothered Villanova’s ballhandlers, hounding them as soon as they inbounded the ball. Miami’s speed and physicality made up for a height disadvantage and forced rushed shots and turnovers, causing Villanova’s offense to look confused. By the time Villanova seemed to have figured Miami’s defense out in the second half, it appeared to be too late.
But Siegrist, who scored a game-high 31 points, led a furious rally in the third and fourth quarters as Miami tightened up, seemingly fearful of spiraling. Still, the Hurricanes held close even though they blew their lead.
Siegrist, who could leave college early to declare for the W.N.B.A. draft, tearfully said after the game that her future was uncertain.
“I’ve got to talk to my parents and stuff,” Siegrist said. “But I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to be here. Like so many good people, and it’s really about the people, take the basketball part out of it, the memories and people I will cherish forever.”
Miami had faced a much more difficult path to the round of 16 than Villanova, with close games and a win over Indiana, a No. 1 seed, on its home floor.
Miami will play the winner between Louisiana State and Utah on Sunday.