Miami storms past Texas to reach first Final Four
Miami (Fla.) earned its first Final Four appearance in school history with an inspired 88-81 comeback win over Texas Sunday in the Midwest Regional Final.
The fifth-placed Hurricanes appeared to be on their way home as they trailed as much as 13 points in the second half before edging past the second-placed Longhorns in the Midwest Regional championship game in the NCAA men’s tournament.
Senior guard Jordan Miller led Miami with 27 perfect shooting points — 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the free throw line at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
Miller equaled Duke’s Christian Laettner as the only player in a tournament game to attempt seven or more field goals and free throws without a miss. Laettner was 10 of 10 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free throw line in Duke’s 104–103 overtime win over Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Finals.
A year ago, Miller was part of a Miami team that fell a game behind the Final Four when the Hurricanes lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
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“The fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, to do it right, that pushed me,” he said after the game.
Miami fell 64-51 with 13:30 to go when Texas’ Tyrese Hunter made a jumper.
But Miami slowly worked its way back with strong defense and shooting. The Hurricanes took the lead for the first time, 73-72. 5:26 remained in Norchad Omier’s three-point game.
“Our defense has improved dramatically,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “Our rebounds have improved. And once we’ve stopped, we can really hit the ball. So we went on a run offensively and defensively and that completely turned the game around.”
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Miami would then pull away with 13 free throws in the closing minutes, including eight by Miller.
“Nobody wanted to go home,” Miller said. “We came together, we stuck together, we showed really good endurance and the will to just get there.”
A year ago, the Hurricanes lost a game behind the Final Four when they lost to eventual national champions Kansas in the Elite Eight.
“The fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, to do it right, pushed me,” Miller said.
Miami (29-7) will face No. 4 Connecticut in a semifinal match at the Final Four in Houston. It’s the second Final Four appearance for Larranaga, who made it as George Mason’s head coach in 2006.
“It’s the same excitement, just the jubilant attitude, the effort, because you just love it when your player achieves a goal that they set before the season,” Larranaga said.
This is the first time since 1970 that there have been three first-time teams in the Final Four. Those three newcomers from 53 years ago were St. Bonaventure, Jacksonville, and New Mexico State.
Miami’s path to the Final Four included victories over No. 12 seed Drake, No. 4 seed Indiana and No. 1 seed Houston before the Hurricanes crushed Texas.
On Sunday, senior guard Marcus Carr led Texas with 17 points and six assists.
Texas made the Elite Eight for only the second time since 2008, despite a tumultuous midseason coaching change. Rodney Terry temporarily took over the team after former head coach Chris Beard was arrested on December 12 for domestic violence.
The school fired Beard on January 5 before the charges were dropped and Texas 22-8 after Terry was promoted to head coach.
Terry was overcome with emotion during the post-game press conference. “I enjoyed every single day of this trip with this group,” he said as his voice cracked.
“More than any other group I’ve worked with as a coach in 32 years, these guys have truly embodied that they stay the course and are a team. These guys have been incredible teammates all year. They were so selfless as a team and they gave us everything they had. They really did.