Miami (Fla.) stages massive second-half rally to knock off Texas to reach first Final Four
Miami (Fla.) earned its first trip to the Final Four in school history with a inspired 88-81 comeback victory over Texas Sunday in the Midwest Regional Final.
The fifth-seeded Hurricanes looked to be heading home as they trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before rallying past the second-seeded Longhorns in the championship game of the Midwest Regional in the NCAA men's tournament.
Senior guard Jordan Miller led Miami with 27 points on perfect shooting -- 7-of-7 from the field and 13-for-13 from the free-throw line at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
Miller matched 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 victory over Kentucky in 1992 East Regional final.
A year ago, Miller was part of a Miami team that fell one game shy of the Final Four when the Hurricanes lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
"The fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, make it right, that was what was pushing me,'' he said after the game.
Miami fell behind 64-51 with 13:30 left when Texas’ Tyrese Hunter made a jumper.
But Miami slowly worked its way back with some strong defense and shooting. The Hurricanes took their first lead of the half at 73-72 with 5:26 left on Norchad Omier’s three-point play.
"Our defense dramatically improved," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Our rebounding improved. And once we get stops, we really can score the ball. So we went on a run offensively, defensively, and that completely turned the game around."
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Miami would then pull away in the final minutes by making 13 free throws, including eight by Miller.
“No one wanted to go home," Miller said. "We came together, we stuck together, we showed really good perseverance and the will to just get there.’’
A year ago, the Hurricanes fell one game shy of the Final Four when they lost in the Elite Eight to Kansas, the eventual national champion.
“The fact that we had the opportunity to come back and make amends, make it right, that was what was pushing me,'' Miller said.
Miami (29-7) will play No. 4 seed Connecticut in a semifinal game at the Final Four in Houston. It will be the second Final Four appearance for Larranaga, who made it in 2006 as head coach of George Mason.
"It's the same exhilaration, just the jubilant attitude, the effort, because you just love when your player accomplish a goal they set out before the season," Larranaga said.
This will be the first time since 1970 that there will be 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 knocked off Texas.
On Sunday, senior guard Marcus Carr led Texas with 17 points and six assists.
Texas reached the Elite Eight for only the second time since 2008 despite a tumultuous midseason coaching change. Rodney Terry took over the team on an interim basis after former head coach Chris Beard was arrested Dec. 12 on a charge of felony domestic violence.
The school fired Beard Jan. 5 before the charge was dropped, and Texas 22-8 after Terry was promoted to head coach.
Terry was overcome with emotion during the postgame press conference. "I enjoyed every single day of this journey with this group,'' he said as his voice cracked.
"These guys more than any group I've worked with in 32 years of coaching have really embodied in terms of staying the course and being a team. These guys were incredible teammates all year. They were so unselfish as a team, and they gave us everything they had. They really did."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Miami rallies past Texas to reach first Final Four