About 10 minutes remained in the Midwest Regional championship game and Miami was looking like a runner-up in this spot for the second straight year.
The Hurricanes trailed Texas by a dozen and weren’t getting much from their outstanding backcourt.
Then the game flipped. Miami outscored the Longhorns by 19 points the rest of the way and took an 88-81 victory that sends the program to its first Final Four.
“It was our perseverance,” said Miami forward Jordan Miller. “None of us wanted to go home.”
They’re off to Houston, site of the Final Four, and will join two other first-timers — San Diego State and Florida Atlantic — along with Connecticut in Houston next week.
For all but UConn, a four-time NCAA champion, this weekend provided the biggest moments in the history of their programs. It’s the first time since 1970 that as many as three teams will be making their Final Four debuts.
The Hurricanes and Huskies will play the second game on Saturday.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga is making his second Final Four appearance. He led George Mason on its magic ride in 2006.
“It’s the same exhilaration,” Larranaga said. “You love it when the players accomplish a goal they set out before the season.”
This one felt magical in a different way for the fifth-seeded Hurricanes. They trailed for three-quarters of the game but turned up the defense and got to the free-throw line to fuel their rally.
The opposite occurred a year ago, when Miami led Kansas at halftime but got blasted in the second half in a 26-point loss.
Here are more takeaways from Sunday’s game:
Changing the script
Texas led 65-53 with about 10 1/2 minutes remaining after holding a 13-point leader earlier in the half.
The Hurricanes started their comeback at the free-throw line. The first seven points during a run in which they scored on 12 of 14 possessions came at the line.
Miller had four of them on his way to 27 points. He made all 13 of his free-throw attempts and took only seven shots from the floor.
Guards Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack also came up big during the surge. It was Wong’s lob to Norchad Omier, who was fouled finishing the dunk, that gave Miami its first lead of the half at 73-72.
Texas quickly regained the lead on Tyrese Hunter’s three-pointer, but Miami continued to get stops.
“They played well down the stretch and made the plays to win the ballgame,” Texas coach Rodney Perry said.
Texas looked good for most of the game
A few minutes into the second half, Miami had improved its already remarkable marksmanship.
The Hurricanes made 16 of 25 in the first half for 64% and had added a couple of percentage points to that eight minutes beyond halftime.
And had fallen further behind.
It was that kind of glorious start for Texas. The Longhorns were shooting lights out as well, and many other things well in the biggest game of the season.
Marcus Carr finished with 17 points and Timmy Allen 16 for the Longhorns, who led by eight at halftime. The advantage peaked at 13 twice in second half.
A big moment on the second half: Carr took a knee to his thigh and came off the floor with about 10 minutes remaining. Carr quickly returned to the game but the Longhorns offense didn’t run as smoothly.
“It hurt, but I was all right throughout the second half,” Carr said.
Texas wasn’t, not over the final 10 minutes.
The question for Texas now is, will the interim tag be removed from Terry’s title? He took over for suspended coach Chris Beard in December. Beard later was fired and Terry led the Longhorns to their first regional final since 2008.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he would wait until the season’s end to announce a decision.
“I’ve enjoyed every single day of this journey with this group,” said Terry, who became emotional. “It was never about me. It was always about these guys. I love these guys.”
Over for Big 12
The Final Four will not include a Big 12 team for the first time since 2017. Texas and Kansas State reached regional finals, but both lost heartbreakers, with the Wildcats falling to Florida Atlantic on Saturday in the East Regional final.
The Big 12’s streak started in 2018 with Kansas. Texas Tech fell in the 2019 national-title game. There was no tournament in 2020 because of the pandemic. Baylor won with 2021 title and the Jayhawks followed with the 2022 championship.
Pack was named most outstanding player of the Midwest Regional.
He finished with 15 points against Texas, and the former Kansas State guard came up huge against top-ranked Houston in the semifinals with 27 points and seven three-pointers.
Joining Pack on the all-tournament team were Miami’s Miller and Wong and Texas’ Carr and Timmy Allen.