March Madness: Miami makes first Final Four thanks to huge comeback against Texas

The Hurricanes trailed by 13 with 13:29 to go

·5-min read

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miami is heading to the Final Four for the first time.

The Hurricanes overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to stun Texas, 88-81, and win the Midwest region on Sunday. Miami trailed 64-51 with 13:29 to go, but a massive Texas drought from the field helped the Hurricanes get back into the game after Texas looked like it was creeping toward its first Final Four in 20 years.

Miami took a two-point lead for good with a minute to go when Norchad Omier was fouled by Brock Cunningham as they went for a rebound. The call on the floor was initially against Omier — it would have been his fifth — but it was changed and assessed against Cunningham as he cleared out Omier while Omier was in the air.

Omier sank both his free throws to give Miami an 81-79 edge and Texas got just one basket the rest of the way after Miami went up by multiple possessions.

Texas scored just 11 points over the final 13 minutes of the game as Miami mounted its comeback. An alley-oop from Marcus Carr to Dillon Mitchell with 8:53 to go pushed the Texas lead to 10 and could have easily snuffed out any chances of a Miami win.

Instead, that basket turned out to be the only field goal Texas had in an eight-minute stretch. Miami turned the 13-point deficit into a one-point lead as Texas went cold before Tyrese Hunter’s 3-pointer tied the game at 75-75 with 4:40 to go.

Miami shot over 59% from the field Sunday as Jordan Miller embodied that efficiency. Miller scored 27 on just seven field goal attempts. He made all seven of his shots from the field and all 13 of his free throws. Miller literally did not miss a shot all game in a performance coach Jim Larrañaga called "ridiculous."

Just two nights earlier, Larrañaga used the same word to describe Nijel Pack's seven 3-pointers in the Hurricanes' upset win over Houston.

Yet it was Miami’s defense, along with an increased commitment to getting to the foul line, that got the Hurricanes back into the game as Texas coughed up the lead on Sunday. Miami’s defense got noticeably more aggressive in the second half and the Longhorns didn’t get the open looks from behind the 3-point line that they got in the first half. Texas shot 40% from deep in the game but was just 3-of-12 in the second half.

That hot shooting in the first half was a big reason why Miami trailed by eight at halftime despite shooting 64% from the field. Texas made seven 3s over the first 20 minutes while Miami had just two.

Miami also shot just five free throws in the first half and a whopping 27 in the second half. The Hurricanes finished the game 28-of-32 from the stripe while Texas shot 15 free throws all game.

Miami basketball players dump confetti on head coach Jim Larrañaga as they celebrate defeating Texas on Sunday in Kansas City to advance to the Final Four. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
Miami basketball players dump confetti on head coach Jim Larrañaga as they celebrate defeating Texas on Sunday in Kansas City to advance to the Final Four. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

The golden age of Miami basketball

It’s not a stretch to say the 2020s are already the best period ever for Miami basketball. This was Miami’s second consecutive Elite Eight appearance after it lost to Kansas in the same round in 2022.

Before the 2021-22 season, Miami had just eight all-time wins in NCAA tournament history over 10 appearances. That total is now 15 after Miami has scored seven wins over the last two tournaments combined.

Prior to Larrañaga's arrival at Miami from George Mason in 2011, the Hurricanes had gone to just four NCAA tournaments in 51 years. The Hurricanes equaled their pre-Larrañaga total in 2018 with their fourth appearance and are now experiencing unprecedented tournament success after three consecutive losing seasons.

It was hard to see Miami turning into a college basketball power as it won just 39 games between 2019 and 2021. But thanks to the transfer portal and the ability of wealthy donors to offer players appealing endorsements because of the NCAA’s new rules, the Hurricanes made a 16-win leap in the 2021-22 season and finished fourth in the ACC.

Miami got even better in 2022-23 and won the regular season ACC title for the first time in a decade thanks to the arrival of Pack from Kansas State and Omier from Arkansas State. With no top-three seeds in the Final Four, Miami has a heck of a shot to win a national title.

That quest will start with a matchup against a red-hot UConn team in the national semifinal Saturday in Houston.

Texas’ second-half struggles

The Longhorns looked like they could usurp UConn as the national title favorites with the way they played over the first 27 minutes of the game on Sunday. The Longhorns took away the 3 from Miami’s attack after Pack shot Houston out of the Sweet 16 on Friday and were shooting lights out themselves.

But the second half turned when Miami made a more concerted effort to get to the free throw line and Carr briefly had to go to the bench when he got hit in the quad in a collision with Omier as the Miami big man got his fourth foul.

Carr led Texas with 17 points and didn’t miss much time after he hit the deck. But he had just one basket after his return as Texas simply couldn’t find a way to stem Miami’s comeback.