KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nijel Pack scored 26 points to lead fifth-seeded Miami past top-seeded Houston 89-75 in the Midwest Region semifinals on Friday night as the last of the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 seeds was eliminated.
The fifth-seeded Hurricanes (28-7) advanced to the Elite Eight on Sunday, when they will play the winner of Friday night’s second game between No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Xavier.
The 89 points were the most Houston has given up all season. The previous high was 77.
The Cougars (33-4) came into the game ranked second in Division I at 56.6 points allowed per game, but Miami stormed past that mark with 12:53 left in the game.
Houston was the last remaining No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament. With Alabama’s 71-64 loss earlier in the evening to San Diego State in the South Region semifinals, this is the first season since seeding began in 1979 that no No. 1 seeds reached the Elite Eight. Texas is the final No. 2 seed in the field.
Pack was familiar with playing at Sprint Center thanks to his two years at Kansas State, before he transferred to Miami before this season.
“It’s a blessing to be back in this arena. My teammates found me early and got me going. They kept feeding me and telling me to shoot the ball. I tried to have confidence that it would keep going in,” said Pack, who hit 8 of 12 from the floor overall, including 7 of 10 from long range.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga said he didn’t “know how far some of those shots were. People ask me what I say to him when he misses one of those long shots. I say, ‘Keep shooting.’ “
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said his team wanted to make Pack take those long-range shots.
“The Pack kid … some of the shots he made were shots you hope he takes. The problem was he made them. Some of those were howitzers,” Sampson said.
Miami had five players score in double figures. Isaiah Wong had 20 points, Jordan Miller 13, Norchad Omier 12 and Wooga Poplar 11. Omier grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
Houston was led by Jarace Walker with 16 points. Jamal Shead added 15, and Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark each had 14. Walker added 11 rebounds and four blocks.
“Obviously, they were the better team tonight. Unfortunately, one off night and you go home in this tournament,” Sampson said.
Miami scored the first five points of the second half to open its largest lead to that point at 47-36. However, Shead’s first seven points of the game helped Houston climb back to within 49-45.
After Houston trimmed the deficit to two, Miami stretched the lead to 70-53 on a 19-4 run, featuring three 3-pointers from Pack.
The Cougars could get no closer than 11 points the rest of the game.
“We just never could get a foothold. We kept climbing and we’d get ahead of them, but we just couldn’t put stops together,” Sampson said. … “They’re good. I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the two teams, but tonight there was.”
Miami took a 42-36 lead into halftime. Houston owned the nation’s best field-goal percentage defense (36.1 percent), but the Hurricanes shot 46.9 percent (15-for-32) before the break, including 42.9 percent (6-for-14) from 3-point range.
Miami ended the night at 51.7 percent from the floor, 44 percent (11 of 25) from long distance. Houston shot 37.5 percent overall, including 29 percent (9 of 31) from beyond the arc.
–David Smale, Field Level Media