NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional-Miami (FL) vs Houston

No. 5 Miami storms past No. 1 Houston to reach Elite Eight

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

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West final pairs red-hot No. 4 UConn, No. 3 Gonzaga

West final pairs red-hot No. 4 UConn, No. 3 Gonzaga

UConn was unceremoniously sent home in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, so the Huskies were flying well under the radar when this year’s version of March Madness began.

Three games later, nobody is taking the fourth-seeded Huskies lightly. They have won those games by an average of 20.7 points to crash the West Region final and will battle third-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday night in Las Vegas for a spot in the Final Four.

The fabulous run has UConn (28-8) in the Elite Eight for the first time since winning the national title in 2014. Taking the next step won’t be easy, as the Bulldogs (31-5) have won 12 straight games to reach the Elite Eight for the fifth time in the past eight NCAA Tournaments.

But after thrashing Arkansas 88-65 in the Sweet 16 for their 12th win in 14 games, the Huskies are playing as well as any team in the tournament. And the journey began after that embarrassing 70-63 loss to New Mexico State 12-plus months ago.

Coach Dan Hurley met with Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. and apologized for not putting more talent around them. He promised it would be different in March 2023.

“We were in Coach’s office, and he really just told us things are going to change now,” Jackson recalled. “And he just told us we’re all captains. And we hold part of that on our shoulders, too — we’re going to take part of that blame when you feel that pain.

“We really, from that moment on, from that day on, we just really held each other to a higher standard and just told each other we’re going to push for a national championship.”

Sanogo, UConn’s star, has team-best averages of 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. He is averaging 23.3 points and 9.7 rebounds and shooting 75 percent from the field (33 of 44) in the NCAA Tournament.

Hawkins had a team-best 24 points against Arkansas to raise his season average to 16.1. He has knocked down a team-high 98 3-point baskets. Jackson is a playmaker who averages 6.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Together, they helped the Huskies become a dangerous team.

“We’re playing our best basketball right now because we know we have a good team,” Sanogo said. “We play for UConn. UConn is the place, people care about you, people want to see you do good. We know it’s awesome, and every time we play, we want to show people wrong.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few doesn’t need much convincing.

“I think they’re playing probably better than anybody in the tournament right now,” Few said. “I’ve got to see them several times. They’ve just done a fabulous job of roster building. The pieces they have fit really, really well.”

The Bulldogs rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to post a 79-76 win over second-seeded UCLA in the Sweet 16. Julian Strawther’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left was the big shot.

“Nothing was going our way,” Strawther said. “We weren’t playing our brand of basketball at all through that whole first half. We flipped that switch. And there’s not a lot of teams in the country who could bond together and make a run like that.”

Gonzaga star Drew Timme put on a show with 36 points and 13 rebounds. He set an NCAA Tournament record with his 10th career 20-point outing.

The Bulldogs outrebounded UCLA 50-26 and collected 16 on the offensive end. Things might be tougher against the Huskies, who outrebounded Arkansas 43-31.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Timme said. “We’ll have to play hard and gritty, and we’re going to have to get dirty and nasty, do whatever it takes to win because they have a hell of a duo, big-man punch. It’s going to be a war.”

UConn has won three of the previous five meetings with Gonzaga, including a 67-62 victory to reach the 1999 Final Four en route to winning the national championship.

–Field Level Media

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West final pairs red-hot No. 4 UConn, No. 3 Gonzaga

NCAA Basketball: Central CT State at Connecticut

Nov 25, 2020; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley talks to guard R.J. Cole (1) and guard Brendan Adams (10) and forward Adama Sanogo (middle top) and guard Andre Jackson (44) and forward Tyler Polley (12) during a break in the action against the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the second half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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