KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jordan Miller and Isaiah Wong rallied Miami from a 13-point second-half deficit, Norchad Omier made two big free throws and an even more important steal down the stretch, and the fifth-seeded Hurricanes stunned No. 2 seed Texas, 88-81, Sunday to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Miller finished with 27 points, going 7 of 7 from the field and 13 of 13 from the foul line, while Wong scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half to beat the Longhorns, who had been the top remaining seed in a topsy-turvy NCAA Tournament.
Now, after falling short in the Elite Eight a year ago, the fifth-seeded Hurricanes (29-7) are headed to NRG Stadium in Houston for a date with No. 4 UConn on Saturday night. Two more first-time Final Four participants, No. 5 seed San Diego State and No.9 Florida Atlantic, will play in the other national semifinal.
It’s the first time since seeding began in 1979 that no team seeded better than No. 4 made the Final Four, and perhaps it’s fitting that Miami coach Jim Larranaga is involved. He returns to the Final Four after taking George Mason there as an 11 seed in 2006.
“No one wanted to go home,” said Miller, who joined Duke’s Christian Laettner as the only players since 1960 to go 20 for 20 combined from the field and foul line in an NCAA Tournament game. “We came together. We stuck together. We showed really good perseverance and the will — the will to just want to get there.”
Miami and Texas were tied 79-all when Omier, known for his bruising style of play, was fouled by the Longhorns’ Brock Cunningham while going for a loose ball. He made both of the foul shots to give the Hurricanes the lead, then stole the ball from Texas star Marcus Carr at the other end, and Wong made to more free throws with 34 seconds left.
Miller kept drilling foul shots down the stretch to ice the Midwest Region title for the Hurricanes.
Wooga Poplar scored 16 points, and Nijel Pack followed up his virtuoso performance against top-seeded Houston with 15, as the same school that once dropped hoops entirely in the 1970s advanced to the game’s biggest stage.
Carr led the Longhorns (29-9) with 17 points, though he appeared to be bothered by a hamstring injury that he picked up late in the game. Timmy Allen added 16 points and Sir’Jabari Rice finished with 15 in a season that began with the firing of Chris Beard over domestic violence charges that were later dropped and ended with interim coach Rodney Terry consoling his team after a gut-wrenching defeat.
The Longhorns revealed about 90 minutes before tipoff that Dylan Disu, the Big 12 tourney MVP and early star of the NCAA Tournament, would miss the game with a foot injury.
Texas hit seven 3-pointers in storming to a 45-37 halftime lead. The advantage stretched to 13 in the second half, and tension began to build on the Miami bench. Still trailing 72-64 with about eight minutes to play, the the Hurricanes went on a 13-3 run to take a 77-75 lead, their first since the opening minutes. When Rice answered at the other end for Texas, it was Miller who began his late-game parade to the foul line with two go-ahead free throws.
Carr made a nifty turnaround jumper to tie the game again for Texas, but the Miami momentum never slowed. Omier made his free throws with a minute left, swiped the ball from Carr, and Miller and Co. made good at the foul line.
“Last year we got to the Elite Eight here and it comes to a crushing end,” Larranaga said. “Today, last night, all the guys just kept talking, ‘We’ve got to go past the Elite Eight and get to the Final Four.’ ”