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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports >  NCAA basketball

Men’s NCAA notebook: Hurricanes’ high-octane offense blows past Houston, 89-75, to reach Elite Eight

March 24, 2023 Updated Fri., March 24, 2023 at 10:40 p.m.

Miami’s Isaiah Wong (2) and Norchad Omier celebrate during an 89-75 win against Houston during the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament at T-Mobile Center on Friday in Kansas City, Mo.  (Tribune News Service)
Miami’s Isaiah Wong (2) and Norchad Omier celebrate during an 89-75 win against Houston during the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament at T-Mobile Center on Friday in Kansas City, Mo. (Tribune News Service)
Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

For decades now, since the University of Miami men’s basketball program was resurrected after lying dormant for 14 years, the Hurricanes have been toiling, often in front of sparse crowds, to gain respect and prove that Hurricanes can do more than play football.

Friday, on the biggest day in Hurricanes hoops history, the men’s and women’s teams proved it, and then some, as both pulled off upsets to reach the Elite Eight.

Coach Katie Meier and her gritty women’s team upset Villanova in the afternoon to make its first Elite Eight in program history.

Five hours later, Jim Larranaga and his high-octane Hurricanes blew past the top-seeded Houston Cougars 89-75 to earn an Elite Eight berth for the second year in a row and eliminate the last No. 1 seed that was left standing.

Miami will play No. 2 seed Texas.

In the final moments of the game, UM fans at the T-Mobile Center began chanting “It’s great! To be! A Miami Hurricane!” Never was that more true for the green and orange faithful.

Larranaga celebrated in the locker room with one of his trademark dances, to Marvin Gaye’s “Night Shift,” delighting his players.

Miami guard Nijel Pack, who transferred from Kansas State before this season, led the Canes with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 7-of-10 shooting on 3-pointers.

Asked about Pack’s performance, Larranaga said: “A joke. He was ridiculous.”

San Diego State shocks top-seeded Alabama

It is the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, with an exclamation point.

San Diego State is going to the Elite Eight.

Exclamation point.

The Aztecs have gone where no basketball team has gone before, beating No. 1 overall seed Alabama 71-64 to advance one game from the Final Four – against Creighton – and the sport’s hallowed land.

Other firsts: The first time the Aztecs have defeated a higher seeded or ranked team in the NCAA Tournament after failing in their past nine attempts. And the first time a Mountain West team has gone past the Sweet 16.

All season, Aztecs players said they were planning on a deep run in March. Some even uttered Final Four, or national championship.

It was hard to take it as anything beyond youthful bravado, beyond shooting for the moon and maybe reach a star or two. But the coaches kept saying there was something special about this group, about their resilience and determination and mojo, just something different.

Then they barely celebrated on the floor and had no Gatorade showers in the locker room after last Saturday’s win against Furman put them into the school’s first Sweet 16 since 2014.

“We’re not done yet,” they said, one after another.

And they weren’t.

They played the perfect game against the favored Crimson Tide, slowing the pace, mucking it up, clogging the paint to deter drives, grabbing rebounds, frustrating a team that rolled through the SEC tournament by an average of 17 points and then won its first two NCAA Tournament games by 21 and 22 points.

The Aztecs hung around, hung around, hung around, refusing to go away, even when the Crimson Tide took a nine-point lead midway through the second half.

Darrion Trammell brought them back with his best game as an Aztec, 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and only one turnover in 30 minutes against Alabama’s relentless pressure. The defense took care of the rest, holding Alabama to 32.4% shooting overall and 3 of 27 (you read that right, 3 of 27) behind the 3-point arc.

Brandon Miller, the SEC Player of the Year and a projected top-five NBA draft pick, had nine points on 3-of-19 shooting.

Jahvon Quinerly was 4 of 13. Noah Clowney was 1 of 6 and fouled out. Rylan Griffen was 1 of 7.

Creighton ends Princeton’s Cinderella run

Princeton guard Ryan Langborg curled off screens, created separation from his defender and fired shots from inside the lane and beyond the arc against No. 6 Creighton inside the KFC Yum! Center. It all kept the Tigers within pouncing distance deep into the game.

But even when paired with precocious forward Tosan Evbuomwan (24 points), Langborg’s 26 points were not enough to propel Princeton to the Elite Eight as Creighton outlasted the Ivy League champions 86-75.

New Jersey had a pair of Cinderellas in the tournament when No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson shocked No. 1 Purdue, but when the Knights lost to Florida Atlantic in the second round, Princeton was left carrying the Garden State hopes.

Princeton, playing in its first Sweet 16, was attempting to join Saint Peter’s as the only No. 15 seeds to reach the Elite Eight in NCAA history, but instead it will be the Bluejays facing No. 5 San Diego State, which upset top-seeded Alabama, Sunday in the South Region final for a berth in the Final Four. It will be the first national quarterfinal field without a No. 1 seed in it.

Creighton relied on the height of 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner (22 points) and the shooting of guard Baylor Scheierman (21 points; 5 of 7 on 3-pointers, including a banked shot) to fell the Tigers.

Texas steps up without Dylan Disu, defeats Xavier

A season filled with gut checks and daunting challenges gave Texas another test.

Like so many times before, Texas passed, surviving to become the highest seed left in the NCAA Tournament.

Playing without injured breakout star Dylan Disu for all but the first 94 seconds, second-seeded Texas dismantled No. 3 Xavier 83-71 in the Midwest Regional semifinals. Texas led by as much as 24 and Xavier was never closer than the final margin the second half.

Pretty much everyone in the playoff rotation stepped up for Texas with five Longhorns scoring in double figures. Tyrese Hunter led Texas with 19 points, followed by Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop with 18. Bishop added nine rebounds stepping for Disu.

Texas (29-8) will face No. 5 Miami in the regional finals Sunday with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line. Miami (28-7) stunned top seed Houston 89-75 earlier behind 26 points and seven 3-pointers by Nijel Pack. Houston, which is joining the Big 12 next season, finished 33-4.

Disu’s availability for the regional finals was not immediately known.

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