By Alex Schwartz
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The fifth-seeded University of Miami men’s basketball team knocked off top-seeded Houston, 89-75, Friday night at the T-Mobile Center to claim a second consecutive Elite Eight appearance
Behind a game-high 26 points from third-year sophomore guard Nijel Pack, who shot 7-of-10 from deep, No. 16/15 Miami (28-7, 15-5 ACC) led by as many as 17 against the Cougars, who entered the matchup ranked No. 2/1 in the country. This is the second time program history Miami has defeated a team ranked atop either national poll.
The Hurricanes scored seven straight points in just 61 seconds midway through the first half to go up by six, 29-23, with 7:12 on the clock. Houston (33-4, 17-1 AAC) responded with back-to-back 3-pointers, evening the score 47 seconds later.
The score remained level into the closing minutes of the half before Miami went on a 9-2 run in 1:43 to grab a seven-point edge, 40-33, with 2:53 on the clock. It eventually took a six-point edge, 42-36, into the intermission. Miami committed just one turnover in the opening 20 minutes and forced six at the other end, leading to 15-0 margin in points off giveaways and an 11-3 fast-break points total.
Miami scored the first five points of the second half, making it a 16-5 extended surge, to claim an 11-point lead, 47-36, with 18:53 to go. The Cougars answered with seven consecutive points in 1:42 to make it 47-43 with 17:01 remaining and then closed within two, 51-49, with 14:42 left.
The Hurricanes countered with a 19-4 burst in 4:19—including three 3-pointers by Pack, one by fifth-year senior guard Jordan Miller and another by sophomore guard Wooga Poplar—to go up by a game-best 17 points, 70-53, with 10:03 to play. Miami scored 11 points in a row to end the stretch.
Houston never got closer than 11 the rest of the way and the Hurricanes, who led by 16 in the final two minutes, ended the historic night with a 14-point victory, the Cougars’ largest setback in over 12 months and their largest on a neutral court in nearly two years. Miami’s 89 points were also the most against Houston by any team since November 2019.
Miami led for 34-plus minutes, including the entire second half, and trailed for just 2:20. The Hurricanes shot 57.1 percent (31-of-6), the second-best mark by any Houston foe this season. They also posted a 44.0 percent (11-of-25) beyond the arc and 84.2 percent (16-of-19) at the stripe.
At the other end, Miami limited Houston to a 37.5 percent (24-of-64) ledger overall, including a 29.0 percent (9-of-31) clip from deep. The Hurricanes also had just six turnovers in the contest.
Pack, the only Hurricane to previously play at the T-Mobile Center, finished 8-of-12 from the floor and made seven of his first nine 3-point attempts, good for the second-most makes by a Hurricane in NCAA Tournament play. Fourth-year junior guard Isaiah Wong totaled 20 points, shooting 5-of-11 overall, 1-of-2 from deep and 9-of-11 at the line.
Miller logged 13 points, six rebounds and a team-best four assists. Third-year sophomore forward Norchad Omier had 12 points and a game-best 13 rebounds to record his 16th double-double of the year. Poplar added 11 points to give Miami a quintet of double-digit scorers.
Freshman forward Jarace Walker paced Houston with 16 points, a team-best 11 rebounds and a co-game-high five assists, but Miami held him to 4-of-16 shooting. Junior guard Jamal Shead scored 15 points and redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark had 14, as did senior guard Marcus Sasser, a First Team All-American whom Miami limited to 4-of-12 shooting.
Miami will now play either second-seeded Texas or third-seeded Xavier in the Elite Eight at a to-be-determined time Sunday at the T-Mobile Center.