By Alex Schwartz
HOUSTON – The unquestionable greatest season in University of Miami men’s basketball history came to an end Saturday night with a 72-59 setback against Connecticut in the Final Four at NRG Stadium.
Fourth-year junior guard Isaiah Wong scored a team-high 15 points for No. 16/15 Miami (29-8, 15-5 ACC) in the school’s first NCAA semifinal appearance ever.
The fourth-seeded Huskies, ranked No. 10/12 nationally, raced out to a 9-0 lead in the first 3:06 after making three of four 3-point attempts, including a 2-of-2 mark from junior forward Adama Sanogo, who had 17 makes all season. They upped their 3-point mark to 4-of-7, while the fifth-seeded Hurricanes opened just 1-of-12 from the field at the other end, creating a 14-4 Connecticut (30-8, 13-7 BE) edge through seven minutes.
Miami soon thereafter went on a 12-3 surge in just 3:35, leveling the contest at 19 with 8:20 on the first-half timer. However, it then missed its next eight shots in a 1-of-13 stretch, as Connecticut posted a 13-2 burst in 6:24 to go up by 11 points, 32-21, with 1:33 left in the frame. After a Miami 3-pointer, the Huskies scored the final five points of half, ending it with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take a 13-point edge, 37-24, into the locker room.
Connecticut shot 50.0 percent (14-of-28) overall and 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from long range in the first half, while Miami posted 25.0 percent (9-of-36) and 30.0 percent (3-of-10) ledgers at the other end.
The Huskies scored the first four points out of the break, making it a 22-5 extended run and taking a 41-24 lead with 18:18 to go. Connecticut pushed its advantage as high as 20, 46-26, with 16:36 left, but Miami did not go away. It hit seven straight shots and used a 19-7 run, including seven consecutive points in 47 seconds, to make it an eight-point margin, 53-45, with 11:40 remaining.
Connecticut, though, scored the next seven points to up its margin back to 15, 60-45, with 8:33 to play. Although Miami got the deficit back down to 10 multiple times, it could not pull any closer and the Huskies, KenPom’s top-ranked team in the nation, advanced to the national title game.
The Hurricanes shot their second-lowest clip of the season, 32.3 percent (20-of-62), and finished with fewer than 60 points for the first time all year. They did, however, post a 35.0 percent (7-of-20) mark from long range and a perfect 12-of-12 ledger at the stripe. At the other end, Connecticut shot 49.1 percent (28-of-57) overall.
Wong, who moved into a tie for fourth place on Miami’s career scoring list, hit all five of his free throws on the night. Fifth-year senior guard Jordan Miller, the Hurricanes’ lone player with no eligibility left, totaled 11 points and went 3-of-3 at the line.
Connecticut junior forward Adama Sanogo led all players in points (21) and rebounds (10), finishing 9-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-3 beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins added 13 points on 3-of-7 long-range shooting.
The Hurricanes, after an Elite Eight berth followed by a Final Four bid, now enter the offseason after their best two-year stretch ever.