The matchup between No. 6-seeded Miami and No. 11-seeded Loyola-Chicago was one of the most common upset picks in the country. And the Hurricanes, in the most heartbreaking of ways, discovered why on Thursday afternoon.
Donte Ingram made a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to lead Loyola to a 64-62 win over Miami on March 15 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Texas, sending the Hurricanes home.
Many believed the Ramblers had the ability to pull off the victory because of their elite 3-point shooting – the team shot 40 percent on the season – and it was only fitting that their best shooter made the shot to give Loyola-Chicago the win in its first Tournament appearance since 1985.
The Hurricanes (22-10) had multiple opportunities to seal the win, but late-game mistakes took their toll. The team’s youth that coach Jim Larrañaga had stressed so heavily all season came back to bite it.
Freshman leading scorer Lonnie Walker IV turned it over with UM leading by one point with 23 seconds left. Miami surely would have had a trip to the free-throw line with a chance to go up two or three points. Instead, Loyola (29-5) got the ball back.
The Canes’ defense succeeded, giving it another opportunity to pad the lead. Walker was fouled with nine seconds left but missed the free-throw. This once again opened the door for the Ramblers to take the lead and snatch the hearts right out of the Hurricanes’ chests.
A miscommunication on UM’s defense led to some extra space for Ingram – who came into the game with a team-leading 67 3-pointers – to get his shot off. The rest is history.
Ingram scored 13 points and junior guard Clayton Custer, who averages 13.4 points per game to lead Loyola, had 14.
Walker led Miami with 12 points. Senior Ja’Quan Newton, who had made the contested mid-range jumper to give the Hurricanes a 62-60 lead with 44 seconds remaining, and sophomore Dewan Huell had 11 points apiece.
After sitting at a 28-28 tie game, the Hurricanes came out in the second half with a rejuvenated mindset and energy, making five of their first seven shots. They kept a narrow lead for more than 18 minutes combined in the second half and shot 51 percent for the game, but 16 turnovers and 62 percent free-throw shooting ultimately doomed them.
For Miami, the season ends with the question: What could have been? Coming into the season, the Hurricanes were considered to have one of the best backcourts in the country with Walker, Newton and sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. They were also considered at least a Sweet Sixteen caliber team with the potential to be an Elite Eight or even a Final Four squad.
But Brown got injured, Newton seemed to have regressed and despite Walker’s talent and athleticism, his youth proved to be costly for UM.
The Canes could lose both Walker and Brown to the NBA Draft this summer, and Newton will graduate. The team, which is assumed to have nine returning players – two are redshirts – could be looking at some new leaders come fall 2018. Miami currently does not have any committed recruits for next season.
The Ramblers go on to face No. 3-seeded Tennessee in the second round on Saturday, March 17.
– Miami has made three-straight NCAA Tournaments, but for the second consecutive time, the ride ends in a first-round exit. Larrañaga holds a record of 4-4 in March Madness since his arrival in Coral Gables.
– Loyola-Chicago came into the matchup the hotter team, coming off a Missouri Valley Conference Championship and 10-straight wins. Its defense came into the matchup allowing just 62.2 points per game, which ranked fifth nationally.