Standing in front of the small Miami section of the arena, Jim Larrañaga raised his hands to quiet the crowd and, once quiet, triumphantly shouted “See you Sunday!”
For the first time ever in program history, the Miami Hurricanes are dancing on to the Elite Eight.
In front of a mostly Iowa State crowd in the United Center, the No. 10 Hurricanes handily defeated the No. 11 Cyclones in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“To reach the first Elite Eight in program history, that’s amazing,” senior guard Kameron McGusty said after the game. “It still feels unreal. We got picked to finish 12th in our conference, but at the beginning of the season if we told you we were going to the Elite Eight, everybody would have looked at us crazy.”
McGusty’s team-high 27 points propelled the team to a 70-56 win Friday night in Chicago.
“Iowa State is one heck of a basketball team,” Larrañaga said. “They played so hard and so well and the game was in the balance until these guys just stepped up.”
Jordan Miller’s 16 points and Sam Waardenburg’s 13 provided the support the team needed to compensate for guards Isaiah Wong and Charlie Moore, who were held scoreless for the first half, but managed to bounce back in the second half and scored seven each.
“If you told me before the game that Charlie and Zay got shut out in the first half, I would have asked you how many are we down,” Larrañaga said.
The players credited their coaching staff for a strong game plan and overall success in the win where they trailed only for 16 seconds the whole game.
“Coach L’s the goat. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Waardenburg said. “We have full trust all the time, making sure we are prepared for any opponent we have.”
The Hurricanes held Iowa State’s top scorers – Gabe Kalscheur and Tyrese Hunter – to 13 points each. The Cyclones committed 18 turnovers and shot 36.8% from field goal range and 18.2% from 3-point range.
Miami started off the game as hot as possible, taking a 7-0 lead within a minute and a half into the game. But after a timeout, Iowa State came storming back with an 8-0 run of their own to take the lead at 8-7.
After a back and forth battle, the Hurricanes went on a field goal drought for over five minutes. Jordan Miller then scored six straight points that put Miami ahead 25-21 with over three minutes to go in the first half.
A 3-point shot from McGusty gave Miami its largest lead of the first half at 32-25.
Wong and Moore both scored their first baskets shortly into the second half and the team went on a 7-0 run around the 14 minute mark. The Canes took their largest lead of the game up to that point at 55-44 after Moore scored a turnaround jumper.
From there the game unraveled for Iowa State and the Canes held a double digit lead for the remainder of the game.
“I can’t even stop smiling,” Miller said. “I love these guys, I love the coaching staff. It’s incredible, but I also want to keep going. Trying to find the balance between enjoying the moment and trying to be locked in.”
On what this history-making win means for the program and the school, Larrañaga said, “to represent the university that way, to get that recognition for our brand. We’ve got a great product that we represent and we want everyone to know that.”
The Hurricanes will now face the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks on Sunday at 1:20 p.m. CT in the United Center.