For a team that was picked to finish 12th in the Atlantic Coast Conference and went the entire season without a ranking, the simple fact that Miami put up a fight against Kansas is an accomplishment worth celebrating.
But their improbable postseason run came to an end against the Jayhawks in the Elite Eight.
Up by six points at halftime, Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said his players were overwhelmed by both the environment and Kansas in the second half, which led to the 76-50 loss at the United Center in Chicago.
“Everything we’ve seen from Kansas throughout the season is the same thing,” Larrañaga said. “They are the best in the open court attacking you and when you are not scoring, it’s hard to get back and set your defense. We got a little anxious. I use the expression don’t play the score, play the game. We looked up at the scoreboard and we had fallen behind already, I think that created some excitement and we started to rush even more.”
The Hurricanes shot 48.1% from field goal range and 37.5% from 3-point range in the first half, with 14 of the 31 first half points coming from sixth-year senior Kameron McGusty. Those numbers fell to 21.4% and 0% in the second half.
When Kansas went on a 10-0 run just four minutes into the second half, the arena was deafening with a majority Kansas fan-base in attendance. The Jayhawks went ahead by 12 points and from then on the Hurricanes had very little chance to come back.
“You have to give credit to Kansas because they played about as hard and as fast as you can play in college basketball and we shot the ball terribly,” Larrañaga said. “We took some ill-advised shots and the starters began to turn the ball over, which is so uncharacteristic of us.”
Meanwhile Kansas’ shots started to fall in the second half. They made 59.3% from field goal range and 55.6% from 3-point range.
“I thought we pretty did a darn good job in the first half of playing the way we wanted to play, getting back defensively and scoring the ball,” Larrañaga said. “We talked about what we were going to need to do in the second half, but Kansas came out in the second half and hit us with a knockout punch. We were never able to answer their scoring runs and as an end result we had 36 at halftime and only ended up with 50 points.”
For McGusty, who sat with a towel draped over his head as time expired on the clock, Charlie Moore and Sam Waardenburg, this was the last game they will ever play in a Miami Hurricanes uniform.
McGusty finished with a team-high 18 points, third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong had 15 and Moore and Waardenburg both had five.
Kansas’ All-American guard Ochai Agbaji scored 18 points, forward David McCormack had 15, guard Christian Braun scored 12 and forward Jalen Wilson grabbed 11 rebounds.
“They did a good job in the second half of denying me,” McGusty said of Kansas’ defense in the second half. “It almost was like a box and one, they were denying me, not letting me catch, not letting me get any clean looks. In the first half I was very comfortable, my teammates were looking for me. It was just all working out.”
Despite the loss, the Hurricanes have a lot to be proud of this season.
“They accomplished so much, not just in basketball, but they ignited a community throughout the season and especially in the tournament,” Larrañaga said. “Generating that kind of enthusiasm in a basketball program that didn’t exist from ’82 to ’85, now we’ve been to the Sweet 16 three times now and to the Elite Eight once in this decade and we think we are heading in the right direction.”