Miami, trailing and uneventful for most of the first 30 minutes of its quarter-final game against Texas on Sunday, mounted a stunning, compact comeback in the NCAA Men’s Tournament to finish last at next weekend’s Final Four in Houston.
Miami, winning 88-81, is playing in its first national semifinal, with San Diego State, Florida Atlantic and Connecticut beating the rest of the field.
The Hurricanes got off to a fast start but quickly fell behind the Longhorns, who were playing in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Texas crowd.
Creeping from a 13-point hole with less than 14 minutes left in the game, Miami, calm and persistent, warmed up for a few furious minutes when they finally put together a series of defensive stops and a string of key free throws. Sophomore forward Norshad Omer hit two of them when the game tied with a minute left.
Miami was teetering, eventually bumping up that nine points when it looked like the Longhorns would sail to the state advantage in Houston next weekend.
Both teams featured players who exemplified the mobility and commercialization of modern college basketball. Texas has started four transfers, including tough alumni point guard Marcus Carr.
Miami was led by 6-foot-7 Jordan Miller, who scored 27 points and had a crucial steal with two minutes left. The team has also been paced by two guards, Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack, who have played in Coral Gables, Florida, this season in part due to lavish name-image-like arrangements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. When Miami had the ball on Sunday, it was kept more often by the Buck, who scored 15 points by drifting in and out of scoring lanes, flying to the hoop for pinpoint finishes and running back for short runs.
San Diego State passed a familiar foe.
Back in November, when Creighton set off on the Maui trip, the Blue Jays stopped in San Diego and the next day shared a charter plane to Hawaii with the San Diego State team. Memories of Creighton’s overtime win over San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament last March may have led to some awkward moments.
But the coaches, Creighton’s Greg McDermott and San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher, sat across the aisle from each other, poring over a movie on their laptops, exchanging scouting reports and pondering the possibility of playing with each other again early in the season. Competition.
They didn’t, at least at the time. And when the teams returned to San Diego, to clear out the Aztecs, the coaches–and their teams–presented each other.
See you at the end of the road.
That winding road took both teams to a place they’d never been before, a regional tournament in which the coaches and players—including two brothers, Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma and San Diego State’s Adam Sekow—were blown away by the serendipity of it all.
“I never thought we’d be playing it here or I’d try to steal some play calls from his computer,” Dutcher said.
The next time the two coaches get together, the sibling’s limits will be tested after San Diego State mustered a 57-56 win on Darion Trammell’s free throw with 1.2 seconds left in the game. The match was so full of spin and tension that it didn’t end until long after the match was over.
San Diego State, who had only had two appearances before the NCAA tournament’s second weekend, play ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic, the Eastern Conference champion, Saturday in Houston with a spot in the national championship game on the line.
The deciding play came as San Diego State ran the clock on the final shot.
Trammell traveled to the fairway with Ryan Nimbard on his right hip and fired the floater that just caught the rim when the buzzer sounded. But rising above the cacophony, as Trammell was on the court, was referee Lee Cassel’s whistle.
Soon after, Trammell went to the foul line with the crowd on his feet, and four teammates—and the entire Aztecs bench—locking arms behind him. Trammell’s first free throw rolled off the rim, and the crowd’s roar got louder.
He took two drops, a deep breath and wiped the other.
Baylor Sherman, who played quarterback in high school, got up and threw a long pass toward San Diego State’s Kaloma and Ajek Arup near the other end line. They put the ball out of bounds when the buzzer sounded. Despite this, the officials waved both teams back to their seats and reviewed the play to see who finally touched the ball and if there was any time left.
After a few minutes, they decided it was up. San Diego State players took to the field to celebrate.
Arup, the San Diego State forward from Omaha, said the final six seconds “felt like an eternity,” after he and his teammates cut into the net.
McDermott, who yelled at the officials as they left the court, said he was not given an explanation for the ruling that time had expired. The authority said in a statement that the review indicated that the clock started late. McDermott declined to criticize the false call.
“Two teams played tails,” he said. “Management is part of the game. We’re not going there. We lost a game because we didn’t do enough and San Diego State did.”
Dutch, noting that he was a helper at Michigan when they beat Seton Hall for the national championship in 1989 on a controversial foul call, appreciated McDermott as he held his tongue. “It’s hard. That’s what we all do is take some grace in the loss even though we may not agree with the call,” Dutcher said.
San Diego State guard Lamont Butler had 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting and was slated to shoot last until Creighton fouled with six seconds left, forcing the Aztecs to run the ball out of bounds but also stopping the shot clock.
Trammell, a Seattle University transfer who scored 21 points to help catapult San Diego State to an upset of top-seeded Alabama on Friday, made only 5 of his 14 shooting attempts and wasn’t at the free-throw line until the end of the game. last second.
When he came to the line after missing the first attempt, Tramell said he reminded himself that he hit 1,000 free throws last week and that the moment wasn’t too big for him. He said, “I had to believe it.” “Just having that confidence, yeah, I missed the first one, but I certainly wouldn’t miss the second.”
Home-advantage San Diego State was once an NCAA champion outside the Mountain West Conference, but has been cast in the shadow of a Gonzaga and Pac-12 squad for the time being. However, this is a moment the program has long thought would come.
said Nathan Mensah, the 6-foot-1, 10 rebounds San Diego State fullback, who contributed 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. “Finally this dream has come true for us.”
The game unfolded as a contrast of styles, and Creighton’s skillful, flowing offense worked its way up against San Diego State’s powerful and methodical brand of basketball.
It was played largely at the pace of favorite San Diego State, but Creighton played almost exclusively with the lead, fending off repeated Aztec attacks until the final minutes.
After Creighton jumped out to a 28-20 lead, spurred on by a massive blue-clad crowd, San Diego State finally figured out how to keep the 7-foot-1 Bluejays’ center, Ryan Kalkbrenner, from diving to the rim for alley-oops or putting His elegant movements in use. Mensah made two days against Kalkbrenner, who led Creighton with 17 points.
When Trammell sank a jumper near the free throw line, San Diego State had it last even with less than three minutes left in the half. But Creighton did not allow another basket and held a 33-28 first half lead.
San Diego State came out of the locker room, and when Mensah stopped consecutive shot attempts, which led to a quick break from Butler, the Aztecs had their first lead, 35-34.
Again, it didn’t last long. Kaluma answered with a glancing drive and San Diego State went cold, missing the next 10 snaps—many on drives to the rim. But the Aztecs relied on their defense and depth, and tired the Belogez after half-time. Creighton shot just 28 percent in the second half as he tied 23 points—a season-low—for a half. The Bluejays missed all of their 3-point attempts in the first half.
Kaluma and Siko’s parents, along with their two little sisters, sat a few rows on center court wearing custom white jerseys with basketball, school crests and brothers’ names and numbers.
When the game was over, their two boys hugged each other in a handshake line and Sekou told Kaluma he loved him. At that moment, they also acted as models for their teams, one of them cut the net while the other felt as if their hearts were being cut out.
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