Three Thoughts on Texas’ 88-81 Elite 8 Loss to Miami
The Texas Longhorns lost to the Miami Hurricanes, 88-81, in the Elite Eight of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City, Mo. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Setting the Stage
This NCAA Tournament has been all about getting letting the past go for Texas (29-10)
First, it was getting out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Then, it was about getting to the team’s first Elite Eight since that same year.
On Sunday, it was about getting back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, back when T.J. Ford manned the point.
Texas would have to do it without Dylan Disu who was ruled out before the game with a bone bruise in his foot. That put Christian Bishop back in the starting lineup.
For Miami (FL), the stakes were big too. The Hurricanes (29-7) had never been to a Final Four. Last season, Miami reached the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
Last year, that run ended at the hands of a Big 12 team — Kansas. It was a blowout loss. But Miami got better, got stronger and got former Kansas State guard Nijel Pack.
The winner would be the last team to secure a berth in the Final Four and would face UConn.
How did it happen?
How Miami Won
By playing contrary to its identity. After the team’s performance in the Sweet 16 game against Houston — in which Miami hit 11 3-pointers, including seven from Nijel Pack — the Longhorns were determined to make sure Miami didn’t beat them from the arc.
It worked. The Hurricanes shot just 2-for-8 from the arc. In fact, Miami didn’t make a 3-pointer in the second half. It’s not totally clear if they even attempted one. For the Hurricanes, that nearly spelled disaster. They were down 10 points closing in on eight minutes in the game.
So what happened? Jordan Miller had a Christian Laettner game.
Miller didn’t a miss a shot. That’s literal. He went 7-of-7 from the floor and 13-of-13 from the free-throw line to finish with 27 points. He’s the second player in NCAA Tournament history to have a perfect shooting game when attempting at least seven field goals. The other is Laettner, who did it in the 1992 Elite Eight game against Kentucky.
Miller was part of a Miami team that went 25-for-27 from the free-throw line in the second half. With the 3-point line off-limits, the Hurricanes played through the dribble and played around foul trouble for its top forward, Norchad Omier.
An 18-5 run gave Miami the lead and got them back in the game, 73-72. From there, it was a fight and Miami landed just about every remaining punch. All five starters hit double figures — Omier had 11 points, Wooga Poplar had 16 points, Pack had 15 points and Isaiah Wong had 14 points.
Even though Miami didn’t hit many 3-pointers, it did shoot nearly 60 percent from the floor.
How Texas Lost
For 30 minutes, Texas controlled this game. The Longhorns did it with their defense, which patrolled the 3-point line and cut off the paint. The Longhorns did it with their offense, too. They made seven 3-pointers in the first half — their season average per game — and Timmy Allen had a great game inside, at times scoring or drawing fouls at will on the Hurricanes.
But, in those final eight minutes, Texas got sloppy. Turnovers became more commonplace. They went eight minutes without a field goal. The Hurricanes crept back into the game and Texas didn’t have enough answers. Once it was clear Miami was done with the 3-point arc and adjusted, Texas found itself giving up tough, contested jumpers.
Texas shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point line. The bench produced mightily, and not just Sir’Jabari Rice (15 points). Brock Cunningham had seven points and Arterio Morris had six points.
Dillon Mitchell gave them lively minutes. Marcus Carr scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers. Allen finished with 16 points.
It just … slipped away. A turnover here. A missed basket there. Texas was beat by its own stagnant offense and Miami’s ability to adjust to what it was given.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard