Let’s be honest, that green and orange “U’’ has been ingrained in sports fans’ minds as a football helmet emblem. So, seeing it alongside the logos of basketball bluebloods Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, Duke, and Michigan State took some getting used to. Well, basketball fans all over the nation now know that the Canes can hoop it up, too.
The Hurricanes knew going into the game that the Illini love to shoot the three, and that certainly proved to be the case early. They made four consecutive three-pointers (three by Tyler Griffey) to take a 16-12 lead with 10:46 to go in the first half. Brown and Tonye Jekiri came off the bench to provide a spark for the Hurricanes. Brown’s three put Miami back on top 19-18 and the Hurricanes held on to the lead and were up 29-26 at the half.
But the game’s pace wasn’t going the way Miami likes it. “We’ve got to play a little better,” Larrañaga told TNT as he walked off the court to the locker room at halftime. “We didn’t play great that half.”
UM missed eight of its first nine shots of the second half, but never gave up.
The last time Miami reached the Sweet 16 was in 2000, under coach Leonard Hamilton.
That UM team was a No. 6 seed, and upset No. 3 Ohio State 75-62 to reach the Round of 16.
The Hurricanes were then knocked out after an 11-point loss to Tulsa exactly 13 years ago Sunday in this very Austin arena.
There is no disputing that this season is the most successful in school history.
This Hurricane team was the first to win ACC regular season and tournament championships. It was the first to reach No. 2 in the national rankings, the first to beat a No. 1 team, and the first to beat Duke and North Carolina by 25-plus points in the same season.
And that’s not all.
It was the first time a UM coach won National Coach of the Year. And the first time UM swept the ACC coaches’ awards — Larranaga Coach of the Year, Larkin Player of the Year, Scott Defender of the Year.
And now, Sweet 16.