The Miami Hurricanes’ unlikely journey through March Madness continues unabated.
After overcoming Iowa State’s stifling defense and deafening crowd of fans, Miami outscored the Cyclones 70-56 to break into the top eight college basketball teams in the nation for the first time in school history.
Sixth-year senior Kam McGusty had a hot hand all night Friday and led Miami’s offense with 27 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Jordan Miller seconded him with 16 units and seven rebounds while Sam Waardenburg had 13 cartons, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Charlie Moore recorded nine of UM’s 21 assists.
Predictions with this Miami team ranked 12th in the ACC preseason poll.
Instead, with their fourth appearance in the Sweet 16, the Hurricanes proved to be among the most underrated teams in the nation.
They will play top seed Kansas at 2:20 pm Sunday in the Midwest Regional final for a spot in the big four.
What just happened? Miami coach Jim Larrañaga commented in disbelief at the post-game press conference.
He had just been doused with cold water in the locker room and was enjoying every minute of the celebration.
“Iowa State is a great basketball team,” the coach continued.
“They played so hard and played so well and the game was balanced until my guys stepped up and made big play after big play on both ends of the floor.”
A few seats away from Larrañaga, McGusty noted:
“Getting into the top eight teams for the first time in the history of the program is amazing. It still feels unreal. This is a crazy feeling. At the beginning of our season, if you had told us that we were going to be in this place, everyone would laugh at us and look at us like crazy. It’s just amazing,” McGusty argued.
“I love these guys. We have created a bond that can never be broken and I am proud that we were able to achieve it.”
The first half was intense and the Hurricanes held the lead but couldn’t shake the Cyclones.
Miami then went on a 7-0 run early in the second half and led 43-35 when point guard Moore, who played 10 miles from where he grew up, found McGusty for a short shot.
None of the teams on the floor were expected to be here at the start of the season, coming off a combined 12-39 record.
Iowa State went 2-22 last season, suffering 18 straight losses and the program’s first winless conference record since 1937. Coach Steve Prohm was fired six days after the Big 12 tournament.
Tenth-seeded Miami, which was favored by three points over No. 11 Iowa State on Friday, came in with a similar story.
The Hurricanes went 10-17 last season, their third straight loser, and were plagued by injuries to the point where they often had only six or seven healthy athletes.
Some critics called for Larrañaga’s dismissal. Both teams made complete transformations.
The Cyclones, who were chosen last in the Big 12 preseason poll, finished 22-13, the best turnaround in that university’s history.
Their two NCAA tournament wins last weekend matched their win total from last season and they were 15-0 in non-conference play heading into the Sweet 16.
UM has a 26-10 record, including a regular-season road win against then-No. 2 Duke and a 28-point win over North Carolina.
Last weekend, Miami defeated #7 seed USC and #2 seed Auburn.
Miami, Duke and Carolina are now all in the top eight.
When Larrañaga was asked what he thought when they were dismissed by fans and the media throughout the season, he joked:
“We probably had a bad year. All season I tried to explain that our league is very good.”
Miami came here with a veteran team whose starting lineup is older than some in the NBA.
McGusty and Moore are 24, Waardenburg 23 and Miller 22. The Hurricanes’ youngest starter is 21-year-old Isaiah Wong.
“Miami deserves a lot of credit,” Otzelberger said after the game.
“They are very well trained, very well prepared despite being a veteran team. They beat us in the turnover battle and made some timely shots, so a lot of credit to them.”
Larrañaga is known as a storyteller and was asked before the game if he had told his team stories about his unlikely Big Four run in 2006 with George Mason University.
“I’m sorry to say that they are tired of hearing the story of George Mason and they have told me: ‘Hey, let’s do what they did so you can talk about us in the future instead of them,’” Larrañaga said with a smile.
The Hurricanes wrote another chapter on Friday. Stay tuned.
This story was originally published on March 26, 2022 4:03 p.m.
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Nobody believed in them and now they make history. The Miami Hurricanes are in the top eight