KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Nijel Pack and Miami hit shots from near and far against the stingiest defence in the country to beat Houston 89-75 on Friday night in the Sweet 16, leaving the NCAA Tournament without a single No. 1 seed among its final eight teams for the first time since seeding began in 1979.
Miami (28-7), only the fifth team this season to score at least 70 points against Houston (33-4), will play second-seeded Texas or No. 3 seed Xavier in the Midwest Region final for the chance to go to the Final Four.
The fifth-seeded Hurricanes reached a regional final for the second straight year. Coach Jim Larranaga is seeking his first Final Four with Miami and his second overall after leading George Mason there as an 11 seed in 2006.
This is the first time in three years Houston didn’t make it to the Elite Eight.
The Cougars simply couldn’t stop a multi-faceted Miami offence led by Pack’s 3-point shooting. He had season highs of seven 3-pointers on 10 attempts and 26 points. Isaiah Wong finished with 20 points for Miami and Norchad Omier had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Jarace Walker led Houston with 16 points. Jamal Shead added 15 and All-American Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark had 14 apiece for the Cougars, who shot just 37% overall and 29% from distance.
San Diego State 71, Alabama 64
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Darrion Trammell and San Diego State used a dominant defensive performance to knock out All-America freshman Brandon Miller and top overall seed Alabama.
Trammell scored 21 points while Miller, whose outstanding season was marred by off-the-court complications, was held to nine points on 3-of-19 shooting and had six turnovers.
The fifth-seeded Aztecs (30-6) will face sixth-seeded Creighton on Sunday in the South Region final, with each team seeking the first Final Four in program history.
San Diego State trailed 48-39 midway through the second half before going on a 12-0 run and controlling the game from there. The Aztecs finished with eight blocked shots – five by Nathan Mensah – and forced 14 turnovers.
The March Madness run of Alabama (31-6) was clouded by its response to the Jan. 15 fatal shooting of a 23-year-old woman in Tuscaloosa, which led to capital murder charges against a then-Crimson Tide player, Darius Miles. Miller was at the scene of the shooting and has not been charged, but police have said in court documents that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun.
Mark Sears had 16 points and Jahvon Quinerly and Charles Bediako scored 10 each for Alabama, which shot 32 from 3-point range.
Creighton 86, Princeton 75
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Creighton used its size, 3-point shooting and a swarming second-half defence to end the March Madness run of 15th-seeded Princeton.
The sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-12) advanced to their first regional final since they were part of an eight-team NCAA Tournament in 1941. Creighton will play No. 5 seed San Diego State on Sunday.
Ryan Kalkbenner, the two-time Big East defensive player of the year, scored 22 points to lead the Bluejays to their sixth win in seven games. Baylor Scheierman made five 3s and finished with 21 points.
The Tigers (23-9) were led by Ryan Langborg with 26 points and Ivy League player of the year Tosan Evbuomwan with 24 points, six rebounds and nine assists.
Texas 83, Xavier 71
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Rodney Terry stopped on the way to the Texas locker room after his team knocked out Xavier for a spot in the Elite Eight, the interim coach fulfilling a fan’s wish for a photograph by flashing that all-too-familiar “Hook ‘em Horns” sign.
“Go get that job, coach!” the grateful fan hollered after him.
A couple more wins and the folks at Texas might not have a choice.
The longtime assistant made his boldest statement yet for the full-time gig, guiding the Longhorns without ailing big man Dylan Disu to an 83-71 win over the Musketeers on Friday night. Tyrese Hunter scored 19 points, and Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop added 18 apiece, to move second-seeded Texas within a game of the Final Four for the first time in 15 years.
“I thought we played one of our better defensive games tonight that we played all year,” said Terry, who stepped into the top job in December, when Chris Beard was suspended and ultimately fired following allegations of domestic violence.
“Proud of my guys and the way they put their will on this game from the start to finish.”
Disu, who had been dominant through the first two games of the tournament, hurt his foot in a second-round win over Penn State. He got treatment on it all week, and the Longhorns successfully kept it secret until tipoff, when the big man played just a couple of minutes and then limped off the floor and straight to the locker room.
When he returned to the bench, he was wearing a big walking boot, a black hoodie and a grim expression.