Texas finally meets its match, unable to weather the storm

Christina Huang, Sports Editor

20 minutes.

That’s what was written on Miami’s white board during halftime. And that’s how long Texas needed to maintain its lead and send itself to the Final Four. But in a little under 17 minutes, Miami would wipe out any chances Texas had to continue its incredible run. 

With its season on the line, Texas rolled into the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City on a brisk Sunday afternoon. An undeniable burnt orange presence filled out the arena, as the four-point favored Longhorns took the court to fight for a Final Four berth.

Things looked good for the Longhorns, as they held a 45–37 lead over the Hurricanes at halftime. Shots were landing and Texas was clamping down defensively, even without big man Dylan Disu. He was ruled out of Sunday’s game due to a bone bruise that sidelined him for most of Texas’ fight against Xavier. Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga was visibly upset at times, with assistants even putting a hand on him to prevent him from going off on a referee. 

For 20 minutes, Miami did not look like the team that upset No. 1-seed Houston just a few days ago. 

But in the end, Texas was defeated by a team that executed a better version of its game plan. 

Much of Texas’ success this season can be attributed to its ability to have any given player step up at any given time. Guards Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice and Tyrese Hunter have all had their moments in the spotlight. Hunter led the Longhorns with 19 points in its Sweet Sixteen win over Xavier, with Carr following close behind with 18 points and Rice with 16.

While the Texas guards were able to put up a comparable level of production against Miami, it just wasn’t enough. The Hurricanes simply outplayed the Longhorns. The things that usually worked for Texas worked even better for Miami.

Miami has a similar guard makeup to Texas. Guards Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller and Nijel Pack fire up Miami’s offense time after time. Wong lit up No. 4-seed Indiana with 27 points and No. 1-seed Houston with 20 points. Pack had 26 points against Houston and 21 against No. 12-seed Drake. And on Sunday, it was Miller’s time to shine. 

Miller exploded for 27 points against Texas, his most in an NCAA tournament game this season. His journey to Miami also mirrors that of Carr’s path to Texas. Miller spent 2018-2021 at George Mason, while Carr spent the same amount of time at Minnesota. Miller was 7-for-7 from the field and 13-for-13 from the free throw line on Sunday night.

“(That’s a) good recipe to win some games,” Texas forward Brock Cunningham said about Miller’s performance. 

With 3:57 to go in the second half, Wong made a layup to tie the game, 75–75. Miami had wiped away a 13 point lead because it kept making shots, while Texas wasn’t able to do anything to run away from it. Texas ended up playing catch up, matching Miller’s free throws with layups or jumpers. The Longhorns were tying the Hurricanes, just not getting ahead of them. 

Miami’s exceptional guard play got it past a double-digit deficit, while Texas was simply unable to find an answer with the solutions that worked before.

“They started putting their heads down, going one-on-one for a little bit, tried to spread us out,” Texas head coach Rodney Terry said about Miami. “And (they) really did a good job of getting into the paint and getting to the foul line.” 

Although the season didn’t end in the way Texas would’ve liked it to, Terry is proud of his team. The Longhorns made their deepest NCAA tournament run in over a decade, and they never lost more than two regular season games in a row.

“I can’t say enough how proud I am of this group and what they’ve been able to do this season,” Terry said. 

And despite the painful loss, 20 minutes isn’t a full reflection of an entire season.