So Sweet! Miami MBB Knocks off Second-Seeded Auburn, 79-61

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The University of Miami men’s basketball team took
down second-seed and top-10-ranked Auburn, 79-61, Sunday night to earn
the fourth Sweet 16 berth in program history.

No. 10-seeded Miami (25-10, 14-6 ACC) led the Tigers, ranked No. 8/7,
from start to finish at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, turning in a
spectacular display at both ends of the court.

Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong scored a game-high 21 points
for the Hurricanes, who are headed to the second weekend of the NCAA
Tournament for the third time in the last decade.

“I can’t be happier for my guys. They did such a fantastic job of
executing the game plan,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said after
leading his team to the Sweet 16 for the third time in his 11-year
tenure. “We just kept plugging away. Our defense is about pressure,
keeping pressure on the opponent and trying to force turnovers. These
guys did a fantastic job of doing that.”

The Hurricanes made six of their first nine shots, while Auburn (28-6,
15-3 SEC) opened 1-of-4 with four turnovers, helping Miami grab a 13-4
edge after just 4:19 of action.

The Tigers pulled back within five, but Miami regained its nine-point
edge, 23-14, with 7:27 on the clock. At that point, the Hurricanes had
five steals and zero turnovers, while holding Auburn to 5-of-19
shooting.

Miami eventually took a one-point lead, 33-32, into the locker room
after the Tigers scored the final five points of the half. It marked
the smallest lead of the entire session for the Hurricanes, who led
for the final 19:28 of the frame.

Through 20 minutes, Miami held the Tigers to 38.7 percent shooting
(12-of-31), including a 2-of-10 mark on 3-pointers after they missed
their first seven attempts.

The Hurricanes scored eight straight points to begin the second half,
taking a 41-32 edge with 17:35 to play. Miami went on to take a
14-point advantage, 64-50, with 7:17 left after posting an 11-4 run in
just 3:12.

Auburn answered with six straight points in 80 seconds to make it
64-56 with 5:55 remaining, but Miami used an 8-2 run to go back up by
14, 72-58, with just 2:13 to play. That eventually became a
game-ending 15-5 burst, as the Hurricanes won by 18 points, their
largest margin of the game. Miami scored the final seven points in the
last 73 seconds.

“The second half, we were everywhere. These guys were able to make
plays, get to the open court,” Larrañaga said. “Auburn is a very high,
up-tempo team but we feel very, very comfortable in that environment,
as well. These guys ran for layups and made a lot of really good
decisions in the open court. I congratulate all of them.”

Wong’s game-best point total came on 8-of-18 shooting and he added six
rebounds. Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty totaled 20
points on a superb 10-of-18 mark, also notching six rebounds, four
assists and a game-best four steals.

Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore nearly recorded a
triple-double, finishing with 15 points, a career-high nine rebounds
and a game-best eight assists, adding three steals. Fourth-year junior
guard Jordan Miller posted 12 points and three steals.

Sophomore guard KD Johnson and junior forward Jaylin Williams co-led
the Tigers with 12 points apiece. Sophomore guard Wendell Green Jr.,
tallied 11 points and freshman forward Jabari Smith had 10.

Smith, a Second Team All-American and presumptive top-three NBA Draft
pick, shot just 3-of-16 from the floor, including 1-of-8 from 3-point
range, though he did lead all players with 15 rebounds to log a
double-double. Meanwhile, sophomore forward/center Walker Kessler, a
Third Team All-American, scored two points and shot 0-of-6 from the
floor.

The Hurricanes shot 48.5 percent (32-of-66) from the floor and 80.0
percent (12-of-15) at the line, while limiting Auburn to just a 30.4
percent clip (21-of-69) from the field at the other end, the lowest
mark by an opponent this year. Miami opened just 1-of-10 from 3-point
range and finished 3-of-15 (20.0 percent), but still outshot the
Tigers from deep, as they went 5-of-26 (19.2 percent), the
second-lowest ledger by a foe this year.

Miami, which committed only four turnovers and forced 13, registered
10 steals compared to Auburn’s one. That led to a staggering 30-1 edge
in fast-break points for the Hurricanes, who also posted a 48-28
margin in paint points to earn the first NCAA Tournament victory over
a top-two seed in program history.

The Hurricanes now head to Chicago, where they play No. 11-seeded Iowa
State at 9:45 p.m. ET, live on TBS from the United Center.

Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox

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