UH’s dream season ends in Sweet 16 loss to Miami
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There will be no fairy-tale ending for Houston.
The dream of cutting down nets in front of a home crowd decked in Cougar red at NRG Stadium slipped away on Friday night at T-Mobile Center as Miami knocked out the Midwest Region’s top seed, defeating the Cougars 89-75.
With Purdue and Kansas getting bounced during the tournament’s opening weekend and Alabama losing to San Diego State earlier on Friday, no No. 1 seeds remain. This will be the first time in NCAA Tournament history that the Elite Eight has not featured at least one No. 1 seed.
The screaming from UH head coach Kelvin Sampson started as soon as the game began.
As had been the theme for UH in its first two NCAA Tournament games, the Cougars were all out of sorts to begin the game.
Miami set the pace from the tip, causing UH lots of problems.
Sloppy turnovers led to easy buckets for Miami. The Hurricanes turned six first-half UH turnovers into 15 points.
A UH team that entered Friday night with the second-best scoring defense in the nation struggled to keep the Hurricanes in front of them. Miami got whatever shot it wanted, scoring 42 first-half points. This was the second straight game that UH had given up 40 points in the first half.
“J’Wan Roberts had two rebounds. He’s our best rebounder,” Sampson said. “Jamal (Shead’s) live-ball turnovers early in that stretch in the first half is unlike him. We didn’t play very good, and they did.”
The Hurricanes, who took a 42-36 advantage into halftime, extended their lead to 11 points 67 seconds into the second half.
The Cougars cut Miami’s lead to just two points a few minutes later thanks to seven quick points from Jamal Shead, who was held scoreless in the first.
That was as close as UH got.
A barrage of Miami 3-pointers over the game’s next four minutes built the Hurricanes’ lead up to 17 points, signaling that UH’s time dancing was coming to an end.
Miami’s 89 points were the most UH allowed all season.
“Unfortunately, it’s one off-night and you go home in this tournament,” Sampson said. “We just never could get a foothold. We kept climbing and we’d get ahead of them, and then we just couldn’t put stops together.”
Freshman Jarace Walker, an expected lottery pick, played his last game for UH, announcing he would declare NBA Draft after the game. The 6-foot-8-inch forward finished with a double-double, scoring a team-high 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
In his final game as a Cougar, UH All-American guard Marcus Sasser scored 14 points.
Sasser, who forwent the 2022 NBA Draft to return to UH for his senior year, said he would make the same choice 10 out of 10 times despite the way the season ended.
“It was an amazing run,” Sasser said reflecting on his UH career after the game. “I couldn’t have asked for nothing better.”
Tramon Mark, who scored a career-high 26 points in UH’s win over Auburn in the round of 32, stayed hot to start Friday’s game, hitting a pair of 3s and a mid-range jumper for a quick eight points in the span of 74 seconds. Mark finished with 14 points.
Shead had 15 points.
Miami’s Nijel Pack scored a game-high 26 points, including going 7-for-10 from 3.
“That Pack kid, some of the shots he made were shots you hope he takes,” Sampson said. “The problem was he made them.”
Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller both finished in double figures, scoring 20 and 13 points respectively.
Norchad Omier had yet another double-double for the Hurricanes, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.