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Pack and Omier Fuel Miami’s Downing of Houston, UM Advances to Second-Straight Elite Eight

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Photo Credit: Miami Athletics

59 seasons.

That’s how long Miami men’s basketball went without advancing to the Elite Eight.

And now, powered by the play of its transfers, the Hurricanes are headed to their second NCAA quarterfinals in as many seasons after downing Houston, 89-75.

Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier led the way. Pack totaled a season-high 26 points, including seven triples. 

“[Pack] was ridiculous. I don’t know how far those shots are,” UM head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “People say to me, what do you say when he misses one of those long shots? What I say is keep shooting. The guy is a great shooter.”

Omier posted a double-double, finishing with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds and was the anchor of Miami’s 10-point advantage in the paint.

“That’s a tough hombre,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “His strength — there’s so many people that have a romanticism with how tall someone is. It’s like, if you’re 6’10”, you’re better than you are at 6’7″. That kid has been the biggest, strongest guy on the floor every game he’s played.”

The duo, along with guards Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, commanded a 16-2 second-half run that stretched Miami’s lead from three to 17 in a span of under four minutes.

“We just wanted it really bad. We came into this game as the underdogs. We had a lead throughout the whole game. I wouldn’t say a comfortable lead, but a lead, and we just didn’t want to let up,” Miller said. “I think we did a good job executing. I think we did a good job getting stops, rebounds. Really with the game plan the coaches came up with, I think we really executed it to a tee. I think that’s why we were successful.”

The first half was a battle of guard play.

UM’s Pack and Wong, combined for 26 of the Hurricanes’ 42 first-half points. Pack had 14 points, including four 3-pointers. 

For Wong, this was a carryover from his 27-point performance against the Hoosiers. The fourth-year guard totaled 10 points in the first half and ended the game with 20.

Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark led the Cougars’ scoring attack. Mark had eight of Houston’s first 10 points. Sasser had 11, including a deep 3-pointer that gave the Cougars a one-point lead with 9:57 remaining in the first half.

Sasser’s NBA-range triple highlighted what was a sensational first-half shooting display from both teams. Houston and Miami combined to shoot 13-of-30 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. 

Wong ended the half on the charity stripe, sinking a pair of free throws with four seconds left that gave Miami a 42-36 lead at the break.

Scoring 47 points in the closing half, Miami’s offensive outburst was unlike anything the Cougars’ tenacious defense had experienced this season.

Houston entered the contest allowing just 56.6 points per game, which ranked second in all of college basketball. The Cougars also allowed opposing offenses to shoot a nation-worst 36.6 percent from the field.

The Hurricanes obliterated both of these averages.

Miami’s 89-point total was the most Houston has allowed this season and is the most the Hurricanes have ever scored in a tournament game. UM also shot 51.7 percent from the field, including a 44% shooting display from deep.

Once Miami’s lead ballooned to 17 with 10 minutes left, it kept up a double-digit advantage for the remainder of the game.

UM will play the winner of either Texas or Xavier on Sunday. The game’s time has yet to be determined.

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