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Miami Hurricanes dispatch Iowa State to make first Elite Eight in program history

CHICAGO — Jim Larrañaga knew the water his Miami players had used him with was cold, but he couldn’t remember the rest of the celebration.

“Did I dance?” the Miami coach asked.

Star guard Kameron McGusty confirmed he did, and mimicked Larrañaga’s moves.

“Was it any good?” Larrañaga said. “I did one of my dance moves from the 60s. Most of you were probably not born yet, but that was really good dancing then.”

Miami is still dancing in the NCAA tournament, and staying on the floor for longer than it ever has before. The 10th-seeded Hurricanes controlled play during their Sweet 16 matchup with Iowa State and dispatched the 11th-seeded Cyclones 70-56 at the United Center.

Miami advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history, where it will face top-seeded Kansas on Sunday afternoon.

Larrañaga became the first coach to lead two different schools to the Elite Eight as double-digit seeds, after guiding No. 11 seed George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. Only two other coaches have made multiple Elite Eight appearances with double-digit seeds (Temple’s John Chaney, LSU’s Dale Brown).

“Coach L is the GOAT,” said forward Sam Waardenburg, who scored 13 points in the win.

Larrañaga is Miami’s all-time coaching wins leader (226) and has overseen the program’s most successful period with seven 20-win seasons and all four 25-win seasons. But until Friday, he hadn’t gotten the Hurricanes past the Sweet 16, as the team lost to Villanova in 2016 and to Marquette in 2013.

“It’s amazing, it still feels unreal,” said McGusty, who led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting and added six rebounds. “At the beginning of the season if we told you we were going to the Elite Eight, everybody would laugh at us and look at us crazy. Even three weeks into the season, everybody would look at us crazy.

“I love these guys. We’ve created a bond that can never be broken. And I’m just proud that we were able to pull it off.”

After outlasting USC 68-66 in the first round, Miami dominated Auburn and Iowa State, winning by a combined score of 149-117. Despite no first-half points from the starting backcourt of Charlie Moore and Isaiah Wong — McGusty, Waardenburg and Jordan Miller scored all 32 points — Miami led 32-29 at halftime and then surged in the final 10 minutes.

Moore, a Chicago native playing on his fourth college team, had nine of Miami’s 21 assists, a season high, typing the most by a Hurricanes player in NCAA tournament history. Miami had 11 steals and scored 18 points off of Iowa State turnovers.

“If you told me before the game that Charlie and Zay got shut out in the first half, I’d say how many are we down?” Larrañaga said. “But because our defense has been so resilient, because we’ve made it very difficult for the opponent to score easily, and when we really ratchet up the pressure, if we get turnovers, we’re very efficient in the open court scoring before the defense is set.”

Picked to finish 12th in the ACC before the season, Miami joined league members Duke and North Carolina in the Elite Eight. No other league has more than one entrant. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips attended Friday’s game.

“Everybody recognizes that Duke and Carolina, those programs are traditionally very, very strong,” Larrañaga said. “But the other teams in our league are very, very talented, very deep, have great coaches. We played like 17 or 18 games decided on the last possession. There’s a reason for that. That opponent that we were playing was really good, too.”

Tyrese Hunter and Gabe Kalscheur both scored 13 points to lead Iowa State, which shot just 4-of-22 from 3-point range. The Cyclones had overcome shaky offense in their first two NCAA tournament wins, reaching the Sweet 16 under a first-year coach (TJ Otzelberger), and after a two-win season in 2020-21.

“When we signed up for this, we didn’t know wins and losses,” forward George Conditt IV said. “We just wanted to go out there and play harder and bring pride back to Iowa State. When that final buzzer went off, it hurt a little bit because you know the season’s over with, but at the same time you have to hold your head up high because you quite literally turned this program around.”

While Iowa State departs, Miami moves forward to unchartered territory, with a chance to make its first Final Four appearance.

“Hopefully, we can go as far as we can play into next week, but for now on that’s going to be the new goal, get to the Elite Eight or Final Four, to beat the 2022’s team’s record,” McGusty said. “This is a huge milestone. We’re traditionally known as a football school.

“Hopefully we can start getting more recognition.”

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