NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – D.J. Augustin stood at the free throw line, his team up by two in the final seconds. He steadied himself, shot … and missed everything.
“We won,” the Texas guard said curtly afterward. “That's all that matters.”
Augustin's untimely air ball didn't cost the second-seeded Longhorns, but it provided a snapshot of what they went through toward the end of a 75-72 win over seventh-seeded Miami on Sunday, March 23. Texas led by as many as 17 and was ahead 66-50 with 4:15 remaining -before the entire season nearly slipped away.
Raymond Hicks sank a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds remaining, bringing Miami within three at 72-69. A.J. Abrams made two free throws, but Hicks answered with another 3, and
Augustin was fouled with 1.8 seconds to play.
After coming up short on the first attempt, Augustin made the second. Out of timeouts, Miami (23-11) tried a long pass that was broken up.
“Obviously I thought our kids didn't quit,” Miami coach Frank Haith said. “We just ran out of time.”
For most of its first two games at the South Regional, Texas (30-6) played beautifully. The Longhorns beat Austin Peay 74-54 in the first round and took an early double-digit lead against Miami. Abrams scored 26 points on six 3-pointers in each game.
Texas was scheduled to play third-seeded Stanford on Friday, March 28 in a regional semifinal. That game will be in Houston in what will surely be a more friendly environment than
North Little Rock's Alltel Arena. Arkansas fans, putting it mildly, do not care for Texas.
Throw in the fact that Miami was clearly the underdog, and the arena was pretty noisy as the Longhorns struggled to protect their lead.
“I don't care where we are playing. This time of year, this tournament, people love to see the darker uniforms win,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “It's just the way it is.”
Abrams quieted the crowd early on. His second 3-pointer gave Texas a 19-8 lead. Less than nine minutes in, five different Texas players had made 3s, every Longhorn that had played except 6-foot-10, 299-pound Dexter Pittman.
Texas led 43-32 at halftime.
“All five guys can shoot 3s,” Haith said. “That’s hard to guard when they're making them.”
The Longhorns went 13-of-26 from 3-point range, including 9-of-16 in the first half. They nearly made up for that by going 12-of-21 on free throws.
Damion James had 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Longhorns, and Augustin contributed 12 points and eight assists.
Haith was an assistant at Texas for three years under Barnes before taking over the Hurricanes in 2004. He and Barnes shared a hug and chatted briefly near the Miami bench about 15 minutes before the opening tip.
Haith recruited Abrams while at Texas.
“He’s got a tremendous motor,” Haith said. “He keeps working, and he's got a great release.”
Jack McClinton scored 18 points for Miami after a 38-point effort in the first round against Saint Mary's. His 3-pointer pulled the Hurricanes within 10 late in the second half, then he dove to knock a pass off a Texas player out of bounds with 2:22 to play. McClinton sank a couple free throws to make it 68-60, the first time all half Miami was within single digits.
Miami fell a win short of equaling its school record for a season. The Hurricanes went 12-20 in 2006-07 but bounced back this season, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament for only the third time.
“I think we had a tremendous year. This ballclub has been doubted all year,” said Haith, whose team started 2-6 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. “I think the future is really bright for this basketball team.”
Texas tied its school record for wins set two seasons ago, but it didn't come easy.
“Let's give Miami a lot of credit for a lot of heart, a lot of grit, a lot of determination, the way they fought,” Barnes said. “I knew that would happen because you all know my relationship with Frank and I know what he's all about and his team.”