Miami's magic runs out in Sweet 16 with loss to Marquette
The Hurricanes, surprise ACC champions this year, looked sloppy and inexperienced in a 71-61 loss.
WASHINGTON — Seven years ago, Jim Larranaga led George Mason University to the Final Four, an unthinkable run whose path ran through Washington, D.C.
This time, the nation's capitol is where the ride ended for Larranaga's latest team. Miami, the East Region's No. 2 seed, simply looked disorganized, lost and panicked Thursday night, and third-seeded Marquette University — a team that had stumbled its way this far — took advantage for a 71-61 victory.
The Golden Eagles will play Syracuse, which on Thursday beat Indiana, on Saturday in the Elite Eight.
"It's amazing, man," Marquette guard Vander Blue said in a postgame television interview. "Everybody said this team wasn't any good."
Reggie Johnson, Miami's best post player, didn't travel to Washington after suffering what the school called a "lower-extremity injury" earlier this week. The key, the Hurricanes said, was not allowing Johnson's absence to cripple their chances by throwing Miami off-balance.
Throughout Thursday's contest, that seemed to be precisely the Hurricanes' problem. In the first half, they missed 10 of their 11 attempts from three-point range and 23 of their field goal attempts altogether. Five turnovers and overall sloppy play didn't help, and Marquette showed no sympathy.
"We just shot the ball so poorly," Larranaga said. "When you can't put the ball in the basket, you really have a hard time staying with a team like Marquette."
The Golden Eagles had, before this convincing victory, established themselves as one of the tournament's most inconsistent teams. They moved on with an improbable first-round comeback against Davidson and then survived a second-round scare against Butler.
But on Thursday, the Golden Eagles didn't need to try high-risk shots because Miami couldn't defend shots near the basket. Hurricanes guard Durand Scott was the ACC's defensive player of the year, and even he couldn't get in Marquette's way. Miami was, in the second half, reduced to wild shots and desperate measures. It attempted 17 three-pointers after halftime, having only slightly better results.
Marquette center Davante Gardner was a wall in the post, coming down with tough rebounds and clutch baskets that allowed the Golden Eagles to attempt only six three-pointers.
And with about a minute to play, the Miami coach who had so much unpredictable success here in 2006 could only sit and watch. On Thursday, it was Miami that seemed to forget it belonged, that it was supposed to be the more seasoned unit, swatting away the upstart that shouldn't have made it this far. The magic seemingly all spent, the tables turned, it was Larranaga's team that was the victim.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.