GREENVILLE, SC — With 19.7 seconds left, Jim Larranaga finally gave himself a moment to celebrate.
Miami’s 11th-year head coach raised both fists in the air Sunday night at Bonsecours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and put his arm around sixth-year forward Sam Waardenburg. Third-year sophomore Anthony Walker received the next hug, as Larranaga soaked up the moment with his bench, and Miami fans in the arena erupted in a Hurricanes chant.
The 10th-seeded Larranaga Hurricanes earned just the fourth-place Sweet 16 in program history and first since 2016, and they staged an absolute clinic against second-seeded Auburn en route to a 79-61 win. The Hurricanes led for more than 39 minutes, edged the Tigers 30-1 in quick points, caught 10 interceptions and turned 13 Auburn turnovers into 17 points. Auburn, a team that won the SEC regular season title with likely future NBA lottery pick Jabari Smith, looked bewildered from start to finish. Miami, a team that had just 10 wins a season ago before Larranaga shook things up this season, was dominating the transition and looking like a team peaking at the right time.
So he decided to have a little fun.
“I was listening to the games before us, and I listened to Charles Barkley tell the CBS team that if Auburn won, he’d take his shirt off, and I was like, ‘Man, nobody wants to see that, Chuck,'” Larranaga said with a laugh during his postgame press conference. “So we did everything we could so he didn’t have to.”
Miami may not be the obvious choice to still play as the nation’s No. 77 team in points per game and No. 342 team in rebounds per game as it heads to the Sweet 16. But c is here – still alive in the big dance ahead of a Friday Night game in Chicago with No.