Horns hold off Canes in NCAA tourney

March 23, 2008 4:35:24 PM PDT
With a 17-point lead unbelievably cut to three, Texas needed somebody -- anybody -- to make a couple free throws. A.J. Abrams was ready -- as he had been all day.

Abrams calmly sank two with 9.5 seconds remaining, giving the second-seeded Longhorns just enough margin to hold off seventh-seeded Miami 75-72 in the second round of the South Regional on Sunday.

Abrams gave Texas a 74-69 lead, but the Longhorns weren't quite safe yet. Miami's Raymond Hicks made a 3-pointer, and D.J. Augustin then shot an air ball on his first of two free throws with 1.8 seconds to play. Augustin made the second, however, and Texas was able to break up a long pass to preserve the win.

Abrams scored 26 points on six 3-pointers for the second consecutive game. Texas (30-6) advances to the regional semifinals to play third-seeded Stanford on Friday.

The Longhorns went 13-of-26 from 3-point range, including 9-for-16 in the first half. They nearly made up for that by going 12-of-21 on free throws. Damion James added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Longhorns, and Augustin contributed 12 points and eight assists.

Jack McClinton scored 18 points for Miami after a 38-point effort in the first round against Saint Mary's. McClinton made a 3-pointer late in the second half to cut the lead to 10, then 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. He then made two more from the line after drawing a foul driving to the basket. Down six, Miami (23-11) had the ball, but Lance Hurdle tossed up a wild shot and Texas' Connor Atchley ended up with the ball.

Still, the Longhorns couldn't put the game away from the free throw line. A 3-pointer by Hicks with 11.9 seconds to play made it 72-69, but Texas was able to get the ball to Abrams, who made all six of his free throw attempts.

Miami coach Frank Haith was an assistant at Texas for three years under Rick 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. Barnes has Texas in the round of 16 for the fifth time in seven years, and the Longhorns have tied the school record for wins set two seasons ago.

Haith recruited Abrams while at Texas -- and paid a price for that Sunday. Abrams finished the first half with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

Abrams' second 3-pointer gave Texas a 19-8 lead. For much of the first half, he set up on offense near the left sideline, right in front of Haith and the Miami bench.

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 by as many as 14 in the first half and was ahead 43-32 at intermission. Abrams scored his team's final eight points of the half.

Feelings are never all that warm between the local fans and Texas, and the Longhorns were booed again before the game by the Arkansas crowd. For the second straight game, the fans were quieted by the Longhorns' fast start. Texas beat Austin Peay 74-54 in the first round.

The place was loud toward the end, though, and the Longhorns appeared rattled.

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.

Texas fell in the second round a year ago, then lost star Kevin Durant to the NBA.

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