Nijel Pack scored 21 points and led a clutch comeback late to help the Miami Hurricanes beat the Drake Bulldogs 63-56 in a Midwest Region first-round game of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Albany, N.Y.
The No. 5-seeded Hurricanes (26-7) advanced to the second round for the second consecutive season and will face either No. 4 seed Indiana or No. 13 seed Kent State on Sunday.
Drake (27-8), a 12th seed, came close to winning its first NCAA Tournament game since 1971 thanks to a tremendous effort from Darnell Brodie, who finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
But the Hurricanes used a 16-1 run over the final five-plus minutes to close out the victory.
“We went to the last media timeout, and I was like, man, this can’t be how it ends,” Pack said after the game. “I talked to my teammates. I felt like they felt the same way. We kind of brought some inner energy from within us. We picked up our defensive pressure.”
Miami turned up the defensive intensity with full-court pressure and did not allow Drake to convert a field goal during that final stretch.
The Hurricanes’ Norchad Omier was uncertain to play until just before tip-off after suffering a right ankle injury last week in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal loss to Duke. Omier finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and his three-point play put the Hurricanes ahead 47-46 with 8:21 left in the second half.
“We knew he was a warrior. To see him go out, no matter how much percent well he feels, to see him go out and play his hardest, and he still had a double-double, it just means a lot,” Pack said.
But then the Bulldogs put together a 9-0 surge highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from reserve Sardaar Calhoun, who totaled 12 points and six rebounds.
Pack’s jumper with one minute remaining put the Hurricanes ahead 58-56 in a game that had nine ties and nine lead changes.
Although Brodie dominated Miami inside, the Hurricanes benefitted from a subpar performance from Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Tucker DeVries, who scored just three points. DeVries, who came in averaging 19 points per game, shot 1-for-13 from the field including, 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
Drake coach Darian DeVries said his team has been counting on Brodie all season long.
“Yeah, I thought the way he finished the year was a big reason why we’re here today. … His physicality gives us something that’s much needed. We’re not a very big team, so having him in there to give us some low post presence at both ends of the floor has been really big for us.”
Miami’s Isaiah Wong, the ACC Player of the Year, also had a rough game with only five points on 1-for-10 shooting. But Wooga Poplar helped the Hurricanes overcome a terrible shooting start with 15 points.
Miami shot just 7-for-30 (23.3 percent) in the first half, and only 17-for-56 (30.4 percent) for the game, but seven steals contributed to 12 Drake turnovers.
–Field Level Media