Friedlander: Jordan Miller's 'perfecto' wasn't as dramatic as Christian Laettner's, but it was just as meaningful
Jordan Miller received dozens, maybe hundreds of congratulatory texts, emails and tweets after he and his Miami teammates beat Texas on Sunday to earn their school’s first trip to the Final Four.
One stood out from the others.
It was from Christian Laettner.
Miller, a 6-7 wing for the Hurricanes, and Laettner, the former Duke All-American, have presumably never met. But because of their performances 31 years apart, almost to the day, they share membership in an exclusive club.
And Laettner wanted to be the first to welcome its newest and only other member.
On March 28, 1992, Laettner became the first player in NCAA Tournament history to post a “perfect” game while going at least 7-of-7 from both the floor and the free throw line. Sunday against Texas, Miller became only the 2nd ever to do it.
He made all 7 of his field goal attempts and all 13 foul shots on his way to a 27-point performance that carried the Hurricanes to a come-from-behind victory.
As was the case with Laettner’s gem against Kentucky, in which he scored 31 points on 10-of-10 shooting from both the floor and the line, Miller’s memorable night came in a regional final.
Christian Laettner welcomes @CanesHoops's Jordan Miller to the NCAA tournament 100% club 💯 pic.twitter.com/jiBVQ6x6XZ
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) March 28, 2023
That, however, is where the comparisons end.
While Laettner was the National Player of the Year and the most well-known – and hated – player in college basketball in 1992, Miller is one of those underappreciated, often anonymous foot soldiers that help good teams become great.
Laettner also punctuated his perfect game with 1 of the most famous baskets in Tournament history, a buzzer-beating game-winner replayed at some point during virtually every CBS, TBS and TruTV broadcast this time of year.
Because of its lack of dramatic highlights and Miller’s lack of national stature, it’s doubtful his performance against Texas will be remembered nearly as much or as fondly 31 years from now.
But that doesn’t make it any less meaningful, especially to fans and alumni of The U.
Or any less important. Even without a defining signature moment.
Without it, the Hurricanes would be back home, hitting the beaches around Coral Gables instead of heading to Houston for a national semifinal date with UConn on Saturday.
Like Laettner, Miller wasn’t about to let his team get sent home after getting so close to the Final Four.
In his case, for the 2nd straight year.
Jordan Miller had a Laettner game.
Christian Laettner FaceTimed him.
Just #MarchMadness things ¯_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/o1tfnN4WcI
— Canes Men’s Basketball (@CanesHoops) March 28, 2023
“I wouldn’t say I put the team on my back,” he said immediately after the game. “My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball and everybody was in double figures. What I’m most proud of is the will and the togetherness of this team. We just all bought into staying together, keeping that hope alive. The way we just willed this one through, it really shows the poise of this squad.”
Getting over the hump after trailing by as many as 13 in the 2nd half may have been a team effort. But Miller, a 5th-year senior who started his college career at George Mason, was clearly the catalyst to the impressive comeback.
It started with his block of a 3-point attempt by Texas’ Timmy Allen as the shot clock expired with 10:46 remaining.
Then with big man Norchad Omier on the bench with 4 fouls and the Hurricanes still trailing 65-53, Miller took it upon himself to start attacking the rim. He did it on 2 straight possessions, getting to the line each time and making all 4 free throws.
The 2nd pair sparked what will likely be remembered as the best 10-minute stretch in program history.
Miami ran off an 18-5 spurt to take its 1st lead since early in the game.
And that was only the beginning.
After Texas tied the game at 77 with 3:24 left, Miller took over again. He made 2 free throws to put his team back ahead, then kept it there by hitting 4 more down the stretch – along with a key defensive rebound.
While Miller might be the ACC’s best-kept secret because of the presence of to teammates Isaiah Wong, the ACC Player of the Year, or name, image and likeness darling Nijel Pack, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Hurricanes’ Swiss Army Knife that led the way to the finish line.
Jordan Miller was perfect against Texas to send Miami to the Final Four for the first time ever:
– 27 PTS
– 7-7 FG
– 13-13 FT pic.twitter.com/TtEo7mwj4S
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) March 26, 2023
“I’ve said it all season long, he’s the most underrated player in the country because he’s good at everything,” coach Jim Larrañaga said. “In the summertime, he had a 7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in practices. That’s better than any point guard I know.
“He can rebound, he defends all different-sized guys, he can shoot the 3. He’s great at driving, straight line drive, dribble drives. He makes all of his free throws. He is a great, great player. Simple.”
Miller has scored in double figures in each of his 5 college seasons and is averaging 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 55% overall and 36% from 3-point range this year.
As good as those numbers are, they’ll never get him into the Hall of Fame.
But with one perfect performance on the biggest stage Sunday, he’s already earned entry into an even more exclusive club.