Kentucky knocks off Ohio State 62-60

Posted March 25, 2011, at 9:51 p.m.
Last modified March 26, 2011, at 12:58 a.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — Brandon Knight did it again.

Knight knocked down a jumper with 5 seconds remaining as the fourth-seeded Wildcats stunned top-seeded Ohio State 62-60 on Friday in the East regional semifinals.

Senior center Josh Harrellson held his own against Ohio State super freshman Jared Sullinger, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Wildcats (28-8) advanced to play North Carolina on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

Knight, who knocked down a game-winner in Kentucky’s second-round win over Princeton, shrugged off another sluggish performance to drill the biggest shot of his career.

Kentucky coach John Calipari opted not to call timeout after Ohio State’s John Diebler hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 21 seconds remaining, and Knight delivered a silky 15-foot jumper.

Ohio State rushed down the floor, but William Buford’s 3-pointer clanked off the rim and the rebound was tapped out of harm’s way.

The Wildcats, who struggled to win close games earlier in the season, rushed onto the floor as the buzzer sounded. DeAndre Liggins, like Harrellson a leftover from Billy Gillispie’s days at Kentucky, hopped atop a table and pounded his chest as Knight stood at halfcourt and soaked in the moment.

The victory proved sweet vindication for the two holdovers, who were mostly spectators last season as Calipari revitalized the program behind a star-studded freshmen class led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

Harrellson and Liggins took this year’s group of youngsters under their wing and delivered the kind of savvy veteran presence the Wildcats could have used last season, which ended with a loss to an experienced West Virginia squad in the East regional final.

Liggins finished with 15 points for the Wildcats, who beat Ohio State for the first time in the NCAA tournament behind a suffocating defense that limited the Buckeyes to 32 percent shooting.

Sullinger led Ohio State (34-3) with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but the Buckeyes fell in the regional semifinals for a second straight season. Sullinger said in the aftermath he expects to return for his sophomore year, if only to wash out the taste of a bitter end to an otherwise spectacular season.

Ohio State rolled through the regular season but like the last two top overall seeds entering the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes are going home early.

“I think, honestly, some of the shots we missed we were making all year,” said Diebler, who finished with 16 points. “You have to give them credit, I thought they did a good job channeling shots with their length, but we’ve faced length all year. They just didn’t go in.”

Southwest Regional

VCU 72, Florida State 71 (OT)

SAN ANTONIO — Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left and Jamie Skeen blocked a shot at the buzzer, giving Virginia Commonwealth the victory over Florida State in overtime.

In the first NCAA tournament game between teams seeded 10 and 11, the lower seeded Rams blew a nine-point lead by scoring only three points in the final 7:37 of regulation. They never trailed by more than four all night, but found themselves down 71-70 when Burgess scored the kind of basket that will live in NCAA tournament lore.

The Rams (27-11) are among the final eight for the first time.

Since being told they lucked their way into a play-in game for the 11th seed, all VCU has done is knock out high-profile programs from the Pac-10 (Southern Cal), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue) and now the ACC. Those were all blowouts — this one was as tight as they come.

Second-year coach Shaka Smart keeps stoking his team by reminding them that everyone said they don’t belong. It shouldn’t be a problem finding folks writing them off for their next game. The Rams face top-seeded Kansas on Sunday with a spot in the Final Four on the line. The Jayhawks advanced with a 77-57 rout over Richmond.

For Florida State, Derwin Kitchen scored 23 points and Chris Singleton made a tying 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation and a go-ahead layup across the baseline with 29.2 seconds left in overtime. The Seminoles (23-11) hadn’t been this far since 1993.

Burgess led VCU as he’s done all tournament, scoring 26 points. He was an amazing 6 of 7 on 3-pointers. His only miss was a blocked shot in overtime.

Brandon Rozzell scored 16 points, including a series of 3-pointers during the second-half surge that put the Rams back in front — seemingly for good, until their collapse. Skeen scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.

Kansas 77, Richmond 57

SAN ANTONIO — Ramping up for perhaps the biggest game in school history, 12th-seeded Richmond huddled in the tunnel. That’s when Kansas players came trotting past and the trouble started.

Shoves were traded. Words were exchanged and security appeared. It ended quickly without a fight and the Jayhawks went on their way.

The game itself wasn’t much different.

Brady Morningstar scored 18 points and Kansas, playing like the dominant No. 1 seed in a historic NCAA regional full of underdogs, knocked off Richmond to move one victory from returning to the Final Four for the first time since its 2008 championship.

“We were trying to get past, and they were shoving us,” Kansas guard Mario Little said of the pregame encounter. “But we tried to let our play do the talking, and I think we did a good job in the first half.”

There was no doubt about that.

The Spiders passed up open shots, bounced balls into the Kansas bench and found themselves down 31-9 with more than six minutes still left before halftime.

The Spiders looked jittery in the what was only the school’s second round-of-16 appearance. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were calm and confident in reaching a fourth regional final under coach Bill Self.

Justin Harper led Richmond with 22 points.

“We weren’t able to slow them down in any way,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said.

Thomas Robinson had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Marcus Morris scored 13 for Kansas. The Jayhawks have yet to be tested so far this tournament, winning by an average of nearly 18 points.

The Southwest regional is the first in NCAA history with three double-digit seeded teams. Kansas awaited the winner of 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth and 10th-seeded Florida State.

It has given the Jayhawks what appears — at least on paper — to be an easy-looking path toward the Final Four. The Jayhawks can make it to Houston next week without having beaten a seed higher than ninth-seeded Illinois.

If that happens, Kansas will join Michigan State in 2001 and North Carolina in 1991 as the only schools to get that far without having to beat a seed higher than nine. And only five teams have reached the Final Four by feasting on teams seeded eighth or lower, according to STATS LLC.

One of those schools? The 2008 Jayhawks.

That run ended in the Alamodome with Self winning his first title at Kansas. Three years later, the Jayhawks looked every bit at home in San Antonio.

Self downplayed the pregame tunnel dustup as “typical stuff, but it wasn’t anything.” Spiders guard Kevin Anderson, who had 14 points, said both teams were just eager to play and chalked it up to usual aggression.

Still, Self waited for Richmond to exit through the tunnel at halftime before letting his players walk down the same tunnel toward the locker room. Kansas was already ahead 41-22.

The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and made 9 of 19 3-pointers. Morningstar was 7 for 11 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Josh Selby added nine points.

Anderson and Harper were the only Richmond players in double figures.

Anderson, who hit the winning shot to upset Vanderbilt in the tournament opener, averaged 26.2 points in Richmond’s previous five wins over ranked teams. But the senior was 5 of 17 from the floor in his final game and missed all six of his 3-pointers.

“We didn’t really play that well tonight, so finishing like that is tough,” Richmond center Dan Geriot said. “There was a lot left in there for us to have competed a little better.”

The loss stopped Richmond from reaching the first regional final in school history. Mooney sought to inspire his players this week by showing them Richmond’s stunning win at Allen Fieldhouse in 2004, which ended Kansas’ 52-game home unbeaten streak against unranked opponents. It had been the only meeting between the schools before Friday.

This time, the Jayhawks never looked in trouble.

“It’s just a lot of energy, getting ready to play a big game,” Morningstar said. “So that’s how sports are sometimes. And I respect Richmond a lot. They’re a heck of a team, and I’m glad we got a win tonight.”

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