DENVER — Demonte Harper of 13th-seeded Morehead State dribbled patiently, watching the clock tick down — 10, 9, 8, 7 — then stepped up behind the 3-point line, swished the shot and crumpled Louisville’s NCAA hopes, to say nothing of a few million tournament brackets out there.
Harper’s 3-pointer from the top of the circle with 4.2 seconds left Thursday led to the first big upset of the NCAA tournament, a 62-61 win over No. 4 Louisville in the Southwest regional that sent the underdog Eagles (25-9) tumbling to the floor in jubilation at the buzzer.
After Harper’s go-ahead basket, the Cardinals (25-10) had a chance to win it, but Morehead’s best player, NBA-bound center Kenneth Faried, blocked Mike Marra’s attempt from the corner.
The buzzer sounded. Louisville was gone after its first game for the second straight year and tiny Morehead State of Kentucky — enrollment 9,000 at the base of the Appalachian Mountains — had its first tournament win since 1984.
The Eagles will now play No. 12 Richmond.
After Morehead State called timeout for its last possession with 23.8 seconds left, Harper seemed an unlikely candidate to take the most important shot in the program’s short, unheralded history. He was 2 for 9 from the floor and hadn’t hit any of his five 3-point attempts.
Meanwhile, Morehead had the big fella, Faried, not to mention Terrance Hill (5 for 6) and Ty Proffitt (3 for 6), each of whom were lighting it up from 3-point range all afternoon.
The Eagles, however, didn’t do anything by the book in this one.
If they were going to win, it was supposed to be on the shoulders of Faried, a 57-percent lifetime shooter and the all-time rebounding leader in Division I. Faried pulled down 17 rebounds but had a terrible day from the field — 4 for 17 for 12 points — and wasn’t the biggest factor in this game.
He’ll get another chance, though. He can thank Harper — whose only shot of the second half gave him a total of eight points — and Hill, who scored a career-high 23, including 12 during a 16-4 run that turned a seven-point deficit into a 57-52 lead with 5:24 left.
Louisville answered with the next nine points and the upset chances looked all but over.
But the Eagles worked the ball to Faried on the next possession and he converted two free throws after a foul. Then, Morehead fouled Elisha Justice, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Faried got the rebound, Morehead State called timeout and coach Donnie Tyndall set up the play that would make him a winner over Rick Pitino.
Richmond 69, Vanderbilt 66
DENVER — Kevin Anderson scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half, including a floater with 18.7 seconds remaining that helped seal 12th-seeded Richmond’s win.
The Spiders (28-7) sprang the second upset of the day at Pepsi Center.
Fifth-seeded Vanderbilt had a chance to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left, but Rod Odom’s desperation heave was nowhere near the hoop as time expired.
So much for the Commodores (23-11) vanquishing their tournament demons. They have now stumbled in their last three appearances in the NCAAs.
Kentucky 59, Princeton 57
TAMPA, Fla. — Freshman Brandon Knight, held scoreless for more than 39 minutes, made a driving layup with 2 seconds remaining to lift No. 4 seed Kentucky over 13th-seeded Princeton.
Knight missed his first seven shots and even found himself on the bench in the closing minute.
Kentucky will face West Virginia in the East regional.
Upperclassmen carried the Wildcats (26-8) most of the way. Darius Miller scored 17 points, and lone senior Josh Harrellson added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Dan Mavraides led Princeton (25-7) with 14 points.
Butler 60, Old Dominion 58
WASHINGTON — Matt Howard scored on a tip-in at the buzzer, giving eighth-seeded Butler a victory in the Southeast regional.
After Shawn Vanzant missed, Howard went up with his right hand and put the ball in an instant before time expired.
A year ago, Butler’s magical run to the NCAA championship game ended with a narrow miss at the buzzer against Duke. In this game, the Bulldogs got the bounce they needed.
Howard and Shelvin Mack each scored 15 points for Butler (24-9), which will face Pittsburgh.
Frank Hassell led Old Dominion (27-7) with 20 points.
Temple 66, Penn State 64
TUCSON, Ariz. — Juan Fernandez sank an off-balance 18-footer with under a second to play to end coach Fran Dunphy’s NCAA tournament record 11-game losing streak.
Fernandez, double-teamed as time was running out, got off a shot off his right foot while fading to his left just inside the 3-point line.
Talor Battle’s 3-pointer from far behind the arc for Penn State tied it at 64-64 with 12.2 seconds to go. Fernandez and Ramone Moore scored 23 points each for the seventh-seeded Owls (26-7), who next play San Diego State. Battle scored 23 for the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions (19-15).
West Virginia 84, Clemson 76
TAMPA, Fla. — Darryl Bryant scored 19 points and Kevin Jones added 17 to help fifth-seeded West Virginia overcome a slow start and wear down No. 12 Clemson.
The Mountaineers (21-11) took advantage of a fatigued opponent playing its second game in just over 36 hours.
Bryant’s four-point play and a long 3-pointer by Jones that tied it 40-40 at the half highlighted a game-changing 28-8 run that enabled West Virginia to turn a 10-point deficit into a 57-47 lead. The closest Clemson (22-12) would get the rest of the way was three points.
San Diego St. 68, No. Colorado 50
TUCSON, Ariz. — Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and second-seeded San Diego State survived Devon Beitzel’s scoring burst to earn its first NCAA tournament win.
The Aztecs (33-2) had their hands full with the Bears of the Big Sky early. San Diego State pulled away behind its defense in the second half, holding Northern Colorado (21-11) scoreless for nearly 7 minutes.
Beitzel scored eight of his 25 points during a flurry to start the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the 15th-seeded Bears in their first NCAA tournament.
Pittsburgh 74, UNC Asheville 51
WASHINGTON — Ashton Gibbs scored 20 of his 26 points after halftime, and bigger, stronger Pittsburgh kept the No. 1s perfect against the No. 16s in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers out-rebounded the Bulldogs 50-27 to make up for so-so shooting by nearly everyone but Gibbs. Pitt (28-5) led by only three early in the second half before putting the game away with a 13-5 run.
Matt Dickey scored 21 points to lead UNC Asheville (20-14), which finished off a whirlwind week that included a win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday.
Connecticut 81, Bucknell 52
WASHINGTON — Kemba Walker had 18 points, a career-high 12 assists and eight rebounds, and No. 3 seed Connecticut earned coach Jim Calhoun his 850th career victory.
Roscoe Smith scored 17 for the Huskies (27-9), who showed no signs of fatigue after winning five games in five days last week to capture the Big East tournament.
Walker’s 12 assists were a school record for an NCAA tournament game.
Mike Muscala scored 14 points for 14th-seeded Bucknell (25-9).
Florida 79, UCSB 51
TAMPA, Fla. — Erving Walker scored 18 points, Chandler Parsons flirted with his first triple-double and Florida coasted to victory over 15th-seeded UC Santa Barbara.
Parsons, the Southeastern Conference’s player of the year, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. Florida (27-7) made 11 of its first 15 shots, opened up a double-digit lead and kept piling on the rest of the way.
Orlando Johnson led the Gauchos (18-14) with 21 points.
BYU 74, Wofford 66
DENVER — Jimmer Fredette scored 32 points to lift third-seeded Brigham Young over No. 14 Wofford.
Hounded, double teamed and trapped by Wofford defenders much of the night, the nation’s leading scorer still got off 25 shots and made 12 trips to the free-throw line.
Wofford, making its second straight NCAA appearance, shut down Fredette through most of the first half and led 25-21 with 5 minutes left. But Fredette made two free throws and a 3-pointer during a 9-0 run and BYU (31-4) never relinquished the lead.
Noah Dahlman led the Terriers (21-13) with 22 points.
Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58
TUCSON, Ariz. — Jon Leuer scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half and Wisconsin methodically dispatched Belmont in the Badgers’ fifth consecutive NCAA tournament-opening victory.
Jordan Taylor added 21 for the fourth-seeded Badgers (24-8).
The 13th-seeded Bruins never hit their stride against the Badgers, who made 12 of 22 3-pointers, led by Taylor’s 5 of 9.
Mike Hedgepeth scored 17 and Kerron Johnson 13 for the Atlantic Sun champion Bruins (30-5), still searching for their first NCAA tournament win after four tries.
Gonzaga 86, St. John’s 71
DENVER — Marquise Carter scored a career-high 24 points, lifting 11th-seeded Gonzaga to an 86-71 victory over sixth-seeded St. John’s on Thursday night to cap a stellar day for the underdogs at the Pepsi Center in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs (25-9) were the third lower seed to spring an upset, joining No. 12 Richmond and No. 13 Morehead State.
The Bulldogs used their size and strength to muscle around the Red Storm (21-12), who were back in the tournament for the first time since 2002. Gonzaga outrebounded St. John’s by a 43-20 margin.
UCLA 78, Michigan St. 76
TAMPA, Fla. — Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee scored 16 points apiece and seventh-seeded UCLA held off a late comeback by No. 10 seed Michigan State to win 78-76 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night.
The Bruins (23-10) won despite missing 17 free throws, nine of them in the final 3:40 while the Spartans were making a barrage of 3-pointers to get back into the game.
UCLA was 30 of 47 from the foul line and only made two field goals over the final eight minutes.
Draymond Green led Michigan State (19-15) with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Durrell Summers added 15 and Kalin Lucas finished with 11 after going the first 32 minutes without scoring.
Cincinnati 78, Missouri 63
WASHINGTON — Yancy Gates had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Cincinnati made a successful return to the NCAA tournament Thursday night with a 78-63 win over Missouri.
The sixth-seeded Bearcats used their stalwart defense to hold the run-all-the-time Tigers to 29 percent shooting in the first half and 38 percent for the game. Missouri went some 11 minutes without scoring a field goal to fall behind by 15 early in the second half and finished well below their average of 81.4 points per game.
Ricardo Ratliffe scored 13 points for the Tigers (23-11).