ST. LOUIS (AP) — John Calipari stood frozen on the Kentucky sideline. Every player on the Wichita State bench held his breath. Everything seemed to stop inside the Scottrade Center as Fred VanVleet let loose with a 3-pointer that could have kept the Shockers perfect.
When it bounced harmlessly off the rim, everything was set in motion once again.
Calipari spontaneously leaped into the air, bad hip and all, as the eighth-seeded Wildcats poured off their bench to celebrate their 78-76 victory over the Midwest Region’s top seed.
The players from Wichita State slumped to their seats, their faces buried in their jerseys.
“I’ve been doing this so long. I’ve been in wars,” Calipari said later. “You all understand this was an Elite Eight game. The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four.”
It certainly had that kind of drama.
Andrew Harrison had 20 points, Aaron Harrison had 19 and Julius Randle contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (26-10), who advanced to play bitter rival Louisville on Friday in Indianapolis, at long last looking like the preseason No. 1 team in the country.
Cleanthony Early scored 31 points and Ron Baker had 20 for the Shockers (35-1), who hadn’t lost since last year’s Final Four while taking an entire city — and state — on quite a ride.
“You’re going to go through some humps in your life, kind of like this one. It’s tough to see us go out like this,” Baker said. “At the end of the day, someone’s got to go home.”
The showdown Sunday matched the bluest of the blue-bloods, the most successful program in Division I history with eight national titles, against a gritty bunch of upstarts from Wichita State that was trying to become the first team to finish off a perfect season since Indiana in 1976.
The game went back and forth the entire way, Kentucky finally taking a 73-71 lead when James Young knocked down a 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes to go. Early answered with a basket for Wichita State, and Andrew Harrison made two free throws for Kentucky. Baker banked in a 3 for the Shockers, and Randle made two more foul shots for the Wildcats.
“Both teams were making plays,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said later, his voice sounding tired. “Back and forth, back and forth.”
Early’s two free throws with 9.8 seconds left got the Shockers within 77-76, and they got their chance to add another chapter to their miraculous story when Andrew Harrison made the second of two free throws and Early pulled down the rebound.
VanVleet raced up court and called timeout with 3.2 seconds left.
Marshall drew up a play that had Tekele Cotton inbounding the ball to VanVleet, and after a couple of dribbles he took a shot from the top of the key. But it was wide the entire way, clanking off the rim and sending the Wildcats pouring onto the court to celebrate.
“We just felt so good beating a great team,” said Andrew Harrison, who considered sitting the game out after hurting his elbow in a second-round win over Kansas State. “It shows how much work we’ve put in, how much we’re getting better.”
Kentucky was successful early using its superior size, not only in the paint but also on the perimeter, where the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins dwarfed the 5-11 VanVleet. But after the Wildcats took a 19-15 lead midway through the half, Wichita State ramped up its trademark defense, forcing a series of turnovers and getting right back in the game.
VanVleet was the catalyst. On one sequence late in the half, he stripped Aaron Harrison and hit Early in transition, and he was fouled while slamming over 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein. Early made the free throw as the Shockers built a 37-31 lead at the half.
“I just feel like I’m always there when my team needs me,” said Early, who was the breakout star of the Shockers’ Final Four run a year ago. “We feed off each other in positive ways.”
Early hit another 3-pointer right out of the locker room to match the Shockers’ biggest lead at 40-31. But VanVleet picked up his third foul moments later, and Kentucky took advantage of the Shockers missing their floor general by gradually pulling ahead.
“I would have liked to have been a little more aggressive,” VanVleet said. “We had to switch some matchups at the end because of my foul trouble. It’s hard to play like that.”
The game remained a back-and-forth prizefight the rest of the way, neither team leading by more than five, each answering the other with clutch 3-pointers and pressure-filled free throws.
It only made sense that the game would come down to the final possession.
“I feel for their team and I feel for their coach,” Calipari said. “I’m happy we won. I’m happy for our guys. And I’m disappointed, because they had a heck of a run.”
Stanford 60, Kansas 57
ST. LOUIS — Dwight Powell had 15 points and seven rebounds and No. 10 seed Stanford wrapped up its second straight upset at the free throw line, knocking off No. 2 Kansas 60-57 in the South Regional on Sunday.
Chasson Randle added 13 points, six steals and four assists for the Cardinal (23-12), who advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 2008 — also their last NCAA appearance. They beat No. 7 seed New Mexico on Friday.
Freshman Andrew Wiggins had just four points on 1-for-6 shooting with four turnovers in what may have been his final college game for Kansas (25-10). Wiggins is a likely NBA lottery pick and had averaged 28 points the previous four games.
Tarik Black had 18 points and six rebounds for the Jayhawks, but he fouled out with 5:25 to go. Conner Frankamp had 12 points on four 3-pointers, the last two in the final 23 seconds to make it close after Stanford had pulled ahead by seven.
SAN ANTONIO — Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip each scored 17 points and Baylor shut down Creighton’s Doug McDermott with suffocating defense, ending the career of the one of the most prolific scorers in college history with an 85-55 win Sunday night in the NCAA tournament West Regional.
Baylor’s size and speed overwhelmed the third-seeded Bluejays (27-8) and their national scoring leader, earning a third trip to the Sweet 16 since 2010.
McDermott, who averaged 27 points this season, finished with 15 but had just three in the first half as Baylor built a 20-point lead.
McDermott ranks fifth on the NCAA career scoring list.
No. 6 seed Baylor (26-11) had five players score in double figures and shot 64 percent in one of the dominant performances of the NCAA tournament.
Iowa State 85,
North Carolina 83
SAN ANTONIO — DeAndre Kane drove for the game-winning layup with 1.6 seconds left and No. 3 seed Iowa State beat North Carolina 85-83 on Sunday, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
The Cyclones (28-7) head to Madison Square Garden next week to face No. 7 seed Connecticut in the East Regional semifinals.
The Tar Heels (24-10) are gone in the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend for the first time in consecutive seasons under coach Roy Williams.
North Carolina’s Nate Britt raced the ball up court after Kane’s basket, but time expired before he could reach midcourt and call a timeout. Officials huddled for several minutes reviewing clock replays before ruling the game was over.
Right away Williams — who collapsed his hands on his knees as Britt dribbled toward him and the buzzer sounded — shook Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg’s hand as North Carolina began absorbing a last-second heartbreaker.
Kane finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. It was just the kind of big game the Cyclones needed without forward Georges Niang, who broke his foot in Friday’s win against North Carolina Central. The 6-foot-7 sophomore sat on the bench wearing a bulky boot while the Cyclones tried their best without their third-leading scorer and tallest starter.
Marcus Paige led North Carolina with 19 points and Kennedy Meeks had 15 points and 13 rebounds. But North Carolina played nearly the entire game without forward Brice Johnson, who sprained ankle in the opening minutes.
The team said X-rays were negative, but the Tar Heels’ third-leading scorer never returned.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tennessee came to Tobacco Road and turned it into “Raleigh Top.”
Jarnell Stokes had 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds, and the Volunteers denied Mercer a second straight upset in the NCAA tournament by routing the Bears 83-63 on Sunday night.
Josh Richardson had a career-high 26 points and Antonio Barton had 18 for the 11th-seeded Vols (24-12), who outrebounded Mercer 41-19 and kept the Southeastern Conference perfect in the tournament.
They joined Florida and Kentucky in the round of 16 — the first time three SEC teams made it that far since 2007.
Tennessee will face second-seeded Michigan (27-8) in a Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.
Stokes broke his 2-day-old school tournament record for rebounds.
Langston Hall had 15 points to lead the 14th-seeded Bears (27-9). They knocked off Duke in the signature upset of the tournament but couldn’t answer Tennessee’s size.
Stephen F. Austin 60
SAN DIEGO — Jordan Adams scored 19 points and UCLA beat Stephen F. Austin 77-60 on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
The fourth-seeded Bruins (27-8) will play Florida, the tournament’s overall top seed, in the South Regional semifinals on Thursday in Memphis. First-year coach Steve Alford has won as many NCAA tournament games in three days as the Bruins had in the previous five seasons combined.
Alford replaced Ben Howland, who was fired a year ago after the Bruins lost to Minnesota in their NCAA tournament opener. This is UCLA’s first trip to the regionals since Howland got the Bruins to their third straight Final Four in 2008.
Stephen F. Austin (32-2), the No. 12 seed, had its 29-game winning streak snapped. The Lumberjacks hadn’t lost in exactly four months.
Wichita State aide
reportedly gets BGSU job
Chris Jans, an assistant coach at Wichita State for the past six seasons, will become Bowling Green State University’s next head men’s basketball coach, national media reported Sunday night.
Jans and the Shockers completed a 35-1 season Sunday with a third-round loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.
Jans will reportedly replace Louis Orr, who had a record of 101-121 in seven years as the Falcons’ coach. BGSU said Orr’s contract would not be renewed after his team went 12-20 this past season.
Jans has head-coaching experience in the junior-college ranks, including a national championship at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
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