The Wildcats (35-2) got 24 points and 10 rebounds from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to avenge the team’s only regular-season loss and advance to tomorrow’s South Regional final against Baylor. The Bears defeated Xavier 75-70 in yesterday’s other South Regional game at the Georgia Dome.
Indiana, which defeated Kentucky 73-72 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Bloomington, Indiana, in December, held a 43-39 lead with 2:53 remaining in the first half before giving up six straight points. Kentucky, the top seed in the entire tournament, never relinquished the lead again and outscored the Hoosiers 52-43 in the second half.
“That was a fast-paced game,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a news conference. “I love coaching those kinds of games. I can’t stand games in the 50s. We played very aggressive.”
With 102 points, Kentucky scored one more point than Louisville and Michigan State (57-44) combined to score a night earlier.
Kentucky, which has seven national titles, hit 35 of 37 free throws in the game, including 17 in a row at one point. The Wildcats are tied with North Carolina for the most wins in National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament history with 108.
In the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis, top-seeded North Carolina needed overtime to avoid an upset and defeat 13th-seeded Ohio 73-65. North Carolina will play second-seeded Kansas, which defeated No. 11 North Carolina State 60-57 last night, in the Midwest final.
Zeller’s Big Night
Tyler Zeller had 20 points and 23 rebounds for the Tar Heels (32-5), while Walter Offutt had 26 points before fouling out in overtime for the Bobcats (29-8). Offutt scored on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in regulation time to tie the game at 63-63 and then missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play and given Ohio the lead.
“As a leader on this team, I take responsibility that I got to hit that free throw,” Offutt said in a news conference. “It just feels terrible to kind of let my team down in that sort of way.”
The Tar Heels were playing without starting point guard Kendall Marshall, who fractured his right wrist earlier in the tournament.
In yesterday’s first South Regional contest in Atlanta, third-seeded Baylor opened with a 22-4 run and never trailed in its win against No. 10 Xavier. Quincy Acy had 20 points and 15 rebounds to lead Baylor, giving the Bears a spot in the final 8. It’s the second time in three years Baylor has reached the regional final.
‘A Tremendous Start’
Senior guard Tu Holloway led Xavier with 22 points in the loss.
“We got out to a tremendous start,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said in a news conference. “We made it a little closer than it needed to be with some careless turnovers, but any time you win in March, it’s a good win.”
In today’s games, fourth-seeded Louisville (29-9) will face No. 7 Florida (26-10) in the West Regional final. Louisville is one of two Big East conference teams to reach the final eight, along with Syracuse.
Syracuse (34-2), the top seed in the East Regional, will play No. 2 Ohio State (30-7) in that regional’s final tonight in Boston.
To advance to the next round, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said his team will need to be at its best to shut down a Buckeyes team that defeated Duke 85-63 earlier this season.
“When they destroyed Duke, I thought, they’re going to be there at the end of the year,” Boeheim said in a news conference. “I think they’re the best team I’ve seen all year long in terms of total makeup. It’s a very daunting task to play them. We’ve prepared for it. We’re ready to play. I hope it’ll be a great game.”
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