Syracuse, Wichita State Are First to Reach Men’s NCAA Final Four

Syracuse University and Wichita State University are the first two teams to advance to the Final Four of the national men’s college basketball championship.

Their opponents will be decided today when third-seeded Florida plays No. 4 Michigan in the South regional final and top-seeded Louisville faces No. 2 Duke in the Midwest regional final.

Ninth-seeded Wichita State topped No. 2 Ohio State 70-66 in the West regional final yesterday. Syracuse, seeded fourth in the East region, beat No. 3 Marquette 55-39, for its fifth trip to the Final Four and the first since 2003, when it won the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

“Once we got in the Big East Tournament, we started to play good,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim in a televised interview. “It carried over into the NCAA tournament. When you bounce back like that, that says a lot about your kids, your team and your character. This is a heck of a bounce-back.”

Syracuse (30-9) will play Florida or Michigan, who meet today in the South regional final, on April 6 in Atlanta.

James Southerland scored 16 points, C.J. Fair added 13 and Michael Carter-Williams had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“I had a great game,” Carter-Williams said. “I think this was one of my best.”

The Orange last went to the Final Four in 2003, when the team was led by Carmelo Anthony, who is the New York Knicks’ leading scorer this season.

‘Every 10 Years’

“It’s a great thing,” Boeheim said. “We go every 10 years. Every 10 years is our time.”

Vander Blue and Davante Gardner each scored 14 points for the third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-9), who hit 12 of 53 from the floor for 23 percent.

“They beat us start to finish,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “When we get beat, we get beat.”

At Staples Center in Los Angeles, Malcolm Armstead scored 14 points to lead the Shockers to their second appearance in the Final Four, the first coming in 1965.

“Last year we were watching all this on television,” said Cleanthony Early, who scored 12 points. “Now I’m looking at a hat that says ‘Final Four Atlanta’ with my team on it. It feels good, and it feels even better that I could experience it with these guys who had to struggle so hard to get here.”

Wichita State (30-8) was ahead by as many as 20 points with 12 minutes, 41 seconds left to go in the game before the Buckeyes hit nine straight free throws to trail by 56-45.

Ohio State (29-8) chipped away at the Shockers’ lead before running out of time.

“We didn’t get many easy buckets and it shows,” said Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, who hit 2-of-12 field goal attempts for nine points. “They came out firing and we didn’t regain our balance until it was too late.”

Fred Van Vleet had 12 points and Tekele Cotton added 10 for Wichita State which had a 35-22 halftime lead.

DeShaun Thomas scored 23 points and LaQuinton Ross added 19 points for the Buckeyes.

The Final Four will be played April 6 in Atlanta with the championship game two days later.

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