Move over George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth. A new mid-major has crashed the Final Four party.
Wichita State beat Ohio State, 70-66, in the West region final Saturday to become the first team from the Missouri Valley Conference since Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979 to earn an appearance in the Final Four. The Shockers, who are just the second No. 9 seed ever to win a regional final in the NCAA tournament, advanced to face the winner of Sunday’s Midwest region final between Duke and Louisville on Saturday in Atlanta.
This will be Wichita State’s first Final Four since 1965, and it defeated the West region’s top two seeds — Gonzaga and Ohio State — to get there. But its latest shocker didn’t come without a few tense moments late.
After opening up a 20-point lead nine minutes into the second half, the Shockers watched Ohio State go on a 23-6 run and close its deficit to just three with a frantic full-court press. The hero from Ohio State’s Sweet 16 win over Arizona, sophomore LaQuinton Ross (14 points), was the catalyst during the surge.
But after mustering just one field and two free throws on its previous 15 possessions, Wichita State got a clutch three-pointer and a crucial offensive rebound from sophomore Tekele Cotton to avoid an epic collapse. Forward Carl Hall had six blocks for Wichita State, including one on Ohio State’s Evan Ravenel with 18 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The Buckeyes, who entered Saturday on an 11-game win streak, led for only one minute, eight seconds the entire contest. Ohio State shot just 30.5 percent from the field. As a result, Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall collected another bonus check.
That Wichita St win is worth $136,000 in bonuses to coach Gregg Marshall, who now has $380,000 in on-court performance bonuses this season
— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) March 31, 2013