In an instant classic between two of college basketball’s blue bloods, Luke Maye upstaged Malik Monk to help North Carolina knock off Kentucky and secure the final spot in this year’s Final Four.
Maye’s long jumper with 0.3 seconds to play was the difference in the top-seeded Tar Heels’ 75-73 win over the second-seeded Wildcats in the South Region final in Memphis. It came less than 10 seconds after Monk, one of Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s dazzling freshmen, tied the game with a three-pointer from the top of the key over Maye’s outstretched arm.
“I just shot it like I do every day in practice,” Maye, who set a career-high with 17 points, told CBS’s Tracy Wolfson of his game-winning shot.
Maye, who joined some elite company with his last-second heroics to clinch a spot in the Final Four, was named the South Region’s most outstanding player.
“I’m the guy that wanted him to come as a walk-on, so how dumb am I?” said North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels advance to play Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday.
Maye’s career game overshadowed a career-high 12 points from Kentucky sophomore Isaac Humphries, whose jumper with 5:12 to play gave the Wildcats a 64-59 lead. One week after closing their second-round win over Arkansas on a 12-0 run to overcome a late deficit, the Tar Heels responded with another 12-0 run.
North Carolina (31-7) took a 71-64 lead with 54 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Theo Pinson before Monk and fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox made consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead to one.
Fox, who scored an NCAA tournament freshman record 39 points in Friday’s win over UCLA, was hampered by foul trouble in the first half and finished with only 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Monk finished with 12 points for Kentucky (32-6). North Carolina’s Justin Jackson led all scorers with 19 points, while Tar Heels center Kennedy Meeks had 7 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
Before this weekend, Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina had combined for one trip to the Final Four. North Carolina will be making its 20th.
South Carolina beats Florida to advance to its first Final Four
South Carolina used a stifling second-half defense to beat Florida, 77-70, in Madison Square Garden and complete its status as this year’s Cinderella team, advancing to next week’s Final Four for the first time in school history with its third come-from behind victory of the NCAA tournament.
Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish wept in the stands and even their own fans stared in delirious disbelief as the Gamecocks celebrated. “It’s all these guys,” Coach Frank Martin told CBS. “They’ve been with us for a while. They believe in each other, they put up with me and go out and do it better the next day. They have the courage of a lion.”
The defense was too much for the Gators, who, after hitting seven three-pointers in the first half, had zero in the second half as South Carolina went with an extended zone. And then there was Sindarius Thornwell, who may have been SEC player of the year, but was hardly a household name elsewhere — until the NCAA tournament began. On Sunday, he had 26 points and South Carolina, a school that had only four total NCAA tournament wins in its history, completed its fourth in 10 days.
Next up for the Gamecocks, a No. 7 seed, is a matchup with Gonzaga in a semifinal.
For most of the first half of the SEC teams’ game, it was a tossup as the lead seesawed back and forth. But Florida burst through just before halftime, taking a 40-33 lead into the locker room.
Florida (27-8) came into the game after a magical performance, topping Wisconsin on a one-handed three-point floated that beat the buzzer in overtime Friday night. South Carolina (25-10) hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973.
Shot-clock blues: Twice in the first five minutes of the game between Florida and South Carolina, the shot clock at Madison Square Garden in New York City malfunctioned. With just under 15 minutes left in the half, finally a new piece of equipment was brought in.
Evidently, either Vladimir Putin or Phil Jackson was to blame.
Hootie in the house! A big South Carolina fan, singer Darius Rucker watched Friday night’s game on TVs onstage during a Hootie and the Blow Fish concert in Charleston. He did better Sunday, scoring prime seating for the Gamecocks’ game against Florida.
Ducks are flying high, headed to Final Four
The Ducks are now set to face the winner of Sunday’s South Region final between North Carolina and Kentucky.
Bulldogs are Final Four bound
Buzzer-beater elevates Gators
Florida’s Chris Chiozza saw the improbable three-pointer that Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter used to send the contest into overtime, and he raised it a game-winner. Getting the ball with four seconds left and his team down two, Chiozza went the length of the floor before making a lunging three to win it for his Gators.
No. 4 seed Florida advances to the East Region final to face seventh-seeded South Carolina, in an all-SEC matchup nearly as improbable as the heroics to which fans at Madison Square Garden were treated Friday. A tournament that had lacked a signature moment got two in quick succession, and a night that had largely been lacking in drama, with the previous three Sweet 16 games decided by comfortable margins, received a pair of memorable jolts.
Kentucky races past UCLA
In a battle of expected NBA lottery picks, Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox decisively got the better of his more hyped counterpart, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Fox poured in 39 points, hitting 13 of 20 shots, while helping hold Ball to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, although the Bruins’ freshman added eight assists.
South Carolina’s run continues
South Carolina proved it could get a tournament win outside of its home state. In fact, the seventh-seeded Gamecocks authored a convincing rout, trouncing third-seeded Baylor at Madison Square Garden.
Having already attained its first tournament wins since 1973, South Carolina is now on the verge of reaching its first-ever Final Four, if it can get past the winner of Friday’s other East Region matchup, between No. 4 Florida and No. 8 Wisconsin.
Gamecocks star Sindarius Thornwell led all players with 24 points, but it was his team’s stifling defense that was the story. Even with a size advantage in the frontcourt, the Bears could never get anything going, hitting just 17 of 55 shots, including three of 12 from three-point range.
Tar Heels blitz Butler
In a South Region semifinals group that included North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA, Butler was very much the odd program out, at least in terms of historical prestige. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they also appeared outclassed on the court Friday, as UNC got out to a sizable early lead and coasted to a stress-free win.
The top-seeded tar Heels got a bounce-back game from Joel Berry II, who had struggled in the first two rounds but who posted 26 points against Butler on 8-of-13 shooting. Teammate Justin Jackson added 24 points, while the Bulldogs were led by Andrew Chrabascz’s 21.
More March Madness