Final Four in Sight
BOSTON (AP) — Levance Fields gave Pittsburgh the lead with a 3-pointer with 50.9 seconds left, then scored off his steal as the Panthers advanced to the regional finals for the first time in 35 years with a 60-55 win over Xavier on Thursday night.
Top-seeded Pitt (31-4) trailed 54-52 before its point guard connected. Then he poked the ball away from B.J. Raymond and went in for the layup with 23.9 seconds to go.
Sam Young led Pitt with 19 points, Fields had 14, and DeJuan Blair had 10 points and 17 rebounds in the East semifinal victory. The Panthers overcame an eight-point halftime deficit.
The last time Pitt was in a regional final was in 1974 when it lost to eventual national champion North Carolina State and star David Thompson 100-72.
Fourth-seeded Xavier (27-8) was led by Raymond with 15 points and Derrick Brown with 14.
Pitt plays Saturday against Villanova for a berth in the Final Four.
Panthers coach Jamie Dixon made it to the round of eight for the first time in his six years at the helm after losing in his other two trips to the round of 16. Xavier fell short in its bid for a third berth in the regional finals in six years.
Trailing 37-29 at halftime, Pitt scored the first nine points of the second half — and Xavier missed its first 10 shots — as the Panthers took a 38-37 lead with 14:33 left.
But the Musketeers recovered and went ahead 54-52 with 1:50 remaining when Dante Jackson cut to the basket for a layup.
Fields then had the ball past midcourt before it went into the backcourt off a defender. Fields retrieved it, dribbled into his own end and fired up the go-ahead shot.
He was in the right place again when Raymond lost control of his dribble. Fields got the ball, pushed it forward and dribbled ahead of the field to put the Panthers up by three.
Xavier’s Terrell Holloway made a free throw with 16 seconds left, but Young hit two just three seconds later. After a missed 3-pointer by Brown, Brad Wannamaker made one more free throw for Pitt with 2.6 seconds left.
Connecticut 72, Purdue 60
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — After cruising through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, Connecticut found itself in trouble for the first time.
Thanks to Hasheem Thabeet, the top-seeded Huskies weren’t in trouble for long.
Thabeet, the Big East co-player of the year, scored 15 points, had 15 rebounds and blocked four shots, and Connecticut overcame a sluggish first half to defeat Purdue 72-60 in the NCAA West Regional semifinals on Thursday.
One day after a Yahoo! Sports report alleged UConn committed NCAA recruiting violations, the Huskies (30-4) reached the regional finals for the fourth time since 2002.
Coach Jim Calhoun and the Huskies had won their first two NCAA tourney games by an average of 41 points, but they struggled to score against the defense-oriented Boilermakers.
UConn jumped out to an early 11-point lead, then went cold and let the fifth-seeded Boilermakers (27-10) claw back into the game.
Leading 30-25 at halftime, the Huskies turned to the 7-foot-3 Thabeet in the second half. Thabeet scored Connecticut’s first eight points of the second half, then blocked a shot to set up a fastbreak layup by A.J. Price, who scored 10 of his 15 points after halftime.
Villanova 77, Duke 54
BOSTON (AP) — Dante Cunningham scored 14 points with 11 rebounds and third-seeded Villanova beat Duke for the first time in more than 50 years, taking advantage of the Blue Devils’ poor shooting to win 77-54 Thursday night and advance to the NCAA regional final.
The Wildcats (29-7) will play Big East rival Pittsburgh (31-4), the top seed in the East, on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four.
Duke (30-7), which spent a week at No. 1 in the nation earlier this season, failed to reach the round of eight for the fifth consecutive year.
Kyle Singler scored 15 and Jon Scheyer had 13 for the second-seeded Blue Devils. But Scheyer and Gerald Henderson combined to make just four of 32 attempts as Duke shot a season-low 26.7 percent from the floor.
Missouri 102, Memphis 91
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A career night by J.T. Tiller put Missouri one win away from its first trip to the Final Four. Memphis’ 27-game winning streak, meanwhile, is history.
Tiller scored a career-high 23 points — 15 more than his season average — and Missouri held off Memphis’ frantic rally for a 102-91 win Thursday night in the semifinals of the West Regional.
Third-seeeded Missouri led by 24 points four minutes into the second half, then saw Memphis close within six with 2:14 to play. Free throws put it away for Missouri.
Dynamic point guard Tyreke Evans scored 33 for Memphis (33-4). The second-seeded Tigers shot only 18-for-32 from the foul line — last year, a poor showing at the foul line cost them dearly in an overtime championship game loss to Kansas.
Missouri (31-6), the No. 3 seed, faces No. 1 seed Connecticut for the West title on Saturday.