Ohio State downs Syracuse: March Madness
Louisville topples Florida with late run
Ohio State 77, Syracuse 70
Jared Sullinger recovered from first-half foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, helping Ohio State beat Syracuse 77-70 on Saturday to advance to the Final Four.
It will be the Buckeyes' first trip to the NCAA semifinals since 2007.
Deshaun Thomas scored 14 with nine rebounds for No. 2 seed Ohio State (31-7), which led by eight points with 59 seconds to play and held on after the Orange cut it to three. The Buckeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 68 seconds.
Brandon Triche scored 15 points and Baye Keita had 10 rebounds for top-seeded Syracuse (34-3). The Orange were hoping for a return trip to New Orleans, where they won their only national championship in 2003.
In a tightly officiated game that left Sullinger on the bench in foul trouble for most of the first half and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim not-quite muzzled after picking up a technical foul, it came down to free throws. Ohio State went 31 for 42 from the line in the game despite playing against Syracuse's usual 2-3 zone.
The Orange went to the line 25 times, making 20 foul shots.
The frequent whistles left both teams struggling to get into a groove in the first half -- there were only four baskets in the last 9:30 of the first. That seemed to be good news for Ohio State, which managed to stay with the No. 1 seed despite getting only 6 minutes from Sullinger, the star of the Buckeyes' East Regional semifinal win over Cincinnati.
Syracuse was already without 7-footer Fab Melo, who missed the tournament with academic issues, and replacement Rakeem Christmas picked up two quick fouls early in the second half to leave him with four.
Louisville 72, Florida 68
Rick Pitino nearly came unhinged and his point guard watched the end of the game from the bench. When it was over, though, it was Pitino and Louisville making plans for the Final Four and his protegé, Billy Donovan, and the Florida Gators wondering what the heck happened.
Freshman forward Chane Behanan made the go-ahead basket with 1:06 left Saturday and the fourth-seeded Cardinals finished the game on a 23-8 run for a 72-68 victory over Donovan's stunned Florida team in the West Regional final.
Russ Smith, who finished with 19 points, followed Behanan's bucket with a pair of free throws and then Florida freshman Bradley Beal and teammate Kenny Boynton each missed chances to tie.
Louisville made one more free throw to seal the game and reach its ninth Final Four, the second under Pitino, despite playing the final 3:58 without point guard Peyton Siva, who fouled out.
Seventh-seeded Florida (26-11) went out in the regional final for the second straight year, with Donovan falling to 0-7 lifetime against the man who coached him at Providence, hired him as an assistant at Kentucky and felt as proud as a papa when he watched Donovan win his two national titles in 2006 and 2007.