NEWARK, N.J. — John Calipari didn’t call a time out with 21 seconds left and the score tied.
Brandon Knight’s pull-up jumper from about 15 feet with five seconds left broke a tie and lifted Kentucky to a 62-60 victory over Ohio State in an East regional semifinal Friday night at Prudential Center. The fourth-seeded Wildcats (28-8) will play No. 2 North Carolina on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. EDT with a trip to the Final four at stake.
The Tar Heels edged Kentucky, 75-73, at home on Dec. 4.
Ohio State finished at 34-3. William Buford, who had a terrible night shooting (2-for-16), missed a three-point attempt and the rebound was tipped around as time expired. Jon Diebler’s three with 21.2 seconds left had tied the score at 60-all for OSU.
It was Knight’s second game-winner in the NCAA tournament. His shot gave the Wildcats a 59-57 win over Princeton in the second round.
Knight’s three from the right wing with 5:13 left gave the Wildcats a 56-53 lead. But Ohio State cut the deficit to 56-55 when Jared Sullinger put back an air ball three-pointer by point guard Aaron Craft. On the Buckeyes’ next possession, David Lighty’s basket gave Ohio State a 57-56 advantage.
But DeAndre Liggins answered with two free throws for a 58-57 Kentucky lead with 1:36 left. OSU couldn’t respond on the ensuing possession as Josh Harrellson’s tight defense forced a terrible shot by Sullinger, whose attempt hit the side of the backboard.
By the end of the half, four of the Wildcats’ starters had two fouls, as did supersub Liggins. Ohio State was charged with only four fouls in the first 20 minutes, and no Buckeye had more than one.
OSU went ahead 16-9 on Sullinger’s dunk with 11:52 left in the half, but Kentucky responded by scoring 10 of the next 12 points to go ahead 19-18 on a basket by Harrellson. The underrated Harrellson later made a nifty move around Sullinger for a basket and a 21-20 lead. Harrellson had 12 first-half points and seven rebounds and Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, had 10 points and seven boards.
Kentucky got into foul trouble early. Only 3:09 into the game, forward Terrence Jones, averaging 16.1 points, picked up his second foul. Calipari immediately removed him and he didn’t re-enter the game until 4:49 was left in the half. And that was only because Knight had incurred his second foul.
Symbolic of Kentucky’s refusal to back down was one play on which Harrellson saved a Kentucky possession by leaping in the air and throwing the ball hard off Sullinger’s chest and out of bounds. Although the Wildcats didn’t convert the second chance into a basket, a message had been sent.
Sullinger got his second foul 2:57 into the second half, and Harrellson made both free throws to cut Ohio State’s lead to 36-35. After an unsuccessful Buckeyes possession, Doron Lamb’s three-pointer gave the Wildcats a 38-36 lead. Also during this time, the officials’ whistles began turning in Kentucky’s favor. OSU had four team fouls in the first 4:35 of the second half, as opposed to one for the Wildcats.
A Lamb three-pointer from the left corner with 12:03 to go regained the lead for Kentucky at 44-42. But Calipari was called for a technical with 11:28 left for protesting an out-of-bounds call that went against his team, and Diebler made one of two foul shots to cut the deficit to 44-43. Ohio State regained the lead at 45-44 on Sullinger’s dunk with 9:58 to go, but he missed the free throw and didn’t get a possible three-point play.
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