Pitt survives another scare
BOSTON ” 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 Fields made the go-ahead shot. The star point guard followed by poking the ball away from B.J. Raymond and going in for a 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 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.
The Panthers play Villanova on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four. The Wildcats beat Pitt 67-57 on Jan. 28 in Philadelphia in a game in which Blair was hampered by foul trouble.
Fourth-seeded Xavier (27-8) was led by Raymond with 15 points and Derrick Brown with 14.
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.
Villanova 77, Duke 54
BOSTON ” 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.
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.
Villanova (29-7) will play Big East rival and No. 1 seed Pittsburgh (31-4) on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four. The Wildcats beat Pitt 67-57 in their regular-season meeting at Philadelphia on Jan. 28.
“When coach handed us the brackets, he only gave us the four teams in our area. We looked up and knew Pittsburgh was in that area,” Cunningham said. “That’s something we kind of looked forward to.”
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.
Villanova (29-7) fell behind 5-0, then scored the next 11 points and never trailed again.
It was Villanova’s 14th NCAA victory over a higher-seeded team ” the most in tournament history.
“Hopefully that will be some magical power that helps us beat Pitt,” Wildcats guard Scottie Reynolds said.
Connecticut 72, Purdue 60
GLENDALE, Ariz. ” Hasheem Thabeet scored 15 points, had 15 rebounds and blocked four shots as top-seeded Connecticut overcame a sluggish first half and beat Purdue in the West Regional semifinals.
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.
Connecticut will play Missouri on Saturday.
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. Craig Austrie added 17 points for the Huskies.
Missouri 102, Memphis 91
GLENDALE, Ariz. ” J.T. Tiller scored a career-high 23 points and third-seeded Missouri moved within one win of its first trip to the Final Four.
Mizzou (31-6) led by 24 points early in the second half before Memphis rallied within six with 2:14 left. Tiller, the co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12, averaged only eight points a game this season.
“We came out and kind of took the fight to Memphis early on, and before you know it, our guys had a little confidence,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Dynamic point guard Tyreke Evans scored 33 for second-seeded Memphis (33-4), which had won 27 in a row. The 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.