The Associated Press
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock scored 15 points apiece and North Carolina held on to beat Maryland 79-76 on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
P.J. Hairston scored 13 points despite a heavily wrapped and injured left (non-shooting) hand for the third-seeded Tar Heels (24-9), but his missed free throw with 16 seconds left gave Maryland a chance to force overtime.
The Terps called time out with 10.9 seconds left, and Logan Aronhalt took the inbounds pass and immediately launched an off-balance 30-foot airball.
Bullock snatched the ball and passed to Hairston, who was all alone near midcourt, and the Tar Heels ran out the clock to clinch their league-record 32nd appearance in the title game.
Next up: a meeting with No. 9 Miami, the tournament’s top seed, on Sunday with North Carolina’s 18th league tournament title on the line. The Hurricanes’ regular-season sweep included a humiliating 26-point win last month at Miami.
Alex Len had 20 points to lead seventh-seeded Maryland (22-12), which knocked off No. 2 Duke less than 24 hours earlier in the quarterfinals and nearly pulled off another upset.
The Terrapins trailed by 10 with just over 7 minutes left before rallying to make things tight down the stretch.
But every time they got too close, North Carolina had an answer.
Twice in the final 3 minutes, freshman guard Marcus Paige followed a Maryland basket by hitting a clutch shot of his own.
His jumper with 2:49 left came after Len cut the Tar Heels’ lead to 71-70. And after Dez Wells hit a layup to pull the Terps to 75-72 with 1:08 left, Paige drove the baseline for a pretty layup that put North Carolina back up by five with 36.5 seconds left.
He and Wells traded free throws in a 3-second span, and Aronhalt’s stickback with 17.3 seconds left pulled Maryland to 78-76. Hairston then hit 1 of 2 free throws 1.3 seconds later.
Big man James Michael McAdoo also finished with 13 points for the Tar Heels, who improved to 8-2 since inserting Hairston in the starting lineup and playing with four guards.
Their only losses in that span came to a Duke team that had already been knocked out of the tournament by these Terrapins.
Nick Faust added 17 points with five 3-pointers for Maryland while Wells — the Xavier transfer who emerged as a leading tournament MVP candidate while averaging 25.5 points in wins over Wake Forest and Duke — finished with 15 on 6-of-15 shooting.
Miami 81, North Carolina State 71
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Durand Scott scored a career-high 32 points to help No. 9 Miami beat North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals, earning its first trip to the championship game.
Shane Larkin added 23 for the top-seeded Hurricanes (26-6), who led the entire way and by 19 points late in the first half. Miami shot 46 percent behind Scott, a senior guard who went 12-for-18 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
Scott also had a couple of big shots that shut down comeback bids from the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-10), who got as close as six after halftime but couldn’t dig out of that big hole.
Miami also controlled the boards to score 18 second-chance points to go with 15 points off turnovers.
Now the Hurricanes can turn their attention to adding a tournament title to go with their first regular-season crown in today’s final.
BIG 12 Kansas 70, Kansas State 54
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas wasn’t about to share this title with Kansas State.
Jeff Withey had 17 points and nine rebounds, Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe added 12 points each, and the seventh-ranked Jayhawks pounded the No. 11 Wildcats 70-54 on Saturday night to win their ninth Big 12 tournament championship.
The top-seeded Jayhawks (29-5), who shared the regular-season title with their in-state rival, took a 24-16 lead at halftime and then slowly stretched it in the second half.
The Wildcats (27-7) struggled to match Withey and Ellis in the paint, losing for the third time this season to the Jayhawks and for the 47th time in their last 50 meetings.
Rodney McGruder scored 18 points despite a poor first half, and Angel Rodriguez had 10 for Kansas State, which still has not won a conference tournament in more than 30 years.
BIG EAST Louisville 78, Syracuse 61
NEW YORK -- Peyton Siva had 11 points and eight assists to lead No. 4 Louisville to a 78-61 victory over No. 19 Syracuse on Saturday night, giving the Cardinals their second straight Big East tournament title.
The Cardinals got their third title by overcoming a 16-point deficit in the second half -- almost double the previous record in a championship game -- and they kept pouring it on once they got the lead, going ahead by as many as 18 points.
Second-seeded Louisville (29-5) -- along with Georgetown and Marquette the tri-champions of the regular season -- won its 10th straight game with its defense, forcing Syracuse into 20 turnovers and keeping the Orange off balance during the 24-3 run that turned the 16-point deficit into a 56-48 lead with 8:51 to play.
Montrezl Harrell led Louisville with 20 points.
BIG TEN Ohio State 61, Michigan State 58
CHICAGO — Aaron Craft came on strong in the second half to finish with 20 points and lead No. 10 Ohio State past No. 8 Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Craft keyed a seven-point spurt midway through the second half that stretched the lead to eight at 55-47, and the Buckeyes (25-7) came away with the win after the Spartans (25-8) pulled within one. The victory avenged a loss in last year’s championship game
It was 57-56 after Derrick Nix converted a three-point play for Michigan State with 1:54 remaining, but Craft hit a free throw. Thomas grabbed a huge rebound off a missed 3 by Shannon Scott to keep the possession going and scored in the paint after a timeout to make it a four-point game, sending the Buckeyes back to the conference final.
They’ll go for their third championship in four years when they meet No. 22 Wisconsin, a 68-56 winner over top-seeded and third-ranked Indiana in the other semifinal.
Craft scored all but two of his points in the second half. He also had nine assists and four steals in the game.
Thomas scored 16 even though he hit just 6 of 19 shots — 2 of 11 3-pointers.
Nix led Michigan State with 17 points and nine rebounds. Keith Appling scored 16 points, but the Spartans came up short in this one.
In a game that was neck-and-neck for about the first 29 minutes, Craft gave Ohio State some breathing room when he scored on a layup and a pair of jumpers to cap a seven-point spurt and make it 55-47 with 7:22 remaining.
Michigan State hung in, and things got real interesting when Nix converted that three-point play with 1:54 left.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Nix was a handful right from the start. He dominated down low with 10 points in the first half as Michigan State grabbed a 29-28 lead.
Appling hit two 3-pointers and scored eight in the half.
Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, had 11 points in the first 20 minutes but was just 4 of 13. There weren’t many fouls called in the first half, either, with Ohio State attempting just two free throws and Michigan State not even getting to the line in the half.
SEC Florida 61, Alabama 51
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kenny Boynton scored 11 straight points during a 15-0 second-half run as No. 13 Florida rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit to beat Alabama in a Southeastern Conference tournament semifinal.
The top-seeded Gators (26-6) advanced to Sunday’s championship game against either Mississippi or Vanderbilt. Alabama (21-12), the tournament’s No. 4 seed, will spend Sunday waiting to learn its fate from the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Held scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the game, Boynton finished with a game-high 16 points. Patric Young had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Gators. Mike Rosario added 10 points.
Mississippi 64, Vanderbilt 52
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marshall Henderson scored 23 points as Mississippi beat Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals, putting the Rebels just one more win away from making sure their NCAA tournament berth is automatic.
The third-seeded Rebels (25-8) came here needing wins to sharpen their postseason resume. Now they will play No. 13 Florida, a 61-51 winner over Alabama, in Sunday’s championship game where the winner advances to the NCAA tournament.
Reginald Buckner also had 15 points, and Murphy Holloway added 12 for Ole Miss. The Rebels now have won six of seven to reach the championship game for the first time since 2001. Another win would give coach Andy Kennedy his first NCAA berth and the Rebels’ first since 2002.
No. 10 seeded Vanderbilt (16-17) lost for only the second time in eight games. Kedren Johnson had a team-high 12 points.
ATLANTIC 10 Saint Louis 67, Butler 56
NEW YORK — Dwayne Evans nearly set a career high in points for the second straight game, and No. 16 Saint Louis’ defense locked down Butler in the second half for a win to reach the Billikens’ first Atlantic 10 title game.
Evans had 24 points and 11 rebounds a day after going for 25 and nine in the quarterfinals against Charlotte.
Top-seeded Saint Louis beat the Bulldogs for the third time this season. Butler may be the bigger name, but the Billikens have been the class of the A-10 in 2013.
The Billikens (26-6) held Butler without a field goal for almost seven minutes midway through the second half to pull away. Meanwhile, Evans went to work inside, showing off his post moves at 6-foot-5 or earning free throws to put the Bulldogs (26-8) in foul trouble.
VCU 71, UMass 62
NEW YORK— Troy Daniels made six 3-pointers to score 20 points, and No. 25 VCU advanced to the Atlantic 10 tournament title game in its first season in the conference with awin over UMass.
The Rams will face top-seeded Saint Louis on Sunday in a matchup of the league’s top two teams during the regular season. The Billikens won 76-62 at home in their one meeting Feb. 19.
VCU (26-7) forced 24 turnovers to hold off a pesky Minutemen team that upset Temple in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Rob Brandenberg’s 3-pointer as the shot clock expired finally gave the Rams some breathing room, putting them up 68-61 with a minute-and-a-half left.
Juvonte Reddic added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Chaz Williams ended his A-10 tournament run back home in Brooklyn with 62 points in three games for sixth-seeded UMass (21-11). He scored 18 on 7-of-12 shooting Saturday.
CONFERENCE USA Memphis 91, Southern Miss 79
TULSA, Okla. — Chris Crawford scored 23 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer in double overtime, and No. 20 Memphis beat Southern Miss to win its seventh Conference USA tournament title in the past eight years.
Crawford, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the top-seeded Tigers (30-4) up 78-76 with 2:44 remaining. He also had a jumper and a pair of free throws in a 9-0 run by Memphis soon after that finally put the game away.
Daveon Boardingham scored 19 points and Jonathan Mills had 15 points and 17 rebounds for second-seeded Southern Miss (25-9), which nearly clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, the Golden Eagles must hope to get their second straight at-large bid on Sunday.
AMERICA EAST Albany 53, Vermont 49
BURLINGTON, Vt. — Mike Black scored 14 points and Albany came back from an early deficit to beat Vermont in the America East championship game and earn its third trip to the NCAA tournament.
Luke Devlin added 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting as the Great Danes (24-10) ended an eight-game losing streak to the Catamounts (21-11). Jacob Iati hit a pair of 3-point shots in the final three minutes to seal the win.
MOUNTAIN WEST New Mexico 63, UNLV 56
LAS VEGAS — Tony Snell scored 13 straight points for New Mexico during a second-half run as the No. 15 Lobos pulled away late Saturday to beat UNLVand add the Mountain West tournament title to their regular season crown.
Snell carried New Mexico (29-5) down the stretch, making three 3-pointers and adding a pair of field goals as the Lobos took over in the last 8 minutes of the game.