ATLANTA —Barry Brown Jr. darted into the lane, blowing by everybody in blue, and delivered a rare burst of offense just in the nick of time.
He wasn’t done, either.
As Kansas State celebrated yet another upset in the bracket-busting South, knocking out Kentucky’s’ latest group of fabulous freshmen, Brown leaped over the press table like Superman and waded into the arms of the purple-clad fans.
Xavier Sneed scored 22 points and Brown came through with the shot of the game, banking one in with his left hand before he sprawled out on the court to give gritty K-State a 61-58 victory over Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Thursday night.
“We knew they were going to try to block the shot with their length,” Brown said. “They were blocking shots all night. Once I got away from my guy, I just wanted to go to the basket.”
Demeaned by many pundits as the worst team still alive in the NCAA Tournament, ninth-seeded K-State got the last laugh against a program that holds eight national titles.
Next up: the regional final against No. 11 seed Loyola, which continued its stunning run in the tournament with a 69-68 victory over Nevada .
Yep, it’s 9 vs. 11 in the Elite Eight for the first time in tournament history, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Just the way it should be in a regional that became the first in NCAA history to have the top four seeds knocked out the very first weekend , including No. 1-ranked Virginia.
Sneed wasn’t around at the end — he was among three players from Kansas State (25-11) to foul out — but Brown seized the moment with 18 seconds remaining.
“He’s the guy you’ve got to go through. He can make plays,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “He missed a couple of them there down the stretch, but he made a big one at the end.”
Brown’s basket made it 60-58, but Kentucky still had a shot.
Two of them, in fact.
Quade Green put up an airball from beyond the arc and Kansas State rebounded, drawing a foul that sent Amaad Wainright to the line for two free throws. He made only one, giving Kentucky (26-11) one more chance to force overtime.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got a decent look at the basket. His shot rimmed out as the horn sounded .
“I just see a lot of grit, a lot of guys that love each other,” Brown said. “We play defense the right way and just play for each other.”
John Calipari was denied a shot at his fifth Final Four in nine seasons as Kentucky’s coach. Fears that his young players would “drink the poison” — the belief that they had an easy path to San Antonio thanks to all the upsets — turned out to be well founded.
“We didn’t play particularly well for us but still had a chance to win,” Calipari said. “The game was physical. … It kind of got us a little out of rhythm and it wears you down. I think Shai got a little worn down “
P.J. Washington led Kentucky with 18 points. Gilgeous-Alexander was just 2-of-10 shooting, scoring most of his 15 points at the foul line.
With a predominantly blue-clad crowd cheering on Kentucky at Philips Arena — yep, it was definitely “Cat-lanta” — Kansas State raced out to a 13-1 lead before the game was 4 minutes old.
Kentucky finally woke up, closing the gap to 33-29 by halftime. But both teams struggled offensively, and every time it looked like the perennial powerhouse might be on the verge of taking control, K-State had a response.
“We got great stops,” Weber said. “It was such a gutsy performance. Persistence. Relentless. We are playing with all little guys, everyone fouled out, and we kept battling and found a way to win.
Florida State 75, Gonzaga 60
LOS ANGELES —
Florida State’s upset run in the NCAA Tournament has stretched all the way to the brink of the Final Four.
Terance Mann scored 18 points and the ninth-seeded Seminoles advanced to the Elite Eight for just the third time in school history with a 75-60 victory over fourth-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday night in the West Region semifinal.
C.J. Walker and Braian Angola added nine points for the Seminoles (23-11), who knocked out a third straight higher-seeded opponent in a surprising run out West for a team that went 9-9 in ACC play and lost its conference tournament opener.
Coolly maintaining a lead down the stretch at Staples Center, Florida State ended Gonzaga’s 16-game winning streak and halted the pursuit of a second straight Final Four berth for last year’s tournament finalist.
“It’s not any time to start celebrating right now,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “These guys are working hard. We’ve worked hard all year. Not very many people think we have a chance to be where we are.”
Hamilton’s best postseason run in his 16 years at Florida State is extended to Saturday, when the Seminoles will face third-seeded Michigan for a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio. The Wolverines advanced with a 99-72 rout of Texas A&M.
Florida State followed up its stunning comeback against top-seeded Xavier last weekend with a steady, dominant second half against Gonzaga. The Seminoles jumped to a 13-point lead early in the second half and never let their margin dip below four, with Mann providing the biggest buckets along the way.
Rui Hachimura scored 16 points and Zach Norvell Jr. added 14 for the Zags (32-5), who hadn’t lost since Jan. 18. Already playing without injured forward Killian Tillie, the Zags struggled when forwards Johnathan Williams and Hachimura got into early foul trouble.
After a season of running away from West Coast Conference opponents, Gonzaga played from behind for much of the night at Staples Center, even trailing at halftime for only the sixth time all season.
The Zags fell behind by 13 early in the second half while the Seminoles defended the perimeter well and moved the ball fluidly. Florida State was even more dominant than usual around the rim, and Mann led a parade of scorers from all spots on the court.
Michigan 99, Texas A&M 72
LOS ANGELES — Michigan took all the drama out of this NCAA Tournament victory, burying Texas A&M under a barrage of 3-point shots.
After reaching the round of 16 with an improbable buzzer-beater, the Wolverines shot 62 percent from the floor and routed the Aggies 99-72 in the West Region semifinals on Thursday night to advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in six years.
Next up the Wolverines will face No. 9 seed Florida State on Saturday at Staples Center for a trip to the Final Four.
The Wolverines (31-7) dominated from start to finish, hitting 14 3-pointers — 10 in the first half when they led by 29 points — and extending their winning streak to 12 games.
“Felt like we ran into a buzz saw,” Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. “It seemed like everything they shot went in.”
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 24 points, Moe Wagner added 21 points and Charles Matthews had 18 points as third-seeded Michigan had five players in double figures.
“My shot went in early and it gives you the confidence to take the next one,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I think everyone had that confidence today.”
Abdur-Rahkman made four 3-pointers and both of his free throws, and had five rebounds and seven assists.
“This senior right here played his tail off in every single way,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.
The Wolverines were good in the first half and even better in the second. The rout was on by halftime with Michigan leading 52-28 after shooting 57 percent from the floor. In the second half, the Wolverines improved to 68 percent from the floor.
“It was kind of hard to see because I was just wondering when they were going to miss,” Aggies guard Admon Gilder said.
Michigan won its second-round game to reach the Sweet 16 on freshman Jordan Poole’s long 3 at the buzzer against Houston.
The Aggies (22-13) never made a run, going long stretches without a basket in the first half while Michigan was scoring on nearly every trip down the floor.
“We weren’t focused,” said freshman guard T.J. Starks, who had five turnovers. “We didn’t show up.”
Tyler Davis led the seventh-seeded Aggies with 24 points.
Having beaten defending national champion North Carolina by 21 points to get to Los Angeles, Texas A&M’s stay was short.
“That’s the nature of this game, the nature of this tournament,” Kennedy said. “You can be high one minute and low the next.”
The Aggies have yet to reach an Elite Eight, and Michigan made sure they never had a chance.
Poole hit the Wolverines’ first 3-pointer two minutes into the game. During one stretch, they made 3s on three consecutive possessions that extended their lead to 25-10 and had the predominantly Michigan crowd chanting, “Let’s go Blue!”
“Everywhere we go we have a huge fan base and it feels like a home game,” said Wagner, a junior from Germany.
Wagner connected on all three of his 3-point attempts, the first one coming on Abdur-Rahkman’s kickout from the paint, one of 21 assists for the Wolverines.
“We’ve been playing within ourselves all year and not looking at the opponent too much,” Wagner said. “We’ve been believing all year we can beat anyone if we play our best basketball.”
Michigan led by 29 points after an 8-0 run near the end of the first half. The Wolverines averaged nine 3-pointers per game coming in and exceeded that by the break.
Michigan held the Aggies to 12-of-32 shooting from the floor by double-teaming A&M and getting hands in shooters’ faces.
The Wolverines had 12 steals in the game, led by Zavier Simpson with a career-high six.
The Aggies committed 10 of their 14 turnovers in the first half.
They improved to 57 percent shooting in the second half, but it didn’t make any difference when the Aggies couldn’t come close to reducing their deficit.