MEMPHIS, Tenn., — Sporting Alert — Top seed North Carolina and surprised package South Carolina both secured passages into the NCAA Tournament Final Four on Sunday.
The two programs joined Gonzaga and Oregon in the tournament’s last four after the Bulldogs and Ducks booked places on Saturday night.
MAYE WINS IT LATE FOR NORH CAROLINA
On Sunday night in the South Regional Final, ACC regular season champion North Carolina defeated Kentucky 75-73 on a dramatic shot from Luke Maye with 0.3 seconds left.
Two late 3-pointers from Malik Monk and one from fellow freshman standout De’Aaron Fox pulled the scores even at 73 with 7.2 seconds left.
However, with the game heading for overtime, Theo Pinson drove towards the basket and then picked out Maye, who hit a jumper with a defender in his face to seal the win for the Tar Heels (31-7), who are heading to back-to-back Final Four and the program’s 20th national semifinal.
“I just kind of stepped back, and he gave me the ball and I just shot it, and luckily it went in,” said Maye, who scored a career-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting with two 3-pointers.
“It was a great feeling.”
Justin Jackson, who had an off night shooting the ball, led the way for North Carolina with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Joel Berry finished with 11 points for North Carolina, which went just 3-for-15 from 3-pointers.
Berry, who sprained his ankle during the game and also hurt the other one during practice on Saturday, was 0-for-5 from long-range.
The Tar Heels ended the contest with a 16-9 run to setup the win.
Edrice Adebayo led Kentucky with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Fox added 13 points for the Wildcats (32-6), who trailed 38-33 at halftime.
Monk and Isaac Humphries each scored 12 points and Dominique Hawkins finished with 10 points for the second-seeded Kentucky, which missed out on the Final Four for the second straight year.
“That shot is just playing back and forth in my head,” Fox said. “It’s going to be difficult to get over.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari added: “I probably should have called time out.
“It entered my mind, but they got that son of a B in so quick, I couldn’t get to anybody to do it. I needed to stop that right there.”
The win for North Carolina sees coach Roy Williams heading to the Final Four for the fifth time in 14 seasons with the Tar Heels, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Overall, Williams, who improved to 9-4 in regional finals overall and 5-3 at North Carolina, will be making his ninth NCAA Final Four appearance after going four times during his 15 seasons as head coach with the Kansas Jayhawks.
North Carolina will now play Oregon for a place in the national championships game, while Kentucky is preparing for yet another one-and-done breakup, as several of its freshmen are heading to the NBA draft.
NO. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA 77, NO. 4 FLORIDA 70
In the earlier Elite Eight game on Sunday afternoon, March Madness surprised package South Carolina continued its thrilling run at the NCAA Tournament after beating Florida 77-70 in the East Regional Final.
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final seven minutes to lead the way for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10), who beat No. 2 seed Duke and No. 3 Baylor on the way to the Elite Eight.
Thornwell also grabbed seven rebounds and picked up a pair of steals in the win, as South Carolina are heading to the Final Four for the first time at Glendale, Arizona.
“Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays,” Thornwell said.
PJ Dozier added 17 points and Chris Silva had 13 points and nine rebounds and Maik Kotsar scored 12 points for South Carolina, which shot 49.1 percent and outrebounded Florida 31-24.
Justin Leon had 18 points and six rebounds for the Gators (27-9), while KeVaughn Allen added 13 points and Kasey Hill finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals for Florida, which led 40-33 at halftime, but was outscored 44-30 in the second half.
“Thornwell was just being Thornwell,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He’s one of the best players in the country.”
Meanwhile, South Carolina will meet top seed Gonzaga in the Final Four on Saturday.