ATLANTA —There were two upsets Thursday in the NCAA tournament:with a win over Nevada and Kansas State overtook Kentucky 68-51. It’s the first time a No. 9 seed (Kansas State) will face a No. 11 seed (Loyola) in the Elite Eight.
Loyola beats Nevada 69-68, continues improbable NCAA run
With Loyola-Chicago’s captivating NCAA Tournament run hanging in the balance, it was Marques Townes’ turn to deliver another memorable finish.
Townes had scored only a combined 15 points in Loyola’s first two NCAA Tournament games, but that didn’t concern Ramblers coach Porter Moser. Townes had the ball in front of the Loyola bench in the final seconds Thursday night and the shot clock about to expire.
With Loyola clinging to a one-point lead and only 6.3 seconds remaining, Townes nailed the decisive 3-pointer to help clinch a 69-68 win over Nevada in the NCAA South Regional semifinal.
“He was a warrior,” Moser said.
Townes, who had 18 points, charged down the court, pumping his fist, following the shot.
“I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life,” Townes said. “I mean, it doesn’t really get any better than that.”
Following a timeout, Nevada’s Caleb Martin answered with a 3, but this time the Wolf Pack couldn’t extend their string of second-half comebacks in the tournament.
“Got to give so much credit to Nevada, they never quit,” Moser said. “Those guys keep coming at you, coming at you. … I was blessed we made a couple of plays at the end, got a couple of stops.”
The win leaves the No. 11th-seeded Ramblers, the biggest surprise in a regional that has lost its top four seeds, one victory from a Final Four appearance. Loyola (31-5), which has won three tournament games by a combined four points, awaits the winner of the Kansas State-Kentucky game in Saturday’s regional final.
Not bad for a program that hadn’t been in the Sweet 16 in 33 years.
On a team that shares the spotlight, this was Townes’ moment. He made each of his two 3s and led Loyola with five assists. He said he was fine after banging knees with Nevada’s Jordan Caroline at the end of the game.
“I think Marques Townes is the best player on the court tonight,” said Loyola guard Clayton Custer. “I don’t even think it was close, either. … This is unbelievable. Feels like a dream.”
Martin led Nevada (29-8) with 21 points. Twin brother Cody Martin had 16. Jordan Carolina added 19.
“We get a stop on the 3 they shot at the buzzer and maybe we’re sitting up here with a win,” said Nevada coach Eric Musselman.
Caleb Martin bemoaned his missed defensive opportunity before Townes’ big 3.
“I should have denied the catch,” Martin said of Loyola’s pass to Townes. “I just got lost and it was costly.”
Loyola trailed by 12 points, at 20-8, midway through the first half but stormed back to lead 28-24 at halftime. Loyola closed the half with a 20-4 run as Nevada didn’t score in the final 7:55 before the break.
Loyola pushed the ball in the paint on almost every possession. The Ramblers’ first 10 points came on layups.
Loyola’s relentless attack on the basket continued as it stretched its lead, one layup at a time, in the second half.
Gritty K-State delivers another upset, 61-58 over Kentucky
Kentucky’s latest group of fabulous freshman is all done.
Gritty Kansas State made sure of that Thursday night.
Demeaned by many pundits as the worst team still alive in the NCAA Tournament, ninth-seeded K-State got 22 points from Xavier Sneed and gave the South Regional one more upset with a 61-58 semifinal victory over Kentucky.
Next up in the bracket-busting South: the regional final against No. 11 seed Loyola, which continued its stunning run in the tournament with a 69-68 victory over Nevada.
Yep, its 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 on very first weekend, including No. 1-ranked Virginia.
Sneed wasn’t around at the end – he was among three Kansas State players who fouled out – but Barry Brown Jr. came through with the shot of the game to seat it for the Big 12 school.
Brown darted into the lane with the shot clock running down, seemingly blowing by every Kentucky player to get to the basket, and banked one in with 18 seconds remaining to put K-State up 60-58.
Kentucky’s 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 that could’ve sealed it. He made only one, giving Kentucky one more chance to force overtime.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got a decent look at the basket, but his shot rimmed out as the horn sounded.
Brown wasn’t done. In the raucous celebration, he leaped over the press table like Superman and sprinted into the arms of the purple-clad Kansas State fan section.
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.