Saturday, March 26, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 62, Ohio St. 60
By Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- A quick take on Kentucky's thrilling 62-60 win over Ohio State on Friday night at the Prudential Center:
What It Means: Kentucky (28-8), the No. 4 seed, stuns No. 1 Ohio State (34-3) in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament's East Regional. It's the sixth time these two teams have faced each other in the Big Dance -- and the first time the Wildcats have won. It's Kentucky's second consecutive Elite Eight appearance, as it attempts to make its first Final Four since 1998.
The Buckeyes -- the top seed in the entire tournament -- are eliminated in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, after winning their first two games in this tournament by a combined 61 points.
The Final Sequence: In as tight a second half as you'll ever see, Kentucky led Ohio State 60-57 in the final minute, when Jon Diebler drained a clutch 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key with 21.2 seconds remaining, to tie it up. But then UK's freshman point guard, Brandon Knight -- who also hit a winner in the first round against Princeton -- nailed a jumper with 5.4 seconds remaining for another winner. Ohio State's last-gasp jumper was off the mark.
The Skinny: It was a see-saw first half, with OSU jumping out to a 16-9 lead. Kentucky returned the favor and led by as many as three, 23-20. Overall there were five ties and seven lead changes in the first 20 minutes -- and at the end of it all, we were all tied up at 30. Senior Josh Harrellson led the Wildcats with 12 points and seven rebounds before intermission; Jared Sullinger had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Buckeyes. Ohio State shot just 8-for-26 (30.8 percent) in the first half, but was 12-for-15 from the foul line. Kentucky had five first-half blocked shots.
In the second half, Ohio State's biggest lead was four, 36-32 less than two minutes in. Kentucky's biggest lead was three. And they won it by two, on Knight's second "one shining moment" of this tournament.
Star Watch: Kentucky's trio of top-notch freshman struggled, but Harrellson (17 points, 10 rebounds) and reserve junior DeAndre Liggins (15 points) came up huge for John Calipari. Ohio State super-frosh Sullinger finished his freshman year, and likely his college career, with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Number Crunch: Ohio State came in No. 2 in the country in field-goal shooting (49.9 percent) -- but the Buckeyes shot just 32.8 percent on Friday night (19-for-58), thanks at least in part to UK's swarming defense. Kentucky, third in the nation in blocked shots (6.3 per game) had 11 against Ohio State.
What's Next: Kentucky will play No. 2 seed North Carolina on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. It'll be a battle of the two programs with the most Elite Eight appearances (UNC 18, UK 17). Meanwhile, Ohio State flies home to Columbus -- its season is over.