There must be something about basketball teams from Kansas that Ohio State just doesn’t like. The Buckeyes had been beaten three times in the past two seasons by Kansas, including once in the NCAA Final Four last year. Saturday in Los Angeles the Buckeyes were knocked off again – this time by Wichita State.
The ninth seeded Shockers held off the Buckeyes 70-66 at the West Regional final of the NCAA Tournament, but only after nearly blowing a 20 point lead with eleven minutes remaining. WSU led 58-36 after a three pointer by Fred Van Vleet when the Buckeyes, trying to make their third straight Final Four, started their comeback.
OSU got within 62-59 after two free throws by Shannon Scott with 2:49 left, but the play of the game came seconds later when Tekele Cotton buried a long three pointer off a Van Vleet assist for a six point WSU lead. After a bucket by DeShaun Thomas, Van Vleet answered with another jumper and Ron Baker hit two free throws after a miss by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and the Shockers were up 69-61 with less than a minute remaining. Scott and Craft hit buckets surrounding one of two free throws by Cotton, but the Shockers got a pass inbounds against a press in the final seconds and, even though Cotton missed two free throws, the four point lead was too much to overcome.
Malcolm Armstead led the Shockers with 14 points, one of four WSU players in double figures. Cleanthony Early and Van Vleet each added 12 and Cotton ten. Ohio State shot just 31% overall and hit only 5-25 three pointers, one of their big downfalls all season. Thomas led the Buckeyes with 23 points. It’s the first Final Four for WSU since 1965 and the first 30 win season in school history.
They’ll have their work cut out for them in Atlanta next Saturday, though – the Shockers will meet the winner of Sunday’s Louisville-Duke Midwest Regional Final in Indianapolis. Syracuse won Saturday’s other Regional Final, beating Marquette 55-39 in the East. The Orangemen will face either Michigan or Florida next week.