Indiana’s season, the one that’s supposed to finish with confetti falling and nets coming down, was minutes from ending in shock and disappointment.
The Hoosiers were on the brink.
As the clock ticked down, coach Tom Crean wouldn’t allow himself to think about defeat, so his mind wandered elsewhere.
‘‘That’s when you just pray,’’ he said.
Victor Oladipo hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining and the top-seeded Hoosiers, unable to stop Temple star Khalif Wyatt for most of the game, shut him down in the final three minutes for a 58-52 win on Sunday in the East Regional in Dayton, Ohio.
Trailing by 4 with 2:56 left, the Hoosiers (29-6) closed with a 10-0 run and advanced to the round of 16 for the second straight year. After stopping to tell Temple’s players they’re as good as any Big Ten team, Crean, his red tie askew and his hair messed, was overcome by emotion.
‘‘That,’’ he said, ‘‘was relief.’’
Indiana, with its sights set on a sixth national championship, will play No. 4 seed Syracuse in the regional semifinals Thursday in Washington, a rematch of the classic 1987 title game won by the Hoosiers.
Wyatt scored 31 points to lead the Owls (24-10), who for 37 minutes gave top-seeded Indiana all it could handle before collapsing when it mattered most.
‘‘We competed really hard,’’ Wyatt said. ‘‘We battled. A couple plays here and there, we win. It was just a tough battled game, and they came out on top.’’
Oladipo, who drew the assignment of chasing Wyatt around the floor and needed plenty of help from his teammates, scored 16 and Cody Zeller added 15 for the Hoosiers, the regular-season Big Ten champs.
‘‘If they were in our league, they’d be fighting for a championship, too,’’ Crean said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. They’re that good.’’
After Oladipo’s long three put the Hoosiers up, 56-52, Indiana had to buckle down on Wyatt, the Atlantic 10’s Player of the Year. Wyatt was way off with a 3-pointer from the right wing with six seconds left and Indiana’s Christian Watford grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Kansas 70, North Carolina 58 — Behind the impassioned play of Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, the top-seeded Jayhawks shook themselves out of a first-half slumber and blitzed the No. 8 seed Tar Heels down the stretch to win in Kansas City, Mo.
‘‘We played miserably the first half and they took us out of everything,’’ said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team trailed the Tar Heels, 30-21, at the break. ‘‘The second half, we played really, really well.’’
Withey had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Releford finished with 22 points for the Jayhawks (31-5), who had previously knocked former coach Roy Williams’s team out of the NCAA Tournament during their 2008 title run and again last season, when Kansas marched all the way to the Final Four. It’ll keep marching this year thanks to a superb second half.
North Carolina (25-11) harassed the Jayhawks into a dozen turnovers and one of their worst shooting performances of the season in taking its 9-point halftime lead. But they buckled in the second half as Kansas, playing just 40 miles from its campus in Lawrence, turned up the pressure.
P.J. Hairston scored 15 points and James Michael McAdoo finished with 11 for Carolina.
Florida 78, Minnesota 64 — Mike Rosario scored 25 points and the Gators used an overpowering first half to roll past the Golden Gophers in Austin, Texas, and into the round of 16 for the third consecutive year.
Third-seeded Florida (28-7) shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half and led by 21 by halftime.
The win earns Florida a return trip to the Lone Star State to play its next game against upstart Florida Gulf Coast at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Andre Hollins scored 25 points to lead 11th-seeded Minnesota (21-13). Hollins’s 3-point shooting sparked a second-half rally that pulled Minnesota within 7 points, but Rosario’s sixth 3-pointer with three minutes left pushed the Gators’ lead back to 16 and effectively locked up the win.
Defensively, the Gators denied just about everything the Gophers tried in the first half.
Florida tied up Gophers shooters at the perimeter, challenged layups, and blocked a dunk when Casey Prather stuffed Minnesota’s muscular Trevor Mbakwe in a clear statement that Florida would be as tough as anything the Gophers faced in the Big Ten.
Offensively, it seemed like Florida shooters couldn’t miss. Rosario made four 3-pointers and Erik Murphy delivered a dagger when he buried one from the right corner to put Florida up by 22 with five minutes left in the half. Continued...