Night Court: Kentucky, Michigan, MSU and UConn prevail
A recap of Friday night's regional semifinal action in the 2013-14 NCAA Tournament.
Michigan 73, Tennessee 71: Michigan (28-8) held on for dear life against Tennessee (24-13) in what turned out to be one of the thrilling games of the 2014 NCAA Tournament to date, scoring at will in the first half but needing to hang on in the second as the Vols took it down to the wire. A questionable offensive foul call on UT's Jarnell Stokes with six seconds to play prevented the Volunteers, down 72-71, from getting a chance to pull ahead and potentially spring the upset. After Nik Stauskas buried one of two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining, a desperation UT heave at the buzzer was off the mark.
The Wolverines shot a blistering 61.5 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, including 77.8 percent from three-point range, to take a 45-34 halftime lead, an advantage that swelled to 15 before Tennessee scratched and clawed to make the final minutes interesting. The Vols used a 26-12 run to cut the lead to one with 10.8 seconds to play, but could get no closer.
For Michigan, the win means the program's first repeat Elite Eight appearances since the "Fab Five" era of 1992-94.
Four players reached double-figures for the Wolverines, including Jordan Morgan with a team-high 15. Tennessee guard Jordan McRae ended his collegiate career with a 24-point, six-rebound night.
Star forward Mitch McGary, who hasn't played since December due to a back injury, suited up for the game but did not play.
Kentucky will now stand between the Wolverines and back-to-back Final Four appearances. -- Tony Moss.
Connecticut 81, Iowa State 76: A pretty good -- but not great -- game here at the Garden. The star? Not Shabazz Napier. Not DeAndre Kane. Not Melvin Ejim. It was junior forward DeAndre Daniels who came up huge for the 29-8 Huskies, who had the biggest game of his season. Daniels hit big shot after big shot to pace UConn ahead of ISU for most of the game. He finished with 26 points. Daniels' play wound up being vital in the second half, as ISU made a charge in large part to Dustin Hogue's career-high 34 points.
UConn (29-8) hit nine 3-pointers, seven of which game in the second half. Napier, who had 19 points, started the game 4 for 4 from 3. ISU made its charge, but the Cyclones were playing without star forward Georges Niang, who broke his foot during the Round of 64 last weekend. That loss ended up being pivotal in this matchup. UConn won on its shots, but it also held its own down low -- and was responsible for only 15 fouls.
Iowa State (28-8) ends its season with the first Sweet 16 trip of Fred Hoiberg's coaching career.
The Huskies will play in Sunday's regional final against the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 4 Michigan State. -- Matt Norlander
Kentucky 74, Louisville 69: In a hotly anticipated game that lived up to its billing, Kentucky (27-10) knocked out defending national champion and bitter in-state rival Louisville (31-6), trailing most of the game only to recover when it mattered and advance to its first Elite Eight since winning it all in 2012. The Wildcats overcame an early blow suffered when forward and key reserve Willie Cauley-Stein left with an ankle injury and did not return. Foul trouble throughout the night for second-leading UK scorer James Young did not help matters either -- Young (9 points) picked up his fifth foul with 5:32 to play. But in what might have been his final game as a collegian had UK not prevailed, All-American Julius Randle had another double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) to extend the run for John Calipari's team, which also handed Rick Pitino his first loss in 12 Sweet 16 matchups all-time. A huge 3-pointer by Aaron Harrison late also helped immensely.
Louisville fell despite the best game of this tournament for guard Russ Smith, who scored 15 of his 23 points in the the first half to lead the Cardinals, as his fine collegiate career came to an end. -- Tony Moss
Michigan State 61, Virginia 59: The fourth-seeded Michigan State Spartans were favorites to beat the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers -- and Tom Izzo's crew prevailed, meaning we will have Michigan State against Connecticut in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
Michigan State jumped out to an early lead, but after Virginia responded with a 12-0 run, it was a back and forth battle for the rest of the game. Both defenses were fantastic, with Virginia's pack-line style stifling Michigan State, and the Spartans contesting every Virginia shot. The difference ended up being the Michigan State inside duo of Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. With both on the court together, there were too many matchup issues for Virginia, especially around the rim and on the offensive glass. They combined for 40 points and 15 rebounds.
Virginia got 17 points apiece from Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon, but the Cavaliers didn't get enough inside production and only shot 35.1 percent from the field. Life simply wasn't easy on the offensive end for Tony Bennett's team.
Michigan State advances to play Connecticut in the Elite Eight -- where the combo of Payne and Dawson could again be a huge factor. -- Jeff Borzello
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