KANSAS CITY, Mo. — John Giannini kept calling timeouts as La Salles big lead kept slipping away, an 18-point halftime advantage wiped out by fourth-ranked Kansas States frantic comeback.
The coachs message every time was simple: Keep playing defense.
The Explorers finally answered his challenge.
Jerrell Wright made three foul shots in the final 30 seconds, and the No. 13 seed from the Atlantic 10 buckled down on defense in the closing minutes, allowing the Explorers to polish off a 63-61 upset win Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Every timeout, every time we came in, he was riding us on defense, said Ramon Galloway, who played two seasons with USC and finished with 19 points for La Salle. We had a good margin, and they came back and actually took the lead. We had to stick together, dig down deep and get some stops.
The Wildcats trailed 44-26 at halftime, but didnt make another field goal after Jordan Henriquezs layup with 4:54 remaining in the game. In fact, Kansas State managed one more point a free throw by the 7-footer with 2:25 left on the clock the rest of the way.
That gave the Explorers (22-9) the window they needed.
Wright, who scored a game-high 21 points, made his first two clutch free throws to give La Salle a 62-61 lead with 30 seconds left. Henriquez missed in the paint at the other end, and then Wright made the first of two more foul shots with 9.6 seconds to go.
The Wildcats (27-8) raced down court, looking for a tying basket, but guard Angel Rodriguez got hung up in the corner near the Kansas State bench. His off-balance shot over the corner of the backboard missed everything.
Next for La Salle is 12th-seeded Mississippi, which knocked off No. 5 seed Wisconsin in a shredded West Region.
MISSISSIPPI 57, WISCONSIN 46
At Kansas City, Mo., Marshall Henderson shook out of a shooting slump and scored 17 points in the second half, giving Ole Miss (27-8) its first NCAA tournament win since 2002.
For the cold-shooting Badgers (23-12), the upset loss snaps a string of six straight first-game wins.
OHIO STATE 95, IONA 70
At Dayton, Ohio, Sam Thompson had career highs with 20 points and 10 rebounds as Ohio State whipped Iona (20-14).
The second-seeded Buckeyes (27-7) have won nine straight.
NORTH CAROLINA 78, VILLANOVA 71
At Kansas City, Mo., P.J. Hairston scored 23 points, James Michael McAdoo added 17 and North Carolina (25-10) unleashed a flurry of 3-pointers.
The never-say-die Wildcats (20-14) erased a 20-point deficit that North Carolina built in the first half and then nearly climbed out of a nine-point hole in the final minutes after the Tar Heels hit three consecutive 3s and once again appeared to take control.
FLORIDA 79, NORTHWESTERN STATE 47
At Austin, Texas, Erik Murphy had 18 points to lead four Florida players in double figures.
No. 3 seed Florida (27-7) turned this one into a rout with a 19-1 run in the second half and held the 14th-seeded Demons (23-9) to their fewest points this season 34 below their average.
INDIANA 83, JAMES MADISON 62
At Dayton, Ohio, freshman Yogi Ferrell scored 14 points in the first six minutes as top-seeded Indiana slam dunked its way past James Madison.
The Hoosiers (28-6) built a 33-point lead in the second half over the Dukes (21-15).
TEMPLE 76, N.C. STATE 72
At Dayton, Ohio, Khalif Wyatt scored 31 points to help Temple (24-9).
No. 8 NC State (24-11) trailed most of the game.
MIAMI 78, PACIFIC 49
At Austin, Texas, Durand Scott had 21 points, and Miami (28-6) had a triumphant return to the NCAA tournament.
Pacific (22-13) was no match for the ACCs regular season and tournament champions.
ILLINOIS 57, COLORADO 49
At Austin, Texas, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson made consecutive 3-pointers to give Illinois back the lead with 6 minutes left, and the seventh-seeded Illini (23-12) pulled out a tough win.
Askia Booker scored 14 for Colorado (21-12).
DUKE 73, ALBANY 61
At Philadelphia, Seth Curry scored 26 points, Mason Plumlee had 23 and second-seeded Duke (28-5) beat Albany.
The Blue Devils never really pulled away from the Great Danes (24-11), who got as close as eight points with 4:40 to play.
CREIGHTON 67, CINCINNATI 63
At Philadelphia, Doug McDermott had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Gregory Echenique scored 13 points to help Creighton (28-7) hold on.
Kilpatrick scored 19 points for the 10th-seeded Bearcats (22-12).