LOS ANGELES — Wichita State is headed to the Final Four, and these Shockers should be no surprise to anybody.
Not after the way they held off mighty Ohio State in the West Regional final.
Malcolm Armstead scored 14 points, Fred Van Vleet bounced in a big basket with 1 minute left, and ninth-seeded Wichita State earned its first trip to the Final Four since 1965 with a 70-66 victory over Ohio State on Saturday.
Van Vleet scored 12 points as the Shockers followed last week’s win over top-ranked Gonzaga with a nail-biting victory over the second-seeded Buckeyes, whose 11-game winning streak ended one game short of their second straight Final Four.
Wichita State roared to a 20-point lead with 11 minutes to play after Ohio State played an awful first half, but LaQuinton Ross scored 15 of his 19 points after halftime, leading a ferocious rally to pull within three points in the final minutes.
But after Tekele Cotton hit a 3-pointer with 2:20 left, VanVleet scored on a shot that bounced all over the rim before dropping. Ron Baker and Cotton hit last-minute free throws to secure the second Final Four trip in Wichita State’s history.
SYRACUSE 55, MARQUETTE 39
At Washington, when played to perfection, there’s nothing quite like Syracuse’s aggressive, half-court 2-3 zone defense. It’s 40 minutes of trapping and shot-challenging, of closing off angles, of trusting teammates.
With a second suffocating performance at the East Regional, No. 4- seeded Syracuse shut down No. 3 Marquette to earn coach Jim Boeheim his fourth trip to the Final Four — and first since Carmelo Anthony helped win the 2003 NCAA title.
Fittingly, a matchup between schools from the soon-to-break-apart, rough-and-tumble Big East became a struggle on the offensive end. Syracuse was led by senior forward James Southerland’s 16 points. Michael Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6 guard who is out front in the zone, was named the regional’s top player after accounting for 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals and one turnover Saturday.
Marquette hadn’t scored fewer than 47 points all season — and put up 74 in a victory over Syracuse on Feb. 25.
UCLA hires Alford
Steve Alford was hired as UCLA’s coach, spurning New Mexico days after he agreed to a 10-year deal with the Lobos. Alford agreed to a seven-year deal worth $18.2 million, with a yearly salary of $2.6 million and a $200,000 signing bonus, according to UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero.