NASHVILLE — Walter Offutt and Ohio are moving on in the NCAA tournament.
Step aside, VCU. Enjoy your memories, Butler. The Bobcats are well on their way to becoming the mid-major darlings of this March Madness.
Offutt scored 21 points, D.J. Cooper had 19 and No. 13 seed Ohio beat South Florida 62-56 on Sunday night to advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals.
The Bobcats (29-7), who opened the tournament with an upset against fourth-seeded Michigan, will play No. 1 seed North Carolina in St. Louis on Friday in their first trip to the round of 16 since they lost to the Wolverines in the regional finals in 1964.
Ohio trailed by two when Offutt swished a 3-pointer, launching a 10-0 run for the Bobcats. A pair of free throws by Cooper made it 54-46 with 3:28 left.
The Bobcats had a 59-53 lead when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick connected for South Florida’s first 3-pointer of the half. But Cooper went 3 for 4 from the line while the Bulls missed three shots in the final 36 seconds.
Victor Rudd Jr. and Anthony Collins scored 13 points apiece and Augustus Gilchrist had 12 for the Bulls (22-14), who were playing in their third game in five days with a travel day in between. South Florida beat California on Wednesday and Temple on Friday night in the second round.
If fatigue was a concern for South Florida, it didn’t show it. The Bulls relied on their stingy defense to limit Ohio to just 30.4 percent shooting in the first half.
But while the Bulls managed to keep the Bobcats away from the rim, they couldn’t stop them at the perimeter. Half of Ohio’s second-half buckets were 3s, and the Bobcats finished 9 for 18 from long range.
Two of their five treys in the second half came after either a flagrant or technical foul.
Rudd was called for the flagrant, and Offutt hit both of his free throws and a 3-pointer that tied it at 31 with 15:52 to play.
Jawanza Poland was given the technical after hanging on the rim following a dunk. Nick Kellogg sank both free throws and a 3-pointer that again tied the game, this time at 42 with 9:23 to play.
Just over 2 minutes later, the Bobcats put together with the 10-0 run that gave them the lead and control, and the Bulls missed out on a shot at being the only team from the first four games to advance to the Sweet 16.
The Big East’s top scoring defensive team and the Mid-American Conference tournament champions turned out to be a good match for one another.
Strong defense from both sides turned the first half into a mostly slow-paced affair. South Florida managed just 40.7 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The Bobcats had the hot hand first. D.J. Cooper sank a 3-pointer, Reggie Keely hit a pair of free throws, and a steal by T.J. Hall led to a layup by Cooper that gave Ohio a 12-6 lead 6 minutes into the game.
Victor Rudd Jr. answered with a resounding alley-oop dunk on a pass from Anthony Collins that launched a 13-1 run by the Bulls. A 3-pointer by Rudd gave them a 19-13 lead with 5:31 in the first half, and South Florida held a 27-21 lead at halftime.
Ohio stayed in the game with its perimeter shooting, going 4 for 10 from long range in the first half, while South Florida relied on its size. The Bulls outscored the Bobcats 16-6 in the paint in the first half.
No. 2 Kansas 63, No. 10 Purdue 60
OMAHA — Elijah Johnson scored 18 points, including the go-ahead basket in the final minute, and Kansas rallied to beat Robbie Hummel and Purdue.
Thomas Robinson managed 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks (29-6), who trailed nearly the entire game but still managed to advance to St. Louis.
With 2.5 seconds left, Purdue sharpshooter Ryne Smith, a Whitmer grad, unloaded a long potential tying 3-point try that hit the backboard and the rim before falling away as the buzzer sounded.
Hummel finished with 26 points to lead the Boilermakers (22-13).
No. 1 North Carolina 87, No. 8 Creighton 73
GREENSBORO — John Henson proved he’s healthy enough to help North Carolina’s latest push for the Final Four. It remains to be seen if Kendall Marshall will be able to help the Tar Heels.
Henson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in his return from a wrist injury, but Marshall broke a bone in his right wrist during the second half of North Carolina’s 87-73 victory over Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
Coach Roy Williams confirmed the injury after the game, and said he would talk to Marshall and his parents about his status Sunday night. The point guard still finished with 18 points and 11 assists.
North Carolina got off to a fast start and built a 15-point lead in the first half, then kept control and pushed the margin to 19 after the break on the way to its second straight double-digit victory in the Midwest Regional. The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-5) reached the round of 16 for a record 25th time.
Doug McDermott scored 20 points for the eight-seeded Bluejays (29-6), who shot 41 percent and couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Tar Heels.
Henson had missed the last three games after spraining his left wrist during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament when he fell to the court while being fouled. His return drew a roar from the home-state fans filling the Greensboro Coliseum, both when he jogged out with his teammates for pregame warmups and when he was introduced during the starting lineups.
Most of the time, Henson looked like his old self, knocking down midrange jumpers or using his long frame to snatch rebounds or swat shots. He drew a technical foul in the first half when he got angry and started jawing with a Creighton defender who had chopped at the ball in Henson’s hands in the paint. He also had a moment when he cringed after taking a blow to the hands on a foul, which forced Williams to pull him briefly in the first half.
With Henson’s return, the Tar Heels appeared to be getting their team together in time for a trip to the regional semifinals in St. Louis. Now they will have to wait and see if Marshall will be available.
Marshall’s injury overshadowed Henson’s return and the reunion of McDermott and UNC’s Harrison Barnes, who teamed together to lead Ames High School in Iowa to consecutive state championships and unbeaten seasons. McDermott came in averaging about 23 points and eight rebounds, while Barnes was leading the Tar Heels in scoring at about 17 per game.
That matchup never materialized, with Henson and freshman James Michael McAdoo getting most of the defensive work against McDermott. Barnes finished with 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting, including back-to-back 3-pointers to turn away Creighton’s final push after the Bluejays had closed within 12 with about 5½ minutes left.
Creighton came in leading the country with a 50.7 percent shooting average, but it couldn’t figure out a way to put the on-the-attack Tar Heels on the defensive.
North Carolina buried shot after shot in the first half to build a 39-24 lead on Barnes’ 3-pointer with 5½ minutes left. UNC led by eight at half, but Creighton never got closer after the break.
Reggie Bullock added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Tar Heels, including three 3-pointers. The Tar Heels hit 14 of their first 19 shots and finished at 51 percent for the game.