Had North Carolina's Luke Maye not hit that winning jumper with.3 seconds remaining, we would all be discussing how Calipari brilliantly turned a play that has haunted him for years into a ticket to the Final Four.
Junior forward Justin Jackson scored a game-high 19 points and sophomore forward Luke Maye scored 17 points, including the game-winning shot, as No. 1 North Carolina survived a 75-73 thriller over No. 2 Kentucky in the South Region championship game on March 26 in Memphis, Tenn.
Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points and hit the go-ahead free throws that put No. 4 SC ahead to stay in a 77-70 triumph over the fourth-seeded Florida Gators.
Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) shoots past Xavier guard J.P. Macura during the second half of an NCAA Tournament college basketball regional final game Saturday, March 25, 2017, in San Jose, Calif.
For the rest of the guests, it's all uncharted territory. Don't sleep on Gonzaga's Zach Collins, Oregon's Jordan Bell or South Carolina's Rakym Felder.
And Oregon? Well, the Ducks have been to the tournament before and won it all.
North Carolina quickly regained the advantage and things went back and forth from there with the second stanza featuring five lead changes. "That just showed we had bigger goals than getting to where we were".
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Sindarius Thornwell dropped in a game-high 26 points for SC, which advances to face West Region champion Gonzaga in the Final Four on Saturday in Arizona.
UNC led for nearly the entire game, but almost saw its hopes slip away when the Wildcats rallied to take a five-point lead with five minutes to play. We're not playing the NCAA Tournament. It means there's still a chance, which is something Gamecocks basketball never really had before Martin arrived.
In many ways, it was the first meeting - a 57-53 SC win on January 18 - that set the stage for where both teams are today. Following that game, college basketball analysts across the country said that they wouldn't be surprised if the two teams met again deep into the month of March.
"I just kind of stepped back, he gave me the ball and I shot it", Maye said.
It's been rolling at Gonzaga since Mark Few took over in 1999. Last year, the Bulldogs lost a 3-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the Sweet 16. The tournament selection committee was widely criticized for making them a No. 7 seed, especially since Arkansas was a No. 8 and beat the Gamecocks 83-76 in Columbia, S.C. There was no diagramming of a last-second play, no time to discuss strategy.
"I probably should have called time out", Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "My first year on staff we won four Division I games. I'm so proud of how these guys fought". "That's what happened to us past year". North Carolina spent several minutes using a backcourt of Nate Britt and Stilman White, a former walk-on.
"People didn't think we would come together because of all we did in high school, scoring that many points", the point guard added. His 3-pointer sent the Kentucky fans here into a state of delirium, and the shot tied the score at 73 with nine seconds left. Little-used Isaac Humphries, who hadn't scored more than 2 points in a game since February 11 against Alabama, collected 8 of his 12 points in a rally that left Kentucky up 64-59.