March Madness: St. Peter’s Beats Purdue to Reach the Elite 8

PHILADELPHIA — Time isn’t up for the biggest underdog of the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament just yet.

Tiny St. Peter’s University is alive and well and moving on to the final eight of the N.C.A.A. tournament after slaying yet another basketball powerhouse. Playing inspired defense and without any fear, the No. 15 seed Peacocks stunned No. 3 Purdue, 67-64, on Friday night before a crowd at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia that included many St. Peter’s fans who made the trip down the New Jersey Turnpike and roared in approval.

The Peacocks (22-11) will advance to face No. 8-seeded North Carolina in Sunday’s East regional final, with a chance to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. They have now knocked off No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Purdue and No. 7 Murray State to become the first seed 13 or lower to reach the final eight.

“I got a bunch of guys that just play basketball and have fun. That’s all we do,” St. Peter’s Coach Shaheen Holloway said in a television interview as his players drowned him out with jubilant celebrations.

The Peacocks captured national attention immediately after knocking off Kentucky — one of the national title favorites — before becoming just the third No. 15 seed to advance to the round of 16. St. Peter’s is the first New Jersey school to make it this far in the men’s tournament since Holloway was a point guard on the 2000 Seton Hall team.

“We’re happy but make no mistake, we’re not satisfied,” said guard Doug Edert, who finished with 10 points — including two clutch free throws in the final seconds — and jumped on a table while celebrating the victory. He added: “We feel like we belong and the more games we win, the more confidence we build.”

The game was tight throughout with 15 lead changes and both teams trading control deep into the second half. Purdue, known for its big, tall, athletic players, outrebounded and outscored St. Peter’s inside, but the Peacocks found a way to win anyway.

“They beat us like they beat the other two teams,” Purdue Coach Matt Painter said. He added: “They had a strong will, grimy, tough, into you.”

St. Peter’s guard Matthew Lee tied the game at 57 with 3:17 remaining, and exactly one minute later Daryl Banks III, the leading scorer for the Peacocks with 14 points, hit a driving layup for the lead. The teams traded baskets and free throws, but Purdue was unable to catch up. The Peacocks defense held Jaden Ivey, the Purdue star who is a projected N.B.A. lottery pick, to 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

The Peacocks arrived for Friday’s game wearing T-shirts that read “More Is Possible.”

“What are they going to say now?” Holloway said as his players celebrated behind him. “See you later.”

— Adam Zagoria

Love was all around.

Sophomore guard Caleb Love poured in 27 of his 30 points in the second half as No. 8-seeded North Carolina knocked off fourth-seeded U.C.L.A., 73-66, in a matchup of college basketball blue bloods to advance to the final eight of the N.C.A.A. tournament.

Love made 6 of 13 3-pointers and put the Heels ahead 67-64 with back-to-back 3s late in the game, which he followed up with two foul shots to push the lead. The Tar Heels were considered an N.C.A.A. tournament bubble team down the stretch of the season but finished strong and have won nine of their last 10 games, and 15 of their last 18. They spoiled the final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski when they beat the Blue Devils on March 5.

“We wanted to prove everybody wrong so now we’re here and I’m just glad to be here,” Love said in a television interview.

Roy Williams, who led the Tar Heels to three N.C.A.A. championships and retired after last season, rooted on the first-year coach, Hubert Davis, and the team in person at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“One thing I love about Caleb is his confidence and his competitive nature,” Davis said in a television interview. “He always wants to be in big-time moments and make big-time plays and he did that tonight.”

On Sunday, North Carolina (27-9) will face the No. 15 seed St. Peter’s, which earlier on Friday knocked off No. 3 Purdue to become the first team seeded 13th or lower to reach the final eight. The Tar Heels remain alive to capture the program’s seventh national championship, while U.C.L.A.’s loss ensures that a drought for West Coast teams will extend at least one more year.

Arizona in 1997 — 25 years ago — was the last team from the Pac-12 (it was the Pac-10 then) to win the title. Gonzaga, which plays in the West Coast Conference and is in Spokane, Wash., lost as this tournament’s top seeded team on Thursday night.

Armando Bacot added 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Tar Heels and Brady Manek had 13 points and 8 rebounds. R.J. Davis tallied 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Jules Bernard paced the Bruins with 16 points, Tyger Campbell had 15 and Johnny Juzang added 14.

The Tar Heels players were asked about facing St. Peter’s in the round of 8, but a team spokesman said the players didn’t see the end of the game and would address the matchup on Saturday.

“They’re here for a reason, because they’re an incredible team, but they’re also incredibly tied together,” Hubert Davis said. “Tremendous chemistry. On Sunday it’ll be our toughest game of the year.”

— Adam Zagoria

CHICAGO — Kansas’ veteran lineup pushed into the round of 8 on Friday with a 66-61 win over Providence in a Midwest regional semifinal, becoming the only top seed to advance in a week when upsets have been the norm.

The Jayhawks controlled the matchup early on, blocking six Providence shots in the first 12 minutes and dominating the first-half rebounding game. But Providence, making its first Sweet 16 appearance in a quarter-century, punched back and kept the game within reach.

After trailing by as many as 13, Noah Horchler sunk two 3-pointers in quick succession to pull the Friars to within a point in the second half. Minutes later, he drove to the basket to give Providence a fleeting taste of the lead.

But it proved insufficient against an experienced Kansas team that was effective, even if sometimes inelegant.

Toward the end of the first half, Jalen Wilson, a Jayhawk forward, missed two layups, but got his own rebound each time and was able to coerce the ball through the hoop. Ochai Agbaji, a national player of the year finalist, made just 2 of 8 field goals. But with Kansas looking strained, and the Friars becoming more aggressive, Agbaji re-emerged late in the second half when Christian Braun served up an alley-oop from behind the 3-point line. Agbaji slammed it home, enlivening the Jayhawk fans at Chicago’s United Center who had been quiet for much of the night.

Kansas, whose youngest starter is a redshirt sophomore, was also able to lean on Remy Martin, a super-senior and Arizona State transfer, who led the Jayhawks in scoring with 23 points. Braun, a junior, and Wilson, a redshirt sophomore, both reached double digits in rebounds.

The Jayhawks will enter Sunday as a heavy favorite against 10th-seeded Miami, which beat 11th-seeded Iowa State on Friday.

But the Jayhawks’ performance on Friday, which followed a closer-than-hoped-for win against Creighton in the round of 32, did little to assuage concerns about their durability late in the tournament. Kansas is advancing to the round of 8 for the eighth time during Coach Bill Self’s tenure in Lawrence. Only one of those trips has ended with a national title.

— Mitch Smith

Miami pulled away from Iowa State to win 70-56 in an unlikely matchup of double-digit seeds on Friday night in the round of 16. The Hurricanes advanced to the Midwest regional final, where top-seeded Kansas awaits them.

Early on, the Hurricanes and Cyclones appeared to be mirror images of each other, trading scoring runs in a fast-paced, physical game that was so frenetic that it sometimes bordered on sloppy. Miami scored the first 7 points of the game, Iowa State answered with 8 of its own, and neither team led by more than 7 during the first half.

But Miami began to pull away after halftime as Kameron McGusty and Jordan Miller helped lead a scoring attack. McGusty, a sixth-year senior who started his career at Oklahoma, accounted for 27 points. Miller, a fourth-year junior who played previously for George Mason, added 16.

The Cyclones struggled all night with turnovers, handing the ball away 18 times. With Iowa State straining to keep the game within reach midway through the second half, Sam Waardenburg, a Miami forward, picked off a sluggish pass near midcourt and stormed to the basket for a slam dunk, extending the lead to nine.

That either Iowa State or Miami had made it to Chicago for a regional semifinal was improbable. The Cyclones stunned third-seeded Wisconsin last weekend to earn their trip, while Miami rolled to an 18-point win over Auburn, a No. 2 seed. Miami’s game against Kansas is its first appearance in the round of 8.

Despite their relatively low rankings — Iowa State was seeded 11th in the Midwest, and Miami 10th — both teams showed Friday why they had survived in March. Hailing from power conferences, they each seemed unfazed by the national stage, having faced off against highly ranked teams all season. And they each fielded physical, veteran lineups built largely through the transfer market.

Iowa State, which won just two games last season, started four seniors and one junior, including four players who had attended other Division I schools. Miami started two seniors and two juniors, three of whom had transferred in.

As much as Friday’s game showed Miami’s strengths, it also revealed flaws that will have to be corrected quickly if it hopes to upset Kansas, the only No. 1 seed remaining in the tournament. Iowa State outrebounded the Hurricanes and Miami shot just 64 percent from the free throw line.