Four Atlantic Coast Conference teams prevailed in Friday’s regional semi-final action, setting up conference match ups in the regional finals on Sunday. Virginia, the top seed in the Midwest Regional, dominated fourth-seeded Iowa State, 84-71. Notre Dame, the sixth seed in the East Regional, made a stunning comeback in the final seconds to defeat seventh-seeded Wisconsin, 61-56.
The Midwest’s Region’s 10th seed, Syracuse, made a late comeback and edged 11th seeded Gonzaga 63-60. North Carolina, the top seed in the East, hammered No. 5 seed Indiana, 101-86.
Virginia 84, Iowa State 71
Virginia roared out to a 20-5 lead before the game was seven minutes. Their offense was in rhythm and their defense was suffocating the normally high-scoring Cyclones. The Cavaliers led at the half 45-31.
Iowa State showed some life and got within 51-44 on a Monte Morris jumper with 14:07 remaining. The Cavaliers quickly restored order and returned the lead to double digits, where it stayed for the remainder of the game.
Anthony Gill led the Cavaliers with 23 points and eight rebounds. Mike Tobey was huge off the bench, pouring in 18 points.
Georges Niang, as he has all year, led the Cyclones with 30 points and eight rebounds. Matt Thomas added 12.
Notre Dame 61, Wisconsin 56
Wisconsin and Notre Dame went back and forth all night. Both teams shot only 40 percent for the game, but the intensity on both ends of the court made it a compelling game to watch.
The Badgers took a 22-13 lead with 5:05 remaining on a three-pointer by Bronson Koenig. The Irish fought back and trailed only 23-19 at halftime. The 19 points was the lowest output by Notre Dame all year.
Wisconsin maintained a two to eight point lead throughout most of the second half, but Notre Dame did not quit. They actually took a one point lead on two occasions.
With 28 seconds remaining, Wisconsin’s Vito Brown drilled a three-pointer to give his team a 56-53 lead. The Badgers held a one-point lead with 14 seconds remaining when Demetrius Jackson stole the ball and laid it in for a 57-56 Irish lead. Notre Dame added four free throws at the end to pad the final margin.
Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter had 11 each.
V.J. Beachem scored 19 points to lead the Irish while Jackson had 16.
Syracuse 63, Gonzaga 60
Gonzaga took a quick first half lead over the Orange. It was 21-10 with 9:47 remaining in the half, before Syracuse made a late charge to close the gap to 29-28 at halftime.
Syracuse briefly led early in the second half before the Bulldogs again took charge. When Domantas Sabonis scored on a layup with 6:28 remaining, Gonzaga had a 57-48 lead and seemed to be in control.
The Orange again came back. A Sabonis free throw made it 60-58 with 1:54 remaining. With the score 60-59, Michael Gbinjie grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to give Syracuse the lead. A steal and two free throws at the end sealed Gonzaga’s fate.
Gbinjie led the Orange with 20 points while Trevor Cooney added 15. Kyle Wiltjer paced Gonzaga with 23 while Sabonis added 19.
Syracuse will play Virginia on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
North Carolina 101, Indiana 86
Going into Friday’s East Regional semi-final with Indiana, analysts knew the Tar Heels’ Achilles Heel was three-point shooting. They converted only 31 percent during the season.
Indiana must have wondered where the new found shooting eye came from as North Carolina made put on a shooting display. At one point, they had made 10 of 12 from beyond the arc putting the Hoosiers in a big hole.
The Tar Heels led by 17 during the first half, but Indiana closed to 52-41 at halftime. Strong inside play from Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, combined with the outside shooting of guards such as Marcus Paige, put the Hoosiers in a hole from which they could not recover. Paige hit his first six three pointers and finished six of 9.
North Carolina built a 21-point lead with under seven minutes remaining and coasted to the finish. All five Tar Heel starters finished in double figures led by Paige’s 21 and 20 by Johnson.
The Hoosiers were led by senior guard Yogi Ferrell, who had 25. Troy Williams added 21.
North Carolina will face Notre Dame in the regional finals on Sunday. The Tar Heels defeated the Irish in the ACC Tournament two weeks ago, 78-47.