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Louisville, Ohio St. to Final Four
NCAA Ohio St Syracuse Heal
Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger (0) shoots against Syracuse forward Kris Joseph (32) during the first half of the East Regional final Saturday in Boston. - photo by Associated Press

PHOENIX — Florida seemed to hit every shot it put up in the first half and still had a big lead even after the makes were a little harder to come by in the second.

Finally, it appeared, Billy Donovan was going to beat his mentor.

Instead, the Gators couldn't hold it together, sending their coach home from the desert with the most disappointing of his seven losses to Louisville coach Rick Pitino

Florida blew an 11-point lead in the second half and couldn't convert on numerous chances down the stretch, blowing a shot at another Final Four with a 72-68 loss to Louisville on Saturday in the West Regional final.

"Certainly, emotionally going into the game it's always a difficult situation like that, with our relationship, but I don't think any coach enjoys losing in this type of situation," Donovan said. "But if I had to lose, it would have to be him, to have him toward the end of his career to enjoy this experience."

Donovan had done his best to escape the shadow of Pitino, his former coach and boss, winning a pair of national championships and making three trips to the Final Four.

When it came to beating the old man, he hadn't been able to do it, losing in six previous tries, including two Louisville-Florida matchups.

In easily their biggest meeting, Donovan appeared to have the upper hand on his mentor, the Gators playing in his old Billy the Kid image, hitting eight 3-pointers and shooting 66 percent in the first half against one of the nation's best defenses.

Even when the perimeter shots started clanging — 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half — Florida (26-11) still had a 58-47 lead with just under 11 minutes left.

Then it started going horribly wrong.

Louisville (30-9) went on a 10-0 run to get within 1 and kept rolling. Florida couldn't stop the Cardinals, particularly Chane Behanan inside, and missed six shots with a turnover over the final 2:39.

Instead of a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four, the Gators were headed back to Gainesville, wondering how what seemed like such a comfortable lead got away from them.

Bradley Beal and Erik Murphy had 14 points each to lead Florida.

"It feels terrible," said Florida's Erving Walker, who had 12 points. "I mean, we had a lead, we gave it up late. We just didn't make shots and didn't defend them."


Ohio St. 77,

Syracuse 70

BOSTON — Jared Sullinger recovered from first-half foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, helping Ohio State beat Syracuse 77-70 on Saturday to advance to the Final Four.

It will be the Buckeyes' first trip to the NCAA semifinals since 2007.

Deshaun Thomas scored 14 with nine rebounds for No. 2 seed Ohio State (31-7), which led by eight points with 59 seconds to play and held on after the Orange cut it to three. The Buckeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 68 seconds.

Brandon Triche scored 15 points and Baye Keita had 10 rebounds for top-seeded Syracuse (34-3). The Orange were hoping for a return trip to New Orleans, where they won their only national championship in 2003.

In a tightly officiated game that left Sullinger on the bench in foul trouble for most of the first half and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim not-quite muzzled after picking up a technical foul, it came down to free throws. Ohio State went 31 for 42 from the line in the game despite playing against Syracuse's usual 2-3 zone.

The Orange went to the line 25 times, making 20 foul shots.

The frequent whistles left both teams struggling to get into a groove in the first half — there were only four baskets in the last 9:30 of the first. That seemed to be good news for Ohio State, which managed to stay with the No. 1 seed despite getting only 6 minutes from Sullinger, the star of the Buckeyes' East Regional semifinal win over Cincinnati.

Syracuse was already without 7-footer Fab Melo, who missed the tournament with academic issues, and replacement Rakeem Christmas picked up two quick fouls early in the second half to leave him with four.

Ohio State opened a 46-36 lead with under 14 minutes to play. Syracuse scored eight of the next nine points to make it a one-point game, but the Orange could never get back in the lead.

They trailed by eight with 59 seconds left and cut it to three, but they needed the Buckeyes to miss free throws, and that didn't happen.