ST. LOUIS — Ohio State has one of the best players in the country in Evan Turner. Tennessee has what seems like an endless supply of nasty, stingy defenders.
No secret who's going to win that battle.
Brian Williams scored the go-ahead basket on a tip-in with 32 seconds left, and J.P. Prince was relentless on Turner, blocking a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer Friday night to lead Tennessee past Ohio State 76-73 and into the NCAA tournament's round of eight for the first time.
"I was tired," Prince said. "I just said I'll save it all for defense. That's all I did. I know those last two minutes I was going to make them work. I knew nobody wanted it more than I did."
Wayne Chism finished with 22 points — all but four in the second half — and 11 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Volunteers (28-8), who pulled out a back-and-forth tussle in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Turner, a candidate to add national honors to his Big Ten player of the year award, carried the No. 2 seed Buckeyes single-handedly in the second half. He scored 21 of his 31 points in the final period, while the rest of the Buckeyes went just 3 of 16 from the field. He actually had two shots in the final 3 seconds, but he missed from deep in the left corner, then got the ball back. With Prince all over him, Turner's last shot from near the top of the key didn't even get to the rim.
As the Tennessee players celebrated, Turner walked off the court with his head bowed.
"I can't give a percentage right now," Turner said, his eyes red and his voice catching, when asked if he'll return to Ohio State for his senior year. "I really don't want to go out like this."
Few expected this from the Volunteers considering where they were on Jan. 1. Tyler Smith, their leading scorer last season, was dismissed from the team and Williams, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were suspended after a gun and marijuana were found during a traffic stop.
But nine days later, Tennessee stunned then-No. 1 Kansas, and the Vols emerged as an even stronger team. Now, they're one win from the Final Four.
Tennessee will play Sunday against the winner of Friday night's game between Northern Iowa and Michigan State.
"It sounds real good, and we're livin' it up right now," Chism said.
For the Buckeyes, it's an opportunity lost. No one appeared to benefit more than Ohio State (29-8) when No. 1 overall seed Kansas was upset by Northern Iowa in the second round.
Add in third-seeded Georgetown's first-round loss and fourth-seeded Maryland's loss last weekend, and Ohio State had what looked like a clear path to its second Final Four in four years.
To get there, though, the Buckeyes needed more than Turner. William Buford (15) was the only other scorer in double figures. Jon Diebler, so big for Ohio State in the first two rounds, shot 1 of 7 from 3-point range.
"Obviously, it hasn't hit me to the point where I think it's over," coach Thad Matta said. "They're distraught because this isn't where they thought it was going to end."
Ohio State had won four of its previous five meetings against Tennessee, including a matchup in the 2007 regional semifinals. But these Buckeyes are far different from that squad, which featured an NBA-caliber roster that included Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook.
These Buckeyes do have Turner. But it's a game of 5-on-5, not 1-on-5.
"I told our team, 'It's our team vs. their six,'" Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl said. "We were a better 10 than their six."
After making only three baskets in the first half — including Ohio State's last with 22 seconds left — Turner surpassed that output in the first 5:12 of the second half. David Lighty finally gave him some help, scoring on a layup to put Ohio State in front 59-56 with 7:37 to play.
But Tennessee responded with a 12-4 run, getting contributions from four different players.
Chism, who seemed to get a boost when he took off his bright orange headband at halftime, gave the Vols a 72-70 lead with 1:39 to play. Turner came up with yet another big play, swishing a 3 from just beyond the arc with less than 42 seconds to go. But Williams, a big, bruising center, tipped in Prince's miss on a layup.
Turner missed at the other end and Kyle Madsen lost the ball under the basket. With less than 13 seconds left, Turner fouled Maze, who after a timeout, coolly blew a kiss to someone in the Tennessee fan section. He made both free throws, giving Tennessee a 76-73 lead.
"Honestly, there wasn't a doubt in my mind I was going to make those," Maze said. "I felt more pressure shooting them in practice. If the big men win, they make fun of us."
The Vols knew Ohio State would get the ball to Turner and they were ready. More than ready.
"You've got to contest the shot," Prince said. "He's going to have to earn it if he's going to make that shot."
Baylor 72, St. Mary’s 49
HOUSTON — LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Baylor had all the fun Friday night, ending what had been an entertaining NCAA tournament ride for Omar Samhan and surprising Saint Mary's.
Dunn and Carter both made 3-pointers on their first shots and later combined for a highlight alley-oop dunk as Baylor rushed to a huge lead and romped 72-49 in the South Regional semifinals.
The third-seeded Bears (28-7) led 46-17 at halftime and could begin looking ahead to Sunday, when they will play for a chance at their first Final Four since 1950, when there were only eight teams in the field.
More impressive for Baylor, it is another inspiring step in redemption nearly seven years after coach Scott Drew took over a program reeling and recovering from a murder and scandal that shook the world's largest Baptist university like nothing in its history.
Drew had to rebuild with reduced scholarships, a roster decimated when the top three scorers were allowed to transfer and an unprecedented half-season after the NCAA considered shutting the program down a whole year.
Dunn and Carter, two top Louisiana high school players who were recruited by other established programs, still came to Baylor. And now they have helped get the Bears, who were picked 10th in the preseason Big 12 poll by the league's coaches, be one of only eight teams still with a chance to win the national title.
"That's the reason why we came here. To be a part of something special," Carter said. "It really means a lot to me, this team, this program, for us to come through all the adversity."
Dunn scored 23 points with four 3-pointers and Carter added 14 points for Baylor. Dunn turned away with a wide smile after the teammates combined on their big dunk.
Samhan, who had become a breakout star in the tournament with his dominating play in the first two rounds and the one-liners when talking or tweeting, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels (28-6). He had only made only 1-of-8 shots and had only three points at halftime.
With Samhan held in check, the tiny school from Moraga, Calif., that beat Villanova and Richmond earlier in the tournament was headed home.
"Bottom line, when it was all said and done, I was proud of what we did this year," coach Randy Bennett said. "I told them they we stunk tonight. ... Nobody wanted it to go that way but it went that way."
During the interview sessions the day before the game, Samhan stopped and waved to everyone when he stepped onto the stage. There was the often-comedic interaction with two of his teammates during the 15-minute session and the 6-foot-11 center made sure the television cameras were aimed on him at one point before professing his love to singer Taylor Swift.
Dunn, Carter and Baylor post player Ekpe Udoh, meanwhile, rarely smiled while answering questions directly. They were already to play, expecting to continue this "business trip" not far from home — a 3½-hour drive from their Waco campus.
Carter hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key on his first shot, then Dunn hit one on the next Baylor possession.
Even when things didn't go exactly as planned, the Bears were still were making things happen.
When an earlier ally-oop attempt from Carter was off-target, Dunn grabbed the ball out of the air, took a couple of steps along the baseline, then turned and hit a short jumper. That was part of a 9-0 run that put the Bears in control early.
The highlight ally-oop came when Dunn stripped the ball from freshman Matthew Dellavedova near midcourt and took off toward the basket. Dunn passed the ball to Carter trailing on his left, and the point guard never dribbled the ball, instead tossed it toward the rim for a slam and a 29-11 lead.
Coming back down the court, Dunn turned and flashed a wide smile to the crowd — predominantly filled with fans dressed in green and gold, clearly outnumbering the one section of Saint Mary's fans near the Gaels' bench.
After their lowest-scoring half of the season, things never got better for the Gaels after halftime. Their deficit increased to 35 within a couple of minutes later.
But Samhan was still playing hard and talking. With about 6½ minutes left in the game, an official had to pull Samhan and Baylor center Josh Lomers together for a quick talk after they had been jawing at each other. On the next possession, Samhan saved the ball for Saint Mary's by swiping it back off Lomers' face.
Lomers turned away smiling. There were plenty of reasons for that reaction, considering the score.
Despite the disappointing and lopsided finish, it was an incredible run for Gaels, whose only NCAA tournament victory had come in 1959 before beating higher seeds Richmond and Villanova.
Often overshadowed in the West Coast Conference by NCAA tournament regular Gonzaga, which has won 10 conference titles in a row, Saint Mary's beat the Gonzaga 81-62 in the WCC tournament to earn the automatic NCAA bid. And the Gaels did that after losing Patty Mills to the NBA and five other seniors from a 28-win team last season.