Midwest Region: Wichita State downs Indiana
Omaha, Neb. — Wichita State senior Darius Carter had just turned to head up the court when an elbow caught him in the kisser.
The impact pushed one of his front teeth back into his mouth, and he thought he was going to lose it. The tooth was saved, and Carter was out of the game for only a few minutes. When he came back, he dunked.
Yeah, he was playing angry, as is the Shockers' mantra.
"I let out a big scream and I felt a release," he said. "I just wanted to win, that's all."
Carter returned in time for Wichita State's decisive run in an 81-76 victory over Indiana on Friday in the NCAA Tournament, setting up a much-anticipated Sunflower State showdown against second-seeded Kansas.
"I'm thankful I got my tooth," Carter said. "That would be a bad look, to not have a front tooth."
As it was, there were toothy smiles all around as No. 7 seed Wichita State won its tournament opener for the third straight year in its typical bruising style.
Fred VanVleet led the way for the Shockers (29-4) after a slow start, taking the ball to the hoop often against an Indiana team that, because of injury, was short on rim protectors.
VanVleet matched his career high with 27 points and Ron Baker, who struggled from the field, made 7 of 8 free throws in the last 2 minutes.
And now, finally, the Shockers can talk about their first game against the Jayhawks since 1993.
"It's a big thing for the state of Kansas," said Baker, who hails from Scott City. "A lot of houses are going to be divided. Being a player from Kansas, I'm really fortunate to be in this game. These types of games don't happen a whole lot."
Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell scored 24 for Indiana (20-14), James Blackmon Jr. 14, and Troy Williams and Collin Hartman 11 apiece.
"We're not happy with the outcome today. Certainly we could have played better," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "But I have zero disappointment in the way these guys battled, competed and persevered throughout the season."
The Shockers trailed by eight points in the first half and played from behind most of the game before going on a 15-3 run in the middle of the second half for their biggest lead. Freshman Zach Brown, who had a career-high 11 points, did much of the work, scoring off an inbounds play, dunking and putting back Tekele Cotton's miss to make it 65-57.
The Shockers answered each time Indiana looked ready to come back. After Williams made a smooth move through the lane to cut it to 76-74, Carter laced a pass through the lane to Cotton, who went up and under to restore the four-point lead.
Ferrell made a couple free throws to get Indiana within two, but Baker hit a pair on the other end with 19 seconds left.
Bodies were on the floor often, and the fouls were hard. Just ask Ferrell, who landed on his backside after getting rocked by Cotton and got up with a grimace. And then there was Carter and that tooth-jarring elbow he took.
"We pride ourselves on toughness, the whole 'play angry' thing," Carter said. "We all have a will to win."
Kansas 75, New Mexico State 56: Second-seeded Kansas did its best to restore some luster to the Big 12.
Well, at least scrub away some of the tarnish.
Frank Mason III scored 17 to lead a balanced attack, and the Jayhawks rolled to a 75-56 victory over No. 15 seed New Mexico State, giving their beleaguered conference its first NCAA Tournament victory in four tries.
Perry Ellis added nine points for the Jayhawks (27-8).
West Virginia 68, Buffalo 62: At Columbus, Ohio, Tarik Phillip hit a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left while the shot clock was winding down, adding the clinching points for fifth-seeded West Virginia.
The Mountaineers (24-9) advance to Sunday's game against No. 4 Maryland.
Devin Williams, who led the Mountaineers with 17 points and nine rebounds, hit two free throws with 2:10 left to give his team the lead for good.
Mid-American Conference Tournament champion Buffalo (23-10) did not score over the final 2:42 against the physical Mountaineers.
Juwan Staten had 15 points and seven assists for West Virginia, with Daxter Miles Jr. adding 10 points.
Xavier Ford had 11 of his 16 in the second half for the Bulls, with Shannon Evans adding 15.
Maryland 65, Valparaiso 62: At Columbus, Dez Wells converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play with 1:44 left and Varun Ram stripped away Valparaiso's last chance as Maryland held off the Crusaders.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins (27-6), in the tournament for the first time since 2010, advanced to face West Virginia on Sunday.
Alec Peters led 13th-seeded Valpo (28-6) with 18 points.
The Crusaders were down 3 with one last chance for coach Bryce Drew to draw up a winning play. He didn't need a length of the court pass as he did when he made the most famous shot in school history back in the 1998 Tournament, but Valpo did need a 3.
Keith Carter went up for one in the corner, but Ram reached in and swiped the ball away — maybe getting some of Carter's arm in the process.