Friday's NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Saint Peter's, Kansas, Miami reach Elite 8

Associated Press

Philadelphia — Turns out, the best explanation for the shooting spree Caleb Love put on for North Carolina was also the simplest.

It’s gotta be the shoes.

North Carolina's Caleb Love reacts during the second half of a college basketball game against UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Reinvigorated by a change of sneakers at halftime, Love went crazy for the Tar Heels on Friday night. He made the game-tying and go-ahead 3-pointers 37 seconds apart to lift Carolina to a 73-66 victory over UCLA in a March Madness matchup of power programs.

Love scored 27 of his career-high 30 points in the second half, part of a barrage that included NBA-range 3s and no-look layups. His go-ahead 3 came with 1:03 left. He also hit a pair of free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining that put away the fourth-seeded Bruins for good.

The idea to change shoes came from the team’s director of operations, Eric Hoots, after Love shot 1 for 8 in the first half. He shot 10 for 16 in the second.

“I’m going to give him a raise,” coach Hubert Davis said of his right-hand man.

North Carolina is one win away from its 21st Final Four, which would improve on the record it already holds. Its next game is Sunday against Saint Peter’s in a first-of-its-kind 8-vs.-15 matchup in the Elite Eight. The 15th-seeded Peacocks topped Purdue 67-64 earlier in the evening.

Every bit as tantalizing, the Tar Heels and their archrival Duke, which plays Arkansas on Saturday, are each one win away from a matchup at the Final Four in New Orleans next weekend. The teams have never played each other in the NCAA Tournament.

As great as the Saint Peter’s run has been, and as great as both games in Philly were Friday night, nobody stood out more over the five hours of hoops at the Wells Fargo Center – the same place Carolina punched its ticket for the 2016 Final Four – than Love.

The sophomore was held to five points in last week’s win over Baylor, but managed one point more than that during the decisive 37 seconds. His go-ahead 3 marked the last of 14 lead changes in a game that was also tied eight times.

“One hot player can send you home,” UCLA guard Jules Barnard said.

Last year, that hot player was Jalen Suggs, the Gonzaga guard who banked one in from near half court to end UCLA’s season at the national semifinal. This time, it was Love, who scored one fewer point than what Bernard (16) and Tyger Campbell (15) put up, combined.

This was a nip-and-tuck affair all the way through. Neither team led by more than eight. In their second-round win over Baylor, the Tar Heels built a 25-point advantage, only to squander it, then pull things together and pull out the game in overtime.

That game got dicey once Brady Manek got tossed for throwing an inadvertent elbow. Manek played all but two minutes in this one and finished with 13 points.

Armando Bacot had 14 points and 15 rebounds for North Carolina, the most crucial of which came when he tipped in a miss by R.J. Davis with 15 seconds left to build Carolina’s lead to five points – the biggest it had been to that point.

But this game, especially the second half, belonged to Love, who started heating up as soon as he came out of the locker room with a fresh pair of Jordans. He scored seven of North Carolina’s first 12 points of the half, then, with the game tied at 44, scored 10 in a row for the Tar Heels.

Those included a pair of twisting, practically no-look layups and an NBA-range 3-pointer. He followed that with a heat-check 3, jacked up from the elbow under pressure. It missed, but that didn’t stop him.

Trailing 64-61 with 2 minutes left, the Tar Heels fed to Love, who missed again – this time on a pull-up 3 that would have tied it. Bacot got the rebound and Carolina fed Love once more. That one went in at the 1:40 mark. The Tar Heels didn’t trail again.

“I never lose my confidence level,” Love said. “Coach Davis and all my teammates always tell me that. I feel like that’s the best part of my game, not to lose my confidence.”

Saint Peter's 67, Purdue 64: Daryl Banks III scored the tying and go-ahead baskets that pushed 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s to the brink of the Final Four, the tiny Peacocks thriving off a home-court edge to beat third-seeded Purdue 67-64 on Friday night.

The Peacocks (22-11) became the first 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, adding the Boilermakers to their NCAA Tournament string of upsets, and will face North Carolina in the East Region final on Sunday.

Saint Peter's Doug Edert celebrates after Saint Peter's won.

Saint Peter’s had the fans inside the packed Wells Fargo Center on its side from the opening tip and the arena erupted when Banks tied the game 57-all on a turnaround jumper. He hit a driving layup with 2:17 left that made it 59-57.

The Peacocks kept their composure -- hey, they’re used to these wins by now after knocking off No. 2 seed Kentucky and Murray State -- and held off a Purdue team that gamely tried to bully them inside.

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey buried an NBA-distance 3 with 8 seconds left that pulled Purdue within 65-64 and momentarily shushed the crowd. But Doug Edert then swished two free throws to seal the win.

Banks led the Peacocks with 14 points, Clarence Rupert scored 11 and Edert had 10. Trevion Williams had 16 points and eight rebounds for Purdue.

Kansas 66, Providence 61: Remy Martin scored a season-high 23 points and Kansas did its part as the only remaining No. 1 seed, holding Providence to 17 first-half points and hanging on to reach the Elite Eight.

The Jayhawks (31-6) will face Miami in the Midwest Region final on Sunday.

Jalen Wilson added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who are back in a regional final for the first time since 2018, when they reached their 15th Final Four. Coach Bill Self is seeking his fourth trip there since he arrived in 2003.

Kansas also moved ahead of Kentucky for most wins in Division I history with 2,354.

The Jayhawks led by 13 points early in the second half, let it slip away, and then regrouped. Fourth-seeded Providence (27-6) took a short-lived one-point lead, but Kansas responded by scoring seven straight.

Al Durham scored 21 points for the Friars, who shot 33.8%.

Miami 70, Iowa State 56: Kameron McGusty scored 27 points and Miami advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time, using its swarming defense to beat Iowa State 70-56 in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Jordan Miller added 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting as No. 10 seed Miami more than held its own in a matchup of two of the tourney’s most suffocating defenses. The 11th-seeded Cyclones shot 32% from the field in the second half and finished with 18 turnovers.

With Charlie Moore directing the attack in his hometown, the Hurricanes (26-10) got their first win in the school’s fourth appearance in the Sweet 16. Next up is No. 1 seed Kansas – a 66-61 winner over Providence – on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four, where Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga took George Mason in 2006.

Iowa State (22-13) rode its hard-nosed defense into the Midwest Region semifinals after it had just two wins last season. It forced 14 turnovers after Miami turned it over seven times in the first two rounds, but the Hurricanes shot 46% from the field. The Cyclones allowed 33.3% shooting over their first two tourney games.

Gabe Kalscheur scored 13 points for Iowa State, and freshman Tyrese Hunter had 13 points and seven assists. Izaiah Brockington finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Cyclones pulled within one on Kalscheur’s jumper with 16:28 left. But the Hurricanes responded with a 10-2 run. Isaiah Wong’s 3-pointer – one of nine on the night for Miami – made it 46-37 with 12:23 to go.

Iowa State made a couple charges down the stretch, but McGusty made a 3 and converted a layup to help Miami answer each time. When Sam Waardenburg connected from deep and Miller made two foul shots to make it 60-46 with 2:47 to go, the celebration was on for the Hurricanes.

Waardenburg finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Moore had nine assists.

Moore was back in Chicago after starring for Morgan Park in high school and playing for DePaul during a college career that also included stops at California at Kansas. Iowa State’s George Conditt IV also got to play in his hometown in his senior season.

Moore went scoreless in the first half, but he set up Miller for a pair of layups while helping Miami to a 32-29 halftime lead.

Conditt had eight points at halftime, including a big jam over Waardenburg and a rebound dunk.