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Nashville sends 2 of Buckeye State's 4 NCAA tournament teams to regional semifinals
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) ' Consider it a good weekend for teams hailing from Ohio.
Four teams from the state are heading to the regional semifinals, with the 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats leading the way after getting 21 points from Walter Offutt in a 62-56 upset of South Florida on Sunday night.
Ohio advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1964, earning a matchup against top-seeded North Carolina in the Midwest Regional on Friday.
Offutt, who hit two free throws with 6.8 seconds left to preserve a 65-60 upset of Michigan on Friday night, knows the encounter with the Tar Heels isn't going to be anything like the last time he faced them ' when he was a bench player for Ohio State.
"It's going to be different knowing that I'm going into the game and I have to contribute for our team to possibly win the game," said Offutt, who transferred from Ohio State to Ohio with a brief stop at Wright State in between.
Ohio is the seventh team seeded No. 13 or higher to advance to the regional semifinals and the first since No. 13 Bradley did it in 2006.
In Nashville's other third-round game, sixth-seeded Cincinnati edged Florida State 62-59 to reach its first regional semifinal since 2011. The Bearcats will play No. 2 seed Ohio State in Boston on Thursday night.
A fourth team from Ohio, Cincinnati's crosstown rival Xavier, beat Lehigh 70-58 on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years.
Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick had no idea his team was the fourth from the Buckeye State to advance.
"We were just so amped about being in the Sweet 16," he said. "I'll just say we're quite worried about Cincinnati on what we've got to do and what we've got to focus on to win the next game."
The Bobcats and the Bearcats had far closer calls than their counterparts in their third-round games.
Although the Bulls managed to keep the Bobcats away from the rim, they couldn't stop them at the perimeter. Half of Ohio's second-half buckets were 3s, and the Bobcats finished 9 of 18 from long range.
South Florida's Jawanza Poland was called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim following a dunk. Nick Kellogg sank both free throws and a 3-pointer that tied the game at 42 with 9:23 to play.
Ohio trailed by two when Offutt swished a 3-pointer, launching a 10-0 run for the Bobcats. A pair of free throws by D.J. Cooper made it 54-46 with 3:28 left.
The Bobcats had a 59-53 lead when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick connected for South Florida's first 3-pointer of the half. But Cooper went 3 for 4 from the line while the Bulls missed three shots in the final 36 seconds.
"Success breeds success," said Ohio coach John Groce, who has led the Bobcats to their second NCAA tournament in four years. "It builds more confidence."
Cincinnati and Florida State traded the lead 19 times and were tied 11, and neither team led by more than three in the second half until the Bearcats scored seven straight points.
Sean Kilpatrick hit a free throw tying it up at 50 points, and then Dion Dixon stole the ball from Luke Loucks in front of the Cincinnati bench as Florida State tried to bring the ball up against the Bearcats' press. Dixon took off and dunked to put Cincinnati ahead for good with 1:32 left.
Cashmere Wright hit a jumper, and Yancy Gates added two free throws for 56-50 lead with 35.3 seconds left. The Bearcats sealed it by hitting all eight free throws in the final 35.3 seconds.
The Seminoles led 29-28 at halftime and were up by five in the first half. But the Bearcats hit 11 of 21 (52.4 percent) overall and 12 of 13 at the free throw line. Cincinnati had a big edge at the line (19 of 23) overall compared to Florida State (12 of 15).
"We're thinking way better than that. We're trying to get past the Sweet 16 and do bigger and better things," Cincinnati guard JaQuon Parker said.