NEWARK, N.J. – Brandon Knight did it again.
So did Ohio State.
The Kentucky freshman guard added to the Buckeyes’ March misery by knocking down his second winning shot of the postseason, a 15-footer with 5 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 62-60 victory on Friday in the East regional semifinals.
Kentucky (28-8) will face North Carolina on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
“When it comes to crunch time, couple seconds left, the game is on the line, I just try to make good decisions,” Knight said.
Regardless of how the previous 39 minutes went. Knight missed seven of his first nine shots and spent most of the night getting hounded by Ohio State counterpart Aaron Craft.
It hardly mattered in the end.
Ohio State’s Jon Diebler hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 21 seconds remaining, but rather than call timeout Kentucky coach John Calipari opted to trust his players.
Knight, who knocked down the winner in Kentucky’s second-round victory over Princeton, drove to his right then knocked down a silky 15-foot jumper.
“I think Brandon does it on purpose,” Kentucky guard Doron Lamb said. “I think he misses every shot in the first half then hits the game winner. If he keeps hitting the game-winner we’ll take that.”
Ohio State rushed down the floor, but William Buford’s 3-pointer clanked off the rim and the rebound was tapped out of harm’s way.
Senior center Josh Harrellson held his own against Ohio State super freshman Jared Sullinger, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Wildcats sent the seemingly dominant Buckeyes home early again. The loss marked the third straight year the Buckeyes failed to advance to the regional final.
Kentucky, which struggled to win close games earlier in the season, rushed onto the floor as the buzzer sounded. DeAndre Liggins, like Harrellson a leftover from Billy Gillispie’s days at Kentucky, hopped atop a table and pounded his chest as Knight stood at halfcourt and soaked in the moment.
Liggins hounded Ohio State’s shooters and attacked the basket at the other end of the floor. He finished with 15 points for the Wildcats, who beat Ohio State for the first time in the tournament behind a suffocating defense that limited the Buckeyes to 32 percent shooting.
Sullinger led Ohio State (34-3) with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but the Buckeyes fell in the regional semifinals for a second straight season. Sullinger said in the aftermath he expects to return for his sophomore year, if only to wash out the taste of a bitter end to an otherwise spectacular season.