EAST REGIONAL:?Marquette 71, Miami 61
Vander Blue’s buzzer-beater came at the end of the first half. For a change, Marquette didn’t need one at the end of the game.
After sweating through two edge-of-your-seat comebacks in the NCAA Tournament, Blue and the Golden Eagles figured out how to put one away early, earning Marquette’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 2003 with a win over Miami in Washington.
Blue, who spurred the rallies that beat Davidson by one and Butler by two, finished with 14 points. He wasn’t Marquette’s leading scorer — that was Jamil Wilson with 16 — but it was Blue’s offensive and defensive energy that pushed the Golden Eagles to a double-digit lead in the first half, a spread Miami never came close to making up.
The third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-8) will face No. 4 seed Syracuse in the East Regional final on Saturday, aiming for a spot in the Final Four for the first time since Dwyane Wade took them there a decade ago.
The game wasn’t hard to decipher. Marquette could shoot; Miami couldn’t. The Hurricanes (29-7) had sentiment on their side, returning to the arena where coach Jim Larranaga led mid-major George Mason to the Final Four seven years ago, but they made only 35 percent of their field goals and missed 18-of-26 3-pointers.
Marquette, meanwhile, shot 54 percent, a stark turnaround from its 38 percent rate from the first two games in the tournament. Davante Gardner added 14 points, with 12 coming in the second half when the Golden Eagles were comfortably ahead.
Shane Larkin scored 14 points to lead the No. 2 seed Hurricanes, whose NCAA run to the round of 16 matched the best in school history.
Blue missed his first two shots — pining for a foul after throwing up a clumsy airball on a baseline drive — but he got on the board when he picked off a pass and converted the steal into a one-handed jam to give Marquette an 8-4 lead.
That got him going. A running one-hander made it 12-4. Blue and Junior Cadougan forced a steal, getting Larkin to commit his second foul in the process. The next time Blue missed, Trent Lockett was there to dunk the rebound and put the Golden Eagles up by nine.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes couldn’t sink a shot, from inside or out. Raphael Akpejiori flung a hook that hit so high off the backboard that it looked better suited for a setup toss in a dunk contest. Miami started 2 for 12, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range, and Larkin’s 3-pointer more than 11 minutes into the game was the first Hurricanes field goal scored by anyone other than Kenny Kadji.
Even when the Hurricanes ran a play perfectly, the shot wouldn’t fall. Trey McKinney Jones had a nice screen set for him in the final minute of the first half, but his open 15-footer rattled in and out.
Jones’ miss set the stage for Blue to end the half with an exclamation point. He hit a step-back 15-footer just before the horn to give Marquette a 29-16 lead at the break. He drained the shot, strutted backward downcourt, cocked his right arm and gave Wilson a chest bump as the Golden Eagles headed to the locker room well in control.
The Hurricanes played without backup center Reggie Johnson, who had surgery Tuesday for a minor knee injury. Johnson was averaging seven rebounds, but he would have helped only if he could’ve put the ball in the basket.
Officials allowed the game to be physical. Only eight fouls were called in the first half.
Syracuse 61, Indiana 50
With its 2-3 zone defense disruptive from start to finish, and Michael Carter-Williams pouring in 24 points, fourth-seeded Syracuse upset No. 1 seed Indiana in Washington to reach the East Regional final.
Syracuse limited Indiana to its lowest point total of the season, forced 19 turnovers, compiled 10 blocks and held the normally efficient Hoosiers to 33 percent shooting.
After getting past preseason No. 1 Indiana, Syracuse (29-9) will face No. 3 seed Marquette on Saturday night in an all-Big East matchup for a berth in the Final Four. Coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange haven’t been to the national semifinals since Carmelo Anthony led them to the 2003 title.