Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, left, Jared Sullinger, right, and teammates celebrate with the trophy after defeating Syracuse 77-70 in the East Regional final game Saturday.
PHOENIX — Freshman forward Chane Behanan made the go-ahead basket with 1:06 left and fourth-seeded Louisville finished the game on a 23-8 run for a 72-68 victory over Florida on Saturday in the NCAA West Regional final, earning the Cardinals a trip to the Final Four.
Russ Smith, who finished with 19 points, followed Behanan’s bucket with a pair of free throws, then Florida’s Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton each missed chances to tie.
Louisville (30-9) made one more free throw to seal the game and reach its ninth Final Four, the second under Rick Pitino, despite playing the final 3:58 without point guard Peyton Siva, who fouled out.
The win also kept Pitino undeafeated against his protege, Florida coach Billy Donovan.
The seventh-seeded Gators went out in the regional final for the second straight year, with Donovan falling to 0-7 lifetime against the man who coached him at Providence, hired him as an assistant at Kentucky and felt as proud as a papa when Donovan won his two national titles.
The Gators, who led by 11 points in the second half, went cold — really cold — after an incredible shooting display in the opening half. They went 8 for 11 from 3-point range in the first, then missed all nine attempts from beyond the arc in the second.
The Gators missed seven shots and committed one turnover over the last 2:30.
Behanan scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, including nine over the last 8:02 and Louisville’s last two field goals — both after Siva left with nine points and eight assists.
Beal and Erik Murphy each had 14 points for Florida.
Louisville will play either Baylor or Kentucky in the Final Four on March 31.
OHIO STATE 77, SYRACUSE 70
BOSTON — Jared Sullinger recovered from first-half foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, helping Ohio State beat Syracuse to advance to the Final Four.
It will be the Buckeyes’ first trip to the NCAA semifinals since 2007.
Deshaun Thomas had 14 points and nine rebounds for No. 2 seed Ohio State (31-7), which led by eight with 59 seconds to play and held on after the Orange cut it to three. The Buckeyes made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 68 seconds.
Brandon Triche scored 15 points and Baye Keita had 10 rebounds for top-seeded Syracuse (34-3). The Orange were hoping for a return trip to New Orleans, where they won their only national championship in 2003.
Ohio State now awaits the winner of the South Regional final between North Carolina and Kansas.
The loss ended a tumultuous season for Syracuse that began with accusations by two former ball boys that they were sexually abused in the 1980s by Bernie Fine, a longtime Syracuse assistant coach. Boeheim vigorously defended Fine, but later walked back his support in the face of new information. Fine, fired Nov. 27, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.