WASHINGTON — 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 a pair of 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 71-61 win over Miami on Thursday night.
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 either top-seeded Indiana or No. 4 seed Syracuse in the East Regional final on Saturday, aiming for a spot in the Final Foul 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.
Ohio St. 73, Arizona 70: LaQuinton Ross hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2 seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the brink of its second straight Final Four appearance with a victory over Arizona on Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
Ross, the Buckeyes’ remarkable reserve, scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half for the second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7).
Deshaun Thomas scored 20 points for Ohio State, and Aaron Craft added 13 before ceding the Buckeyes’ final shot to Ross. Craft hit an awfully similar 3-pointer against Iowa State last Sunday to send the Buckeyes forward.
Wichita St. 72, La Salle 58: Wichita State went from sweet to elite, beating La Salle on Thursday night to reach the final eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 32 years.
Malcolm Armstead scored 18 points, Carl Hall added 16 points and freshman Ron Baker 13 for the ninth-seeded Shockers, who proved their upset of No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the third round was no fluke. They never trailed in this matchup of small schools whose past NCAA tourney success was long buried in the history books.