Kansas ends Davidson's dream NCAA run
DETROIT (Reuters) - The Kansas Jayhawks brought the Davidson Wildcats' dream NCAA championship run to a heart-stopping end with a 59-57 win in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.
Kansas will join the top seeds from the other three regions, UCLA Bruins, North Carolina Tar Heels and Memphis Tigers, in San Antonio next weekend for the Final Four.
A record crowd of 57,563 -- the largest ever to watch an NCAA preliminary round game -- and a national television audience watched to see if tiny Davidson could produce more magic following upset wins over Georgetown, Wisconsin and Gonzaga.
The Wildcats looked ready to provide a little bit more "March Madness" when Stephen Curry, the Midwest Region's Most Outstanding Player, dropped a long-range three-pointer with 54 seconds left to cut the Kansas lead to 59-57.
With the crowd on its feet, the Wildcats had one last chance with 16 seconds to play but Jason Richards's jumper from the top of key bounced off the backboard, triggering wild celebrations among the Kansas supporters.
"I couldn't be prouder of this group of men," Davidson coach Bob McKillop told reporters. "I think they represented Davidson College with the greatest poise, with the greatest commitment with a remarkable run in this very, very compelling sporting event.
"The agony of this is that we've come so far, smelled and touched and seen our dream but haven't fully embraced it because of one possession at the end there.
"We came two points away from advancing to the Final Four.
"For a school with 1,700 students, with the academic rigor that we have, playing in the Southern Conference...is a remarkable statement about effort."
The Wildcats exit U.S. college sport's biggest stage having earned the respect of the entire country for their gritty play.
An exclusive liberal arts school with a small enrolment and high tuition fees ($41,000), Davidson was better known for the free laundry service it provides students than its basketball programme, which has a distinct international flair with players from Canada, France, Turkey, Nigeria and England on the bench.
The Final Four is set to be an epic battle between some of U.S. college basketball's most successful teams with UCLA taking on Memphis in one semi-final and Kansas facing North Carolina in the other.
After falling in the South Regional final the last two years, it proved third time lucky for Memphis (37-1), who booked their Final Four spot with an 85-67 win over the second seed Texas Longhorns and head to San Antonio having lost just once this season.
The Tar Heels, top seed overall in the 65-team U.S. college basketball championship, booked their place on Saturday after beating Louisville 83-73 in the East Region title game while UCLA, seeking its 12th national title, beat Xavier 76-57 to win the West Region.
(Writing by Steve Keating in Detroit; Editing by Ed Osmond)
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