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 No. 4 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 from 3-point range.
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.
Syracuse 61, Indiana 50: At Washington, the Orange used their trademark 2-3 zone defense to beat the Hoosiers and put themselves one victory from getting back to the Final Four.
Limiting Indiana to its lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and compiling 10 blocks, fourth-seeded Syracuse used Michael Carter-Williams’ 24 points to upset the No. 1 seed Hoosiers to reach the East Regional final.
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.
Syracuse, which is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer, lost at Marquette 74-71 during the Big East regular season on Feb. 25.
Ohio State 73, Arizona 70: At Los Angeles, LaQuinton Ross hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with two seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the brink of its second straight Final Four appearance with a victory over Arizona 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), who rallied from an early 11-point deficit and weathered the sixth-seeded Wildcats’ late charge for their 11th consecutive victory since mid-February.
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.
Mark Lyons’ acrobatic three-point play for the Wildcats (27-8) had tied it with 21.8 seconds left.
Craft dribbled down the clock and gave it to Ross, who coolly drilled his second 3-pointer and set off a wild celebration in the Ohio State section of the Arizona-dominated crowd.
Wichita State 72, La Salle 58: At Los Angeles, Wichita State went from sweet to elite, beating La Salle 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.
The Shockers advanced to Saturday’s West Regional final against No. 2 seed Ohio State. Their yellow-clad fans, several waving handmade signs, made up nearly all of the smaller crowd that stuck around to see the end at the Staples Center.