ST. LOUIS (AP) — Awful all night, Harrison Barnes came through when North Carolina needed him most.
Barnes scored five of his 12 points in overtime and the top-seeded Tar Heels escaped a huge upset with a 73-65 victory over 13th-seeded Ohio on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Ohio, trying to become the first team seeded 13th or worse to make the regional finals since the tournament expanded in 1985, had a chance to convert a three-point play that would have given the Bobcats the lead with 25 seconds left in regulation. Walter Offutt missed from the line, however, and Ohio went 0 for 6 from the field in the first overtime of this year’s NCAA tournament.
Tyler Zeller finished with 20 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for North Carolina, leading four scorers in double figures.
Offutt led the Bobcats (29-8) with 26 points, including 18 from 3-point range, and Nick Kellogg added 14. But D.J. Cooper, who had averaged 20 points in the first two tournament games, finished with just 10 on 3-of-20 shooting.
North Carolina (32-5), which has won 11 straight in the regional semifinals, plays the winner of North Carolina State-Kansas on Sunday afternoon.
The Tar Heels were playing without dazzling point guard Kendall Marshall, perhaps their most irreplaceable player and the steadying hand behind their fast-paced attack, and his absence clearly showed. The Tar Heels were sloppy, turning the ball over a season-high 24 times, and they could never get a handle on the smaller, quicker Bobcats.
After trailing by as many as 15 in the first half, Ohio got hot from long range in the second half. The Bobcats were 8 of 13 from beyond the arc in the second period, with Offutt doing most of the damage.
Cooper finally made a 3, his only one of the game, and Kellogg came right back with another to give Ohio its first lead of the game, 47-46 with 8:28 to play, sending the crowd at the Edward Jones Dome into a frenzy. Ohio had a sizeable number of fans, and the Bobcats quickly won over all the folks who came to root for Kansas.
Barnes, who shot just 3 of 16, made a free throw and hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 57 with 3:21 left. Ivo Baltic scored on a turnaround jumper to give Ohio a 61-60 lead with 1:41 to play.
Barnes missed badly on a 3, drawing taunts of “Air-ball!” from the Ohio fans. North Carolina coach Roy Williams could be heard yelling “One stop!” at his team, and Cooper missed on a jumper at the other end. Reggie Bullock then drilled a 3 to give North Carolina a 63-61 lead. But Offutt scored on an off-balance jumper, drawing a foul by Stilman White in the process.
Offutt had a chance to give Ohio the lead with 25 seconds to go, but his free throw was wide to the left and Zeller grabbed the rebound.
The Tar Heels worked the shot clock down to the very last seconds, but Barnes missed yet another shot and Offutt came up with the rebound. He flipped the ball to Cooper, who raced to midcourt and launched a prayer. It caromed off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
Kellogg’s father, Clark, calling the games in Atlanta for CBS, smiled as he watched the final plays.
“Overtime,” he said, clapping.
But the Bobcats had nothing left. Bullock opened the extra period with a 3 and Barnes came right back with a jumper. After Kellogg made a pair of free throws to cut it to 68-65, Barnes made a pair of his own and Ohio could never get any closer.
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