NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Walter Offutt and Ohio are moving on in the NCAA tournament.
Step aside, VCU. Enjoy your memories, Butler. The Bobcats are well on their way to becoming the mid-major darlings of this March Madness.
Offutt scored 21 points, D.J. Cooper had 19 and No. 13 seed Ohio beat South Florida 62-56 on Sunday night to advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals.
The Bobcats (29-7), who opened the tournament with an upset against fourth-seeded Michigan, will play No. 1 seed North Carolina in St. Louis on Friday in their first trip to the round of 16 since they lost to the Wolverines in the regional finals in 1964.
Ohio trailed by two when Offutt swished a 3-pointer, launching a 10-0 run for the Bobcats. A pair of free throws by Cooper made it 54-46 with 3:28 left.
The Bobcats had a 59-53 lead when Toarlyn Fitzpatrick connected for South Florida’s first 3-pointer of the half. But Cooper went 3 for 4 from the line while the Bulls missed three shots in the final 36 seconds.
Victor Rudd Jr. and Anthony Collins scored 13 points apiece and Augustus Gilchrist had 12 for the Bulls (22-14), who were playing in their third game in five days with a travel day in between. South Florida beat California on Wednesday and Temple on Friday night in the second round.
If fatigue was a concern for South Florida, it didn’t show it. The Bulls relied on their stingy defense to limit Ohio to just 30.4 percent shooting in the first half.
But while the Bulls managed to keep the Bobcats away from the rim, they couldn’t stop them at the perimeter. Half of Ohio’s second-half buckets were 3s, and the Bobcats finished 9 for 18 from long range.
Two of their five treys in the second half came after either a flagrant or technical foul.
Rudd was called for the flagrant, and Offutt hit both of his free throws and a 3-pointer that tied it at 31 with 15:52 to play.
Jawanza Poland was given the technical after hanging on the rim following a dunk. Nick Kellogg sank both free throws and a 3-pointer that again tied the game, this time at 42 with 9:23 to play.
Just over 2 minutes later, the Bobcats put together with the 10-0 run that gave them the lead and control, and the Bulls missed out on a shot at being the only team from the first four games to advance to the Sweet 16.
The Big East’s top scoring defensive team and the Mid-American Conference tournament champions turned out to be a good match for one another.
Strong defense from both sides turned the first half into a mostly slow-paced affair. South Florida managed just 40.7 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The Bobcats had the hot hand first. D.J. Cooper sank a 3-pointer, Reggie Keely hit a pair of free throws, and a steal by T.J. Hall led to a layup by Cooper that gave Ohio a 12-6 lead 6 minutes into the game.
Victor Rudd Jr. answered with a resounding alley-oop dunk on a pass from Anthony Collins that launched a 13-1 run by the Bulls. A 3-pointer by Rudd gave them a 19-13 lead with 5:31 in the first half, and South Florida held a 27-21 lead at halftime.
Ohio stayed in the game with its perimeter shooting, going 4 for 10 from long range in the first half, while South Florida relied on its size. The Bulls outscored the Bobcats 16-6 in the paint in the first half.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.