Deshaun Thomas, Carl Hall
Updated: May 30, 2013 5:27PM
LOS ANGELES — Wichita State is headed to the Final Four, and the Shockers no longer should be a surprise to anybody. Not after the way they held off Ohio State in the West Regional final Saturday.
Malcolm Armstead scored 14 points, Fred Van Vleet bounced in a big basket with a minute left and ninth-seeded Wichita State earned its first trip to the Final Four since 1965 with a 70-66 victory against the second-seeded Buckeyes.
Van Vleet and Cleanthony Early
added 12 points apiece for the Shockers (30-8), who followed up their round-of-32 victory last week against top-seeded Gonzaga with a nail-biting triumph against Ohio State (29-8), whose 11-game winning streak ended one game short of its second consecutive Final Four.
‘‘Last year, we were watching all this on television,’’ Early said. ‘‘Now, I’m looking at a hat that says ‘Final Four Atlanta’ with my team on it. It’s crazy. I still can’t believe we’re here. You try to expect it, but you expect a lot of things that don’t happen. This really happened.’’
Wichita State roared to a 13-point halftime lead after the Buckeyes played an awful first half, then led by 20 with 11 minutes left before Ohio State mounted a furious rally. LaQuinton Ross scored 15 of his 19 points after halftime, leading a frenzied comeback that pulled the Buckeyes to three points in the final minutes.
But after Tekele Cotton made a three-pointer with 2:20 left to give the Shockers some breathing room, VanVleet scored on a shot that bounced all over the rim
before dropping through. Ron
Baker and Cotton sank last-minute free throws to secure the second Final Four trip in Wichita State’s history. The Shockers won the Midwest Regional before losing to UCLA 108-89 in the national semifinals in 1965.
Wichita State became only the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to reach the Final Four since seeding began in 1979, but it has happened twice in the last three seasons. Virginia Commonwealth reached the Final Four as an 11th seed in 2011.
‘‘You’ve got to give them credit,’’ said Ohio State guard Aaron Craft, who shot only 2-for-12 from the field and was limited to nine points. ‘‘They really came out firing, and we really didn’t regain our footing until it was too late.’’