- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2019

Cassius Winston sprinted down the court with the ball, then turned around to the other sideline, killing off four pesky seconds with equal parts determination and euphoria.

Down went Duke, with one of the most talented and hyped freshman classes in college basketball history, the favorite and the dominant storyline from wire to wire this season. That didn’t matter now for Michigan State, with its trip to the NCAA Tournament national semifinals now fully earned.

The No. 2 seed Spartans beat No. 1 Duke 68-67 Sunday and cut down the nets at Capital One Arena in the District to cap off a thrilling weekend of basketball and cement the Final Four field.

Michigan State will face Texas Tech and Virginia will play Auburn next Saturday in Minneapolis, with the title game the following Monday.

Kenny Goins hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to put Michigan State ahead, 68-66. Duke’s R.J. Barrett went to the line with 5 seconds left and missed the first of his two shots.

Duke then fouled, but it wasn’t yet enough to send Michigan State to the line. The Spartans successfully inbounded the ball to Winston, who sped away from any potential foulers to end the game.

Winston finished with 20 points and 10 assists, and Xavier Tillman added 19 points and nine boards for Michigan State. Duke star Zion Williamson led all players with 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Barrett scored 21.

Duke freshman forward Cam Reddish, who missed the Sweet 16 win over Virginia Tech Friday with a knee injury, didn’t start Sunday but subbed into the game after two minutes. Reddish finished with eight points.

The game featured 16 lead changes and seven ties.

Also on Sunday, No. 5 Auburn upset No. 2 seed and SEC foe Kentucky, 77-71 in overtime, to make its first Final Four in program history.

After taking down the Midwest Region’s top seed, North Carolina, in the Sweet 16 on Friday, the Tigers pulled off another clutch win on the backs of Jared Harper’s 26 points and Bryce Brown’s 24 on Sunday.

Tigers forward Chuma Okeke will be the emotional storyline of the Final Four after tearing his ACL in the late stages of their Sweet 16 win. He appeared at the Auburn bench early in the second half Sunday, in a wheelchair pushed in by his teammates to a huge ovation.

Auburn’s game was not the only one this weekend to feature overtime in the Elite Eight. No. 1 Virginia, just a year after its historic first-round loss to a No. 16 seed, reached the Final Four for the first time under coach Tony Bennett by beating No. 3 Purdue 80-75 in overtime Saturday to win the South Region.

Mamadi Diakite made a last-gasp jumper for Virginia as time expired to force overtime, and the Cavaliers got clutch baskets from Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter in the extra frame that made the difference.

Their balance and experience allowed them to overcome a brilliant performance by Purdue’s scoring machine, Carsen Edwards, whose 10 3-pointers were one shy of the NCAA Tournament record for a single game. Edwards finished with 42 points for Purdue, while none of his teammates scored more than seven.

But an off-kilter pass by Edwards during overtime resulted in a turnover and ultimately sank Purdue’s chances.

Finally, Texas Tech, like Auburn, will make its first Final Four appearance after upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga 75-69 to win the West Region Saturday.

This game didn’t need overtime to come up with an exhilarating, if bizarre, finish. Gonzaga drew within two points in the final seconds and had to defend a Texas Tech inbound play. But Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins reached over the end line and tipped the ball out of Matt Mooney’s hand, drawing a technical foul.

“It was a bonehead play, something I’ll think about forever,” Perkins said.

Perkins made his free throws, putting the game out of reach.

Jarrett Culver, an NBA prospect who chose his hometown college over several other suitors, led the Red Raiders with 19 points. Mooney, a graduate transfer from South Dakota, had 17.

Texas Tech held the Bulldogs to 42 percent shooting, some 10 points below their average. This was only the fourth time Gonzaga was held under 70 points this season.

“Texas Tech is going to the Final Four,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said. “Some of you look surprised. But Texas Tech is going to the Final Four.”

⦁ Based in part on wire service reports.

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