ST. LOUIS Even if it takes a little something extra, Georgia Tech finds a way to get it done.
And the Yellow Jackets got a sweet reward for their perseverance: their second trip to the Final Four and their first since 1990.
With leading scorer B.J. Elder hobbled by a badly sprained ankle, Jarrett Jack scored a career-high 29 points to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 79-71 victory over Kansas in overtime of the St. Louis Regional championship Sunday.
No team has had more tight games on its road to the Final Four than the third-seeded Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech's first three games were decided by a total of 13 points.
Solid all day, Jack was unstoppable in overtime. After little Will Bynum hit a 3 to break a 71-all tie, Jack went 4-for-4 from the line in the last 47 seconds to seal the win.
Jack finished 8-of-12 from the floor, and also had nine rebounds and six assists. Luke Schenscher added 15 points and Clarence Moore had 14 for the Yellow Jackets (27-9).
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, coach Paul Hewitt threw his hands in the air in triumph and a wide grin spread across his face. The Yellow Jackets ran onto the court when the buzzer sounded and piled together for a group hug. Elder's teammates tried to lift him up, but they couldn't get him off the ground as the impromptu mosh pit bopped around.
The Yellow Jackets will now face second-seeded Oklahoma State on Saturday in San Antonio.
Kansas (24-9) could do nothing but watch the celebration with disappointment, denied a third straight trip to the Final Four.
But these Jayhawks didn't play like a Final Four team. They shot 40 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 15 times. Wayne Simien, who'd been averaging 20 points in the tournament, was held to 11 on 4-of-14 shooting. Keith Langford scored 15 on 4-of-11 before fouling out in overtime.
It was the Jayhawks' first loss in a regional final since March 26, 1996, when they lost to Syracuse.
Though Georgia Tech was seeded one spot better, it came into the game as an underdog. The Jayhawks had the experience and the momentum, having won their first three tournament games by 22 points.
They even had a domeful of fans, playing just five hours away from their campus in Lawrence, Kan.
As if that wasn't enough, the Yellow Jackets were playing with a gimpy Elder. Elder, who averaged a team-high 15.8 points, suffered a severely sprained ankle in Friday night's regional when Nevada's Kirk Snyder fell on him.
He started, but was visibly limping and couldn't run close to full speed. He played 12 minutes, going 0-for-2 with an assist.
The Yellow Jackets had their away with the Jayhawks early, smothering them defensively and holding Simien and Langford to a combined four points on 0-for-10 shooting. The Yellow Jackets led by as much as 11 in the first half and were up 40-33 with 16:39 left in regulation.
But Simien and Langford finally broke loose, and Kansas came roaring back.
Langford scored on a driving layup his first field goal of the day and Simien ran off five quick points to give Kansas a 43-42 lead, its first, with 13:04 to play. The pro-Kansas crowd went wild, and the Jayhawks' bench sprinted onto the floor when a timeout was called seconds later.
Jack was fouled by Langford on a driving layup, and he converted the three-point play to start a 7-0 run that gave Georgia Tech a 65-58 lead with 3:56 to play.
But the Jayhawks weren't done not by a long shot. Langford converted his own three-point play to pull Kansas within 65-61 with 3:03 left in regulation.
After Miles and Jack traded steals, Miles fouled Jack with 39 seconds left.
Jack made the front end of a one-and-one, putting the Yellow Jackets up 66-63. But he missed the second and Simien grabbed the rebound. Simien missed a short hook at the other end, but Jeff Graves came up with the ball in the scramble and kicked it out to the freshman J.R. Giddens, who calmly drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 66 with 16 seconds left.
Overtime, though, belonged to the Yellow Jackets.
After Michael Lee scored on a layup to tie the game at 71, Bynum put Georgia Tech had for good by drilling a 3-pointer.
Now Georgia Tech is on its way to San Antonio, where Bynum will match up with high school teammate Tony Allen of Oklahoma State.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.