NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nevada’s Jordan Caroline sat in the Wolf Pack’s locker room and shouted the three words that were being repeated in households across the country.
“What just happened?!?”
Only a comeback that matched the second-largest in NCAA Tournament history.
Nevada rallied from 22 points down in the final 11 minutes Sunday to stun No. 2 seed Cincinnati 75-73 and earn its second Sweet 16 appearance ever. Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound with 9.1 seconds left to make the tiebreaking basket and give Nevada its only lead of the night.
“It’s such an unimaginable feeling,” Caroline said.
The seventh-seeded Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday night in Atlanta. Nevada’s only previous regional semifinal appearance came in 2004.
Nevada earned its trip to Atlanta because Cody Martin led a comeback for the ages.
The only bigger comeback in NCAA history came in 2012, when BYU beat Iona after trailing by 25 points. Nevada’s rally is tied for second place with Duke, which erased a 22-point deficit to beat Maryland in the 2001 Final Four.
“That locker room right now, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
While Nevada celebrated, Cincinnati’s players stood silently in their locker room wondering how their defense that ranked second among all Division I teams allowed 32 points in the last 11 minutes. The Bearcats also failed to make a single basket in the final 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
Cincinnati forward Gary Clark, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, calmly answered questions for several minutes and blamed himself for not beating Hall to the rebound that decided the game.
“I’ve probably got a million text messages saying you had a great year and career, but it comes down to that last rebound,” said Clark, who had 11 points and 10 boards. “It could have gotten my team over the hump.”
Hall instead got the rebound, made a move in the paint and put up a shot that hit the front rim, softly kissed the glass and went through the net.
Once the final horn sounded, a jubilant Caroline slid toward midcourt while Clark lay on his back under the basket. Television cameras caught Musselman taking off his shirt as he headed into a boisterous locker-room celebration.
Cody Martin led Nevada’s furious rally by collecting 25 points, six rebounds and seven assists with no turnovers. His twin brother Caleb tied the game by making a fadeaway 3-pointer from in front of Nevada’s bench with 54 seconds left.
Cincinnati (31-5) scored the game’s first 10 points and was up 44-32 at halftime.
Purdue 76, Butler 73: Dakota Mathias sank a 3-pointer with 14.2 seconds left and second-seeded Purdue, minus star center Isaac Haas, held off 10th-seeded Butler on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.
The Boilermakers (30-6) led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Butler (21-14) cut the deficit to two and had the ball in the final minute. Kalen Martin missed a 3-pointer, and the shot by Mathias at the other end made it 76-71.
Vincent Edwards scored 20 points despite early foul trouble for Purdue, and Matt Haarms filled in capably for the injured Haas. The Boilermakers set a school record for victories in a season and are in the regional semifinals for the fourth time under coach Matt Painter. Purdue faces third-seeded Texas Tech on Friday in Boston.
Syracuse 55, Michigan State 53: The last team selected for the field of 68 is going to the round of 16.
Tyus Battle had 17 points and Oshae Brissett scored 15, lifting 11th-seeded Syracuse to a win over third-seeded Michigan State on Sunday and into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
The Orange (23-13) forced the Spartans (30-5) to settle for 3-pointers all afternoon and it worked brilliantly for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim against Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo.
The Spartans took a school record 37 shots beyond the arc, making just eight of them.
Kansas State 50, UMBC 43: Kansas State’s victory over Maryland-Baltimore County will go down in history as the first time a No. 9 seed has defeated a No. 16 seed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but it will not be remembered as a classic.
There were no style points to be found on Sunday at Spectrum Center — just survival.
Good thing that’s what this event is all about. The Wildcats made just enough plays to fend off the cold-shooting Retrievers. They survived and advanced to the Sweet 16, where they will next face No. 5 Kentucky on Thursday in Atlanta.
Texas A&M 86, North Carolina 65: T.J. Starks scored 21 points and Texas A&M overpowered North Carolina inside, upsetting the reigning national champions Sunday in the NCAA Tournament to mark the second straight year a title holder missed the Sweet 16.
The seventh-seeded Aggies (22-12) did everything they had to do to hand the Tar Heels a rare loss in a home-state NCAA game.
Robert Williams finished with 13 rebounds, helping the Aggies take a 50-36 edge while shooting 52 percent — including 10 of 24 from 3-point range.
Clemson 84, Auburn 53: Gabe DeVoe scored 22 points and Elijah Thomas had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Clemson, which closed the first half with a 25-4 run that helped it beat cold-shooting Auburn on Sunday and advance to the Midwest Region semifinal.
The blowout win put Clemson (25-9) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth time overall and the first since 1997, earning it a spot against Kansas in the regional semifinal.
Florida State 75, Xavier 70: Xavier is the second No. 1 seed to bow out of the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State beat the Musketeers to move on to the Sweet 16, where the Seminoles will face Gonzaga.
The Seminoles ended the game with an 18-4 run. They took their first lead of the night at 71-70 with about 1:08 left on PJ Savoy’s transition 3.
Xavier’s Kerem Kanter shot an airball from 3-point range after getting an open look with 7 seconds left with his team trailing by three. Florida State closed things out by making their foul shots.
West Virginia 94, Marshall 71: In a battle between in-state rivals, the fifth-seeded Mountaineers rolled and set up a date with No. 1 seed Villanova on Friday night in Boston.
Jevon Carter had a game-high 28 points and knocked down 5 of 7 3-point shots for West Virginia. .
Ajdin Penava led the 13th-seeded Thundering Herd with 18 points.