NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Live Blog: Kentucky Holds on to Round Out Surprising Final Four Field

NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Live Blog: Kentucky Holds on to Round Out Surprising Final Four Field7:07 p.m.: Kentucy overcame a lack of experience down the stretch and used an 8-2 run to close off a 76-69 win to earn a berth in the Final Four.

For John Calipari, it’s the third different team he’s led to the Final Four — unless of course you ask the NCAA who will tell you that Calipari’s 1996 “Refuse to Lose” UMass team never happened, and neither did Derrick Rose and Co.’s run for Memphis. But I digress.

For the first time ever, the Final Four will be devoid of a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Instead it will be No. 4 Kentucky taking on No. 3 UConn on one side, while No. 11 VCU will get No. 8 Butler on the other.

7:04 p.m.: DeAndre Liggins just hit a huge 3-pointer to give Kentucky a four-point lead with just seconds to play.

That four-point lead became a six-point lead when Brandon Knight stepped to the line for a pair of free throws after John Henson’s fifth foul with under a minute to play.

It looks like John Calipari is heading back to the Final Four.

6:56 p.m.: Kentucky is a young team, and we’re about to find out how they handle the pressure when it matters most.

Tyler Zeller just knocked down two free throws to tie at 67 with under 4 minutes to go.

Carolina, on the other hand, has made a habit of falling behind early and then coming back in games. They did so in the ACC tournament, falling behind by double-digits in its first two games of the tournament before falling to Duke in the finals.

6:48 p.m.: Henson returns to the Carolina lineup and is the recipient of an alley-oop.

Obviously you want your best players out there with a trip to the Final Four on the line, but Henson’s impact will be severely limited relatively speaking. His bread and butter is shot-blocking, and with four fouls next to his name, he’ll likely be tentative around the tin.

He’ll likely also be the target of quite a few of Kentucky’s offensive sets going down the stretch.

6:48 p.m.: Henson returns to the Carolina lineup and is the recipient of an alley-oop.

Obviously you want your best players out there with a trip to the Final Four on the line, but Henson’s impact will be severely limited relatively speaking. His bread and butter is shot-blocking, and with four fouls next to his name, he’ll likely be tentative around the tin.

He’ll likely also be the target of quite a few of Kentucky’s offensive sets going down the stretch.

6:36 p.m.: North Carolina is doing everything it can to get back into the game, but even with a little bit of a spurt in the last minute or so, they still trail by seven.

They’ve spent much of the second half with John Henson and Harrison Barnes on the bench in foul trouble.

Barnes is set to check back in, and if Carolina wants to win this game, they’re going to need Barnes to be smart with his fouls. They need to look no further than Saturday night’s Arizona-UConn game in which Derrick Williams spent much of the time on the bench for the Wildcats, and in the end, UConn made them pay for his absence.

6:26 p.m.: If Carolina can’t come back in this one, there will be a lot of people on Tobacco Road pinning the Heels’ misfortunes on John Henson.

The big man just picked up his fourth personal foul, and he heads to the bench with just two points — although he does have eight rebounds.

Anyway, good job by Kentucky’s Darius Miller to get Henson to commit the foul. Miller got Henson, one of the best shot blockers in the country, to bite on an up-fake. Miller made it hurt twice as much by finishing the lay-up and then hitting the foul shot.

6:18 p.m.: Carolina scores a quick bucket early in the second half. Just as quickly, John Calipari takes time out. Like 53 seconds into the half quick.

Didn’t work, though, as UK turns it over on its next possession. Three possessions and three turnovers to open the half for the Wildcats.

5:55 p.m.: You do not want to be in Roy Williams’ locker room, and a lot of that has to do with how his team ended the first half. Carolina gave up an easy breakout and compounded the problem with a cheap foul on the fast break which didn’t affect the result which was two points.

They then settled for a strongly contested Harrison Barnes jump shot from roughly four feet behind the 3-point line as the half expired.

The Tar Heel offense is struggling right now to get much going, and they look more like the team that lost to Duke by double digits in the ACC championship, than the team playing for a trip to the Final Four. They’re down by eight, but you kind of get the feeling it could be worse.

Meanwhile, Kentucky could be playing better, too. They’ve had a balanced scoring attack to go along with a defense that has forced nine turnovers and held Carolina to 36.7 percent from the floor. To “only” be up eight might be a bit of a letdown, and it sure sounded that way when John Calipari spoke at the end of the half.

Either way, these two teams are way too talented to be surprised by any outcome the second half might bring.

5:33 p.m.: John Henson is struggling in the spotlight early on for North Carolina and it’s hurting them.

The Tar Heel big just picked up his third foul of the first half, so he’ll be on his way to the bench, likely for the rest of the first half.

It comes at an inopportune time as Carolina now trails Kentucky 25-18.

5:15 p.m.: Kentucky has jumped out to an early lead in Newark, upping the defensive effort considerably in the last few minutes.

In fact, Carolina has hit on just one of its last six shots.

5:01 p.m.: While the VCU-Kansas shocker was an interesting game because of the result more than anything else, the North Carolina-Kentucky game that’s about to tip has the potential to be one of the best games of the tournament.

Earlier this season, UK visited Chapel Hill, dropping a 75-73 decision to the Tar Heels.

4:42 p.m.: If your bracket wasn’t busted heading into Sunday, it definitely is now.

After building a double-digit lead in the first half, VCU is able to hold on and somehow knock off No. 1-seeded Kansas.

So there ya go. Virginia Commonwealth will play Butler in the Final Four. Go figure.

4:28 p.m.: VCU is intent with using the majority of the shot clock on each possesion right now. Is that smart? Well, yeah. Is it aesthetically pleasing basketball? Not at all.

They’re just 2:28 from pulling off the shocker as they cling to a 63-57 lead.

3:49 p.m.: A 9-2 run to open the second half has Kansas showing it’s not about to roll over and die, but the Jayhawks still trail by seven.

3:16 p.m.: The Jayhawks’ bad dream has officially become a nightmare.

Behind 15 points by Skeen and 12 points from Rozzell, the Rams head into halftime with a 41-27 lead.

3:06 p.m.: Raise your hand if you had VCU opening up an 18-point lead in the first half. Anyone? Anybody out there?

The Rams entered this one as 11.5-point underdogs, yet they lead 39-21 with 3:25 left to go in the first half. Could VCU and Butler make the Final Four? If things keep up, they will.

2:43 p.m.: VCU has made an early statement, and it came in the form of a 17-4 run early in the first half.

The Rams opened up a seven-point lead, and Jamie Skeen leads all scorers with seven early points.

Bill Self has some work to do.

2:35 p.m.: If Kansas wanted to come out and get an early lead, it didn’t happen. VCU did trail 6-0 but fought back to take a brief 9-8 lead. Through six minutes, we know that this one won’t be easy for Kanas.

12 p.m.: On Saturday, Butler stunned Florida to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. On Sunday, the underdog VCU Rams look to do the same against top-seeded Kansas.

The two teams will hit the hardwood at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, and we’ll have updates throughout the game.

Following the Kanas-VCU showdown will be a much-anticipated matchup between second-seeded UNC and fourth-seeded Kentucky.

UNC is fresh off the heels of a dominant victory over Marquette, one in which they led 40-15 at halftime. Kentucky, meanwhile, narrowly edged the top-seeded Buckeyes 62-60 on Friday night. This game tips at 5:05 p.m. in Newark, N.J., and it’s sure to be a good one.

NESN’s college basketball coverage is presented by Bodog.net.

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