ST. LOUIS — The best player on the court had time on the clock. He had the ball in his hands. He had the scoreboard in sight.
What Evan Turner did not have was enough help from his teammates.
Using a tenacious defense and balanced scoring, Tennessee upset No. 2 seed Ohio State 76-73 Friday night to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the program's history.
"Everyone has doubted us from the time the tournament began. We kept hearing that we were going to be upset in the first round," Tennessee center Brian Williams said. "But we're still here, and we're still winning. And it keeps getting sweeter."
Turner, the leading candidate for every national player-of-the-year award, looked like a one-man show in the second half, but his season ended with two missed 3-pointers in the final 12 seconds.
Tennessee's win sets up a Midwest Region final Sunday with Michigan State, which beat Northern Iowa 59-52. The Vols (28-8) had been 0-for-5 in the Sweet 16 in the past 43 years, including losses in each of the past two seasons.
And few expected much this season after Tyler Smith, their leading scorer last season, was dismissed and Williams, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins suspended after a gun and marijuana were found during a traffic stop.
But nine days later, Tennessee stunned No. 1 Kansas. Now, it's one win from the Final Four.
"This class really worked hard to take this team to where it's at now," senior Wayne Chism, who led the Vols with 22 points and 11 rebounds. "After all the adversity we had to face, all the dismissals we had, this team stayed together through everything."
The Buckeyes (29-8) led for much of the first half but could never quite shake the No. 6 seed Vols. And after coach Bruce Pearl ripped into his team at halftime, the Vols began to focus on working the ball inside to Williams and Chism and slowly gained control.
"I got after them really hard," Pearl said. "Ohio State doesn't lose when they outshoot their opponent. If we're going to do that, we might as well go home because it's done. I challenged their toughness. I said I thought they were intimidated early in that game and we were not the more physical team."
All the Buckeyes had going for them in the second half was Turner, who is expected to be a high pick in this summer's NBA draft if he decides to skip his senior season. In the final 21 minutes, Turner scored 23 points. His teammates combined for 10.
The final play was designed for three-point specialist Jon Diebler, even though he was 1-for-8 from the field. Instead, it was kicked back to Turner in the corner, who tried to draw a foul on his first 3-pointer. When that missed badly, Turner got the rebound and tried another shot at the buzzer. But it was blocked by J.P. Prince.
"That young man has made so many huge shots for us. I mean the 3 he hit with two minutes to go was a big one," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "But maybe there's a little irony in that he got it. But I'm going to put the ball in his hands, and we'll roll from there."
Michigan State halts N. Iowa's magical run
ST. LOUIS — No big shots from Ali Farokhmanesh. Just another region final for Michigan State.
Durrell Summers scored 19 and Korie Lucious hit a whirling turnaround jumper with 1:35 left, helping No. 5 seed Michigan State survive a scare with a 59-52 win over pesky Northern Iowa.
Playing without injured star Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (27-8), seeking its sixth Final Four under coach Tom Izzo, needed a half to get used to Northern Iowa's grinding style.
It held the No. 9 seed Panthers (30-5) to 10 free throws over the final 10:22 to send home the team that shocked Kansas in the second round with help from Farokhmanesh's late 3-pointer and beat UNLV in the first on his 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left.
"The second half, we went inside more and it created a lot more opportunities for us," Izzo said. "Let me tell you something: That's a good team."
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.