SPOKANE, Wash. — Chris Kramer ignored his coach's final play call and demanded the ball with Purdue's season on the line.
The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, the rugged soul of Boilermakers basketball with leader Robbie Hummel out for the season, forgot he is just 6 feet 3. Or, he didn't care.
Kramer plowed past one defender 4 inches taller than he is and flipped in a layup over Texas A&M's Bryan Davis, who is 6 inches taller, with 4.2 seconds left in overtime Sunday. That sent the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (29-5) into the region semifinals with a 63-61 victory over the devastated Aggies.
"I had the ball and went right and crossed over to the left, and it parted like the Red Sea," Kramer said of A&M's defense.
The ending left Kramer pounding his chest. Then, delirious teammates pummeled him from front and back near midcourt.
Kramer's kind of day.
"Bodies were clashing, both teams refused to lose," he said. "And it came down to one play."
B.J. Holmes got a final chance to win it for fifth-seeded Texas A&M (24-10) with a frantic 3-point try from in front of his bench at the buzzer, but it hit the front of the rim to ensure Purdue's sixth region semifinal appearance in 12 NCAA Tournaments dating to 1994.
The Boilermakers rallied from 11 points down in the second half and will face Duke in Houston on Friday. Hummel has promised to be there as a spectator.
This all seemed like a pipe dream a month ago, when the Big Ten regular season co-champions, former top-seed candidate and trendy pick for the Final Four in its home state lost Hummel to a knee injury. President Barack Obama thought the Boilermakers wouldn't get out of the first round.
They may have overlooked the square-jawed, football-sized Kramer. He led the Boilermakers with 17 points, seven rebounds and countless dives to the floor for loose balls.
"A lot of people are saying, 'Great accomplishment, you made the Sweet 16 without Robbie,' but the coach keeps saying you've got to keep dreaming," Kramer said of Matt Painter. "You've got to want more, and you can never be satisfied."
After Holmes' last miss, he stayed slumped on the court with his head bowed under his maroon jersey for more than a minute. Teammates ushered the inconsolable Davis away.
DUKE 68, CAL 53: Defense has always been the foundation of Mike Krzyzewski's team, and the top-seeded Blue Devils sent their coach of three decades into a region semifinal for the 19th time with a stellar performance in Jacksonville.
After winning both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, Duke is playing the type of suffocating defense that could put Krzyzewski back in the Final Four for an 11th time.
The Blue Devils (31-5) last reached the national semifinals in 2004, not that their coach feels as though they've let him down.
"You know, I hate when somebody compares those teams of the last couple years with our national championship teams, and they say they underachieved," Krzyzewski said. "Are you kidding me? They won 30, 29 games. But they were limited teams, and they couldn't play the defense that this team can play because we have big guys."
Exploiting a huge advantage in size and depth in the frontcourt, Duke opened a double-digit lead in the first half, and the eighth-seeded Bears (24-11) never seriously threatened again.