LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Baylor had all the fun last night, ending what had been an entertaining NCAA tournament ride for Omar Samhan and surprising St. Mary's.
Dunn and Carter both made three-pointers on their first shots and later combined for a highlight alley-oop dunk as Baylor rushed to a huge lead and romped, 72-49, in the South Regional semifinals in Houston.
In the later game, Duke defeated Purdue, 70-57.
The third-seeded Bears (28-7) led by 46-17 at halftime. Tomorrow, they will play for a chance at their first Final Four since 1950, when there were only eight teams in the field.
More impressive for Baylor, it is another inspiring step in redemption nearly seven years after coach Scott Drew took over a program reeling and recovering from a murder and scandal that shook the world's largest Baptist university like nothing in its history.
Drew had to rebuild with reduced scholarships, a roster decimated when the top three scorers were allowed to transfer, and an unprecedented half-season after the NCAA considered shutting the program down for a whole year.
Dunn and Carter, two top Louisiana high school players who were recruited by other established programs, still came to Baylor. And now they have helped to get the Bears, who were picked 10th in the preseason Big Twelve poll by the league's coaches, to become one of only eight teams that still have a chance to win the national title.
Dunn scored 23 points with four three-pointers, and Carter added 14 points for Baylor.
Samhan, who had become a breakout star in the tournament with his dominating play in the first two rounds and the one-liners when talking or tweeting, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels (28-6). He had made only 1 of 8 shots and had only three points at halftime.
With Samhan held in check, the tiny school from Moraga, Calif., that beat Villanova and Richmond earlier in the tournament was headed home.
During the interview sessions the day before the game, Samhan stopped and waved to everyone when he stepped onto the stage.
There was the often-comedic interaction with two of his teammates during the 15-minute session, and the 6-foot-11 center made sure the TV cameras were aimed at him at one point before professing his love to singer Taylor Swift.
Dunn, Carter, and Baylor post player Ekpe Udoh, meanwhile, rarely smiled while answering questions directly. They were ready to play, expecting to continue this "business trip" not far from home - a 31/2-hour drive from their Waco campus.
Carter hit a three-pointer from the top of the key on his first shot, then Dunn hit one on the next Baylor possession.
When an earlier alley-oop attempt from Carter was off-target, Dunn grabbed the ball out of the air, took a couple of steps along the baseline, then turned and hit a short jumper. That was part of a 9-0 run that put the Bears in control early.
The highlight alley-oop came when Dunn stripped the ball from freshman Matthew Dellavedova near midcourt and took off toward the basket.
Dunn passed the ball to Carter, trailing on his left, and the point guard never dribbled the ball, instead tossing it toward the rim for a slam and a 29-11 lead.
Coming back down the court, Dunn turned and flashed a wide smile to the crowd - filled mostly with fans dressed in green and gold, clearly outnumbering the one section of St. Mary's fans near the Gaels' bench.
After their lowest-scoring half of the season, things never got better for the Gaels in the second half. Their deficit increased to 35 within the first couple of minutes after halftime.
Duke 70, Purdue 57 - Kyle Singler scored 24 points and Jon Scheyer added 18, snapping out of a shooting slump just in time to help the top-seeded Blue Demons advance to the round of eight for the first time since 2004 with a win over the Boilermakers in Houston.
Scheyer, Duke's leading scorer, was 5 for 18 from the field in Duke's first two NCAA tournament games. He went 5 for 9 in the second half after missing his first six shots and also went 7 for 8 from the free-throw line.
Nolan Smith scored 15 points and Haddonfield's Brian Zoubek grabbed 14 rebounds for the Blue Devils (32-5), who will face third-seeded Baylor in tomorrow's South Regional final.
JaJuan Johnson scored 23 points and E'Twaun Moore added 18 for the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (29-6).