SAN ANTONIO – Georgia Tech's (search) Will Bynum shook loose for a layup with 1.5 seconds left and sent the Yellow Jackets further than they've ever been in the NCAA tournament, putting them into the championship game with a 67-65 victory over Oklahoma State (search) on Saturday.
Now coach Paul Hewitt and his third-seeded Jackets will play for the title Monday night against the Duke-Connecticut winner. And here's a good omen for them: Tech has already beaten both of those powers.
John Lucas capped a furious comeback with a 3-pointer for the Cowboys that tied it at 65 with 26.3 seconds left.
After a timeout, Tech worked the ball around to Bynum, who didn't even start. He drove down the right side of the lane, double-clutched and banked home the winner. Lucas, the star of Oklahoma State's thrilling win over Saint Joseph's in the regional final, threw up an airball from practically the other end of the court at the buzzer.
Picked to finish a lowly seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference (search), the Jackets weren't expected to do much of anything this season with a team of unknowns — hardly an All-American among them.
And surrounded by big names like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton at this Final Four they were considered the biggest underdogs of all.
"We know a lot of people are basically saying this is a three-team Final Four," Tech guard Jarrett Jack said Friday.
After Bynum's winning basket, the Jackets mobbed him. One of his longest and closest friends, Cowboys star guard Tony Allen, even waded into the Tech huddle to congratulate his buddy.
"We felt very comfortable if we got the ball to him for the last shot," Hewitt said.
Marvin Lewis shot the Jackets out to an early lead from 3-point range and curly-haired center Luke Schenscher kept them ahead until Lucas' late heroics.
Schenscher had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Lewis had 15, all on first-half 3-pointers. Bynum finished 11.
Lucas scored 11 on 4-for-14 shooting. Joey Graham had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Cowboys and Ivan McFarlin had 16.
"It's tough because I failed," Lucas said. "All year I've been achieving my goals and when it came to the biggest one I failed."
The loss ended Sutton's 34th year as a head coach and left him still without a championship. This was his third trip to the Final Four, having last made it in 1995.
"Part of you feels a little bit bad for him," Hewitt said.
Tech seemed to be in charge when it scored the first two baskets of the second half for a 41-30 lead.
But Lucas rallied the Cowboys, closing them to 53-51 with a pair of baskets.
Both teams said this game would come down to tempo, and Georgia Tech controlled it. The smaller and faster Yellow Jackets buzzed around the ball, running at every opportunity and occasionally slapping on a full-court press that forced the Cowboys to become sloppy.
Tech could afford to gamble because at every turn, there was Schenscher. Often taunted as "Big Bird" by opposing fans, the 7-foot-1 Australian gave the Yellow Jackets an inside presence at both ends of the court.
Schenscher prevented the more bulky Cowboys from going inside on lobs and he also worked his way inside for an assortment of dunks and baby hooks with his left hand.
A streak shooter, it was clear from the start that this was Lewis' day. And with Jack struggling to get going and B.J. Elder still limping with a sprained ankle, Lewis' timing was perfect — and unexpected.
Lewis scored just one point and shot 0-for-6 in Tech's last game, a 79-71 overtime win against Kansas in the St. Louis Regional final.
Showing a shooter's mentality — they're bound to go in sooner or later — Lewis hit his first three 3-point tries, missed one, then backed up a hit a couple more.
At one point, an exasperated Sutton called out to his team, "Who's guarding that guy?"
Six minutes in, he had already passed his season average of 11 points. He scored 15 of Tech's first 29 points, more than enough to offset Elder's injury.
Elder was Tech's leading scorer this season, but got hurt early in St. Louis. He was held scoreless and played only 15 minutes in those two tournament games, and did not score against Oklahoma State until hitting the first basket of the half.