Indiana center Thomas Bryant had a wonderful game but a rough final few minutes, with a charge and two missed free throws.
But when it counted the most, Bryant, a 6-foot-10 freshman who joined the Hoosiers over Missouri among others in a heated recruiting battle, came through.
His two free throws with 10.4 seconds remaining gave Indiana the cushion it needed to defeat Kentucky 73-67 in a clash of college basketball heavyweights and advance to the Sweet 16 in the East Region.
Fifth-seeded Indiana will face the North Carolina-Providence winner in Philadelphia.
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Bryant led the Hoosiers with 19 points. The game ended with Bryant intercepting Kentucky’s desperation heave and sharing a celebratory moment with the Indiana fans. Indiana coach Tom Crean, after one of his biggest victories, soon followed.
Bryant scored 17 points in the second half — 15 in the final 7:32 — as the Hoosiers took control, leading by as many as 10 with 4:10 remaining.
Kentucky’s big men couldn’t handle Bryant. The game was 50-50 when Bryant converted a three-point play to begin an 8-0 run.
“Coach told me that he wanted me to attack more,” he said. “He believes in me, and I just went with the coach's plan.”
Wildcats point guard Tyler Ulis finished with 27 points and won the individual battle with Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell with 18.
But Ulis had little help besides Jamal Murray, who had 16. The Kentucky frontliners came up empty on both ends of the floor.
Bryant, from Rochester, N.Y., had narrowed his recruiting choices to Indiana, Missouri, Syracuse and Kentucky. The Tigers’ involvement centered on assistant coach Rob Fulford, who coached Bryant at Huntington Prep in West Virginia before joining Kim Anderson’s first Mizzou staff.
There, Bryant was a teammate of former Tigers forward Montaque Gill-Caesar.
But although Bryant said he liked Missouri’s playing style, he selected Indiana and has started every game. He entered Saturday averaging 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds and was chosen to the All-Big Ten third team by the league coaches. He tops the conference with a 68.7 field-goal percentage.
“I spent a lot of time recruiting him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I’m going to be honest, I didn’t realize he was that good.”