David Robinson hit a five-foot jump shot with six seconds remaining to thwart Cleveland State's second-half comeback and give the 17th-ranked Middies a 71-70 victory Friday night and a berth in the NCAA East Regional final at East Rutherford, N. J.
In Sunday's final, Navy, 30-4, will meet the winner between top-ranked Duke and DePaul in Friday night's second game of the Meadowlands Arena doubleheader.
Clinton Smith missed an 18-footer at the buzzer as Cleveland State had its 14-game winning streak snapped and finished 29-4. Navy has won 16 straight games.
Cleveland State had gone ahead 70-69 on Smith's steal and layup with 27 seconds remaining. Robinson, a 6-11 junior center who had only five points in the first half when he picked up three personal fouls, finished with 22 points, one behind his teammate, senior guard Kylor Whitaker.
Navy held 11-point leads four times in the first half and led 39-30 at intermission. But the Vikings came out charged up in the second half, outscoring the Middies 8-2 at the start, eventually pulling ahead 56-55 on Ken McFadden's jumper with 8:40 remaining.
With McFadden and Smith leading the way, Cleveland State stayed in front but never by more than three points. Robinson's jam cut the deficit to 68-67 with 2:25 remaining and Vernon Butler scored on a drive with 1:15 to give Navy a 69-68 lead.
Butler added 16 points for Navy, while McFadden and Smith each finished with 16 for the Mid-Continent Conference champions, who were the 14th-seeded team in the East.
With Robinson being double- and triple-teamed throughout, Whitaker and Butler picked up the scoring slack in the first half, combining for 26 points.
Navy continually broke the Vikings' full-court pressure defense with long passes and took a 25-14 lead. Cleveland State cut it to 31-24 but, even with Robinson sitting out the last 3:34 of the first half because of the foul problems, the Middies held the lead.
Cleveland State made only 12 of 40 field-goal attempts in the first half.
Robinson, the nation's leading rebounder and shotblocker, kept the Middies in front early in the second half with his specialties. A 62% free-throw shooter, Robinson scored 12 points over the last 5:31, including six of six from the foul line.
The victory was the 23rd in the last 24 starts for the Colonial Athletic Assn. champions, who are in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year after not qualifying since 1960.
By beating Tulsa and Syracuse in Syracuse, Navy went further in the tourney than any other Middie team under the current NCAA format.
N.C. State 70, Iowa State 66--Chris Washburn and Charles Shackleford supplied North Carolina State with an unstoppable one-two punch inside and the Wolfpack used their size advantage in a 70-66 victory over the Cyclones in the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Kansas City.
Washburn, North Carolina State's 6-11 sophomore, scored 20 points and Shackleford, a 6-10 freshman, had 22.
In the other semifinal, top-seeded and second-ranked Kansas went against Michigan State, with the winner playing North Carolina State, 21-12, Sunday. The winner of that game advances to the Final Four in Dallas on March 29.
Washburn scored 16 points as the Wolfpack took a 40-29 halftime lead. Iowa State's Jeff Grayer and Sam Hill sparked a 14-4 Cyclone run at the outset of the second half that sliced North Carolina State's lead to 44-43.
Iowa State pulled even briefly at 47-47 on a 20-foot jump shot by Jeff Hornacek. But Ernie Myers, with mostly 12- and 14-foot jump shots, helped North Carolina State break the Iowa State momentum and regain control.