|Saturday, March 25, 2017|
|Men's College Basketball|
Home fans will boost Kansas in battle with Oregon
Saturday, March 25 at 2:19 PM (EDT)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- En route to the Elite Eight, Kansas won its three NCAA Tournament games by an average of 30 points, averaging 96 points in that span.
Slowing down the top-seeded Jayhawks will be the task for third-seeded Oregon in the Midwest Regional final Saturday (8:49 p.m. EDT) at Sprint Center. To make it a little more of a challenge, the Ducks must do it in a hostile environment.
Sprint Center is less than an hour's drive from Lawrence, Kan., the home of the Jayhawks, so the arena will be filled with Kansas fans.
"We look forward to the challenge. It's an opportunity to play," Oregon coach Dana Altman said before Kansas easily dispatched Purdue 98-66. "Kansas is Kansas. Obviously look out there. There is a little green section and a dark blue section. Royal blue filled everything else. It will be a tough ballgame because it's a road game."
Kansas' players know the advantage of having most of the 18,000-plus fans behind them.
"Playing here in K.C. is great," Kansas guard Devonte' Graham said. "The crowd (is) behind us and they give us so much momentum and energy throughout the game. It's just great to be here."
Oregon is a good matchup for Kansas because of similar styles. Kansas relies on four guards in their starting lineup, while Oregon plays small with the loss of 6-10 forward Chris Boucher to injury late in the season.
"(I have a) ton of respect (for Oregon)," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "(They're) unbelievably athletic. They're like us, they're going to play small a lot of the time because they will play Dillon (Brooks) at the 4 like we play Josh and then play the best defender in the Pac-12, Defensive Player of the Year around the middle, kind of like we do Landen (Lucas). So I think it will be two teams that at least match up with each other pretty well."
Kansas is led by national player of the year candidate Frank Mason III. He was averaging 20.8 points per game coming into the NCAA Tournament. He scored 26 points against Purdue. He can drive to the basket, shoot from the outside (he was 4-of-5 from 3-point range against the Boilermakers and shoots 47.2 percent on the season), and he loves to pass, averaging 5.2 assists per game.
Oregon's go-to player is Brooks, who leads the Ducks with 16.4 points per game. He can bring the ball up court, though he plays the power-forward position for the Ducks with the absence of Boucher.
Altman and Oregon are back in the Elite Eight for the second straight year. They lost to Big 12 opponent Oklahoma with a spot in last year's Final Four. If they accomplish their goal Saturday, it will be the Ducks' first Final Four since the very first NCAA Tournament in 1939, when the Ducks won their only title.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Altman said. "I owe these guys (his players) so much, for putting us in this position. As a coach, you always dream of playing in the Final Four and winning a national title. I feel really fortunate to have really good players who have put us in that position."
|Saint Peter's||49||vs.||44||Texas State|
Gonzaga crushes Xavier, reaches first Final Four
Saturday, March 25 at 10:43 PM (EDT)
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As the clock wound down to secure an elusive trip to the Final Four, Gonzaga coach Mark Few hugged star guard Nigel Williams-Goss as he left the floor. Then he allowed himself a good cry.
"Tears of joy," Few said. "It makes your heart warm, 365 degrees Celsius ... maybe it's Fahrenheit. It's been awhile since I was in class."
Former Cinderella-turned-powerhouse Gonzaga powered its way into its first Final Four with decisive 83-59 victory over Xavier in the NCAA West Regional final on Saturday at the SAP Center.
Williams-Goss scored 23 points and forward Johnathan Williams had 19 points and won the tournament MVP award. The Bulldogs bombed their way past the Musketeers by making 12 of 24 3-pointers to shoot holes in Xavier's zone defense.
Top-seeded Gonzaga (36-1) will play the winner of Sunday's Florida-South Carolina game in one NCAA semifinal in the Phoenix suburbs on Saturday. Gonzaga, which won its first 29 games, has a six-game winning streak.
"We had a plan for ourselves," said Williams-Goss, a junior transfer in his first seasin in the program.
"We believed from day one when we all set foot on this campus that we could go to Phoenix. We didn't shy away from setting that goal. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we knew if we bought into the system that we could do it."
For Gonzaga, the 19th time was the charm. The Bulldogs' 19th straight NCAA appearance induced their third Elite Eight, and they finally jumped the last hurdle by dominating both sides of the ball against the game Musketeers (24-14).
Williams-Goss made four 3-pointers and guard Josh Perkins had three. Williams-Goss contributed eight eight rebounds and four assists, Perkins and Jordan Mathews had 11 points each, and Williams had eight rebounds.
The Bulldogs set a school record for victories with their 30th double-digit win of the season. They have 28 NCAA Tournament wins, one more than Xavier.
"I've been there 28 years," said Few, who has been head coach for the last 18 years after serving as an assistant. "My first year on our staff we won four Division I games.
"And I mean, this wasn't even possible. And each year we got better and better, and they we got really good. Our culture is so strong. This was a culture win and a culture statement."
Guard J.P. Macura led 11th-seeded Xavier with 18 points.
The Musketeers shot only 35.5 percent from the field, including 26.7 in the second half, and could not make a dent in Gonzaga's 10-point halftime lead.
"They were the better team," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "Had we played our best, they still would have been a tough out. They are really, really good. They play disciplined on defense."
Gonzaga has limited its four NCAA Tournament opponents to 33.7 percent shooting from the floor. It held teams to 36.5 percent during the regular season.
Musketeers leading scorer guard Trevon Bluiett had 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting while being primarily covered by Williams and Williams-Goss when the Bulldogs were in a man-to-man defense. They also played some zone.
Bluiett had 75 points in the first three NCAA games, including 25 in a 73-71 victory over Arizona on Thursday.
"Our defense has gotten us this far all year," Few said. "It basically won us all four games in the tournament."
Gonzaga hit two 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the second half to stretch its lead to 17, and it reached 20 at 69-49 two possessions after Mack was called for a technical foul with 10:51 left. Xavier never challenged thereafter.
NOTES: Gonzaga and Xavier are two of the eight schools that have played in at least 11 of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. Gonzaga has played in 19 straight. ... Gonzaga F Adam Morrison scored 35 points in the teams' only other meeting in the NCAA Tournament, a 79-75 Gonzaga victory in a 2006 West Regional first-round game in Salt Lake City. Gonzaga was seeded third, Xavier 14th. ... Gonzaga and Xavier are two of 28 Jesuit schools competing at the top level of the NCAA. Gonzaga has an enrollment of 7,837. Xavier's is 6,522. ... Gonzaga, North Carolina and Wisconsin are the only three programs to appear in the Elite Eight each of the last three years.
|Friday, March 24, 2017|
|Men's College Basketball|
Kentucky takes out UCLA
Saturday, March 25 at 1:32 AM (EDT)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Calipari stood in front of his Kentucky team at halftime Friday night and made an announcement.
"We're going to play through De'Aaron Fox," he said. "The rest of you, take a back seat."
Calipari said the Wildcats cheered after those words. When the game was over, so were their thousands of fans that turned FedEx Forum into Rupp Arena Southwest.
Saving his best game for the biggest stage, Fox poured in a career-high 39 points as second-seeded Kentucky avenged a December loss to third-seeded UCLA with an 86-75 decision in the South Regional semifinals.
Fox, who sank 13-of-20 field goals and 13-of-15 free throws as the Bruins couldn't keep him from getting to the bucket, said his teammates and coaches put him in position to score.
"Since the postseason started, I've been in attack mode," he said. "I just made shots today."
Backcourt mate Malik Monk added 21 for the Wildcats (32-5), which will take on top-seeded North Carolina Sunday for a trip to next weekend's Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. Guard Dominique Hawkins came off the bench to score 11 points.
But the biggest difference in Kentucky's 97-92 defeat in December against UCLA and the rematch was on the defensive end. Although the Bruins canned 52.7 percent of their field-goal tries, including a scalding 63 percent after halftime, they were held 15 points under their season average as the Wildcats contained their transition game.
UCLA (31-5) managed just nine fast-break points, a pittance for a team that has destroyed opponents all season with NBA-bound Lonzo Ball leading the break, and also committed 13 turnovers that led to 14 points. In wins over Kent State and Cincinnati, the Bruins coughed it up a combined nine times.
"Sixteen assists and 13 turnovers isn't characteristic of us," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "This was a really tough draw. We knew that someone really good wasn't going to win this game."
That someone turned out to be the guys from Westwood, who went from a sub-.500 record to a championship contender with the addition of Ball, the 6-6 freshman who combines Jason Kidd's passing ability with a more refined jumper.
But Ball, who announced after the game that he would declare for the NBA Draft, couldn't quite find the range with his 3-pointer. Ball was just 1-of-6 from distance and 4-of-10 overall, finishing with 10 points and eight assists.
T.J. Leaf, who could also follow Ball as a one-and-done, and Isaac Hamilton each tallied 17 points for the Bruins. Bryce Alford added 13, but it wasn't enough for a team whose occasional problems at the defensive end cropped up at the worst possible time.
Fox announced his presence with authority right away, scoring Kentucky's first eight points. He finished the half with 15 as the Wildcats rallied late to gain a 36-33 edge prior to Calipari's pronouncement.
"He kept scoring, we gave him the ball," Monk said.
In front of a crowd of 17,532 that included Magic Johnson, the president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers who had a front-row seat for this one, Fox continued his bold forays to the cup. He got early second half help from Monk, who lit it up for eight quick points inside the first four minutes.
The duo scored at will against a UCLA defense which gave up 49.2 percent field goal shooting, plus 10-of-23 accuracy from the 3-point line. What's more, Kentucky earned extra possessions in the second half with a handful of offensive boards that led to 13 second-chance points.
When Fox drained two foul shots with 5:58 left, the Wildcats earned their largest lead of the night at 69-58. That was a death sentence of sorts for the Bruins as Calipari-coached teams at Kentucky entered the game 213-4 when establishing a 10-point edge.
Thanks largely to Fox, make that 214-4.
"So proud of him," Calipari said of Fox. "He's learned to play physical. If he's open, the ball is going down. He's learned to play through contact."
NOTES: Kentucky's first 3-pointer Friday night extended its NCAA-record streak of making at least one in 1,012 consecutive games. ... UCLA entered the game leading Division I in five offensive categories, including assists, as it averaged a whopping 21.6 per game. ... Bruins C Thomas Welsh played just 18 minutes before fouling out with 5:58 remaining, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
Florida beats Wisconsin on Chiozza's 3-pointer at OT buzzer
Saturday, March 25 at 2:48 AM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- It was Chris Chiozza's breakneck speed leading to his 3-point buzzer-beater that impressed his coach in Florida's dramatic 84-83 overtime win over Wisconsin in the NCAA East Regional semifinal on Friday night in Madison Square Garden.
The junior guard raced three-quarters of the court to the top of the key, then let it fly as he was soaring just outside the arc.
"For Chris to have the wherewithal to know that he can get all the way the length of the court in four seconds. He obviously utilized his speed and quickness and had tremendous composure, of course," Florida coach Mike White said.
"Canyon Barry had a huge block in overtime. That put us in that position as well. KeVaughn Allen was unbelievable all game."
Chiozza's game-winner sent the fourth-seeded Gators (27-8) into Sunday's final against seventh-seeded South Carolina in an all-Southeastern Conference matchup.
"I just knew I had four seconds and I was trying to get down the court as fast as I could and if somebody was open I was going to pass it," Chiozza explained. "But I was really trying to get to the rim, but they did a good job of bumping me and slowing me down and that was the only shot I had, so I had to take that one."
Chiozza's burst didn't surprise Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig.
"He's (Chiozza) extremely quick, we knew that coming in," Koenig said. "One of the quicker guys we have faced all year, so not really surprised that he got to the other end of the floor in the time that was left."
Allen poured in 35 points, the most by a Florida player in an NCAA Tournament game. The sophomore guard also established his career high.
Nigel Hayes hit two free throws to provide eighth-seeded Wisconsin (27-10) with an 83-81 lead with four seconds to play before Chiozza's game-winner. Hayes led the Badgers with 22 points but was 7 of 14 from the line. Ethan Happ added 21 points for Wisconsin.
A layup from Allen had sliced the Badgers' lead to 80-77 with 47 seconds left and two free throws from Barry and a layup by Chiozza with 24 seconds left in overtime tied it for Florida at 81-81.
The Badgers had to rally late in the second half to force the game into overtime. The Badgers were down 68-56 with 5:23 to play.
"This is a tough way for them (seniors) to go out," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "And how they battled back, came from 12 down, it's kind of a microcosm of how they have navigated through the program. They have fought back at adverse times and tonight was a great testament to their will and never-give-up attitude."
A 3-pointer from Bronson Koenig cut the Florida lead to 72-67 with 1:30 to go and a layup from Happ got the Badgers within 72-69 with 44 seconds left.
Zak Showalter's running 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.9 seconds left in regulation knotted it at 72-72. The Badgers scored eight straight points in the final 1:49 of regulation to tie it.
Earlier, Happ was forced to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with the Badgers trailing 58-53. Happ's return didn't slow the Gators down. Florida used a 10-3 blitz to expand its lead to 68-56 with 5:23 left, with Allen accounting for five points.
After being down 51-41, Wisconsin went on a 12-1 scoring spree to move ahead 53-52 with 10:21 remaining.
With the scored tied at 34 early in the second half, Florida outscored the Badgers 13-5 to move ahead 47-39 with 15:37 to play.
After a quiet first portion of the opening half, Allen came alive to score 12 of Florida's final 15 points in just over six minutes, helping the Gators to a 34-32 edge at the half.
The Badgers led 27-18 before Allen took over.
NOTES: Sunday will mark the fifth time that a No. 4 seed and a No. 7 seed match up in a regional final. ... Wisconsin and Florida both played at Madison Square Garden during the regular season. The Badgers defeated Rutgers 61-54 in overtime in January and the Gators lost 84-74 to Duke in the Jimmy V Classic in December. ... Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year. ... Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig rank first and second, respectively, among active players in NCAA Tournament points. ... Florida has made 10 appearances in the Sweet 16. ... Florida coach Mike White's father is the athletic director at Duke.
North Carolina handles Butler to reach Elite Eight
Friday, March 24 at 10:59 PM (EDT)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Part of winning championships in March is getting an unexpected great game from a role player.
North Carolina got just that Friday night from reserve forward Luke Maye.
Playing the best game of his career, the sophomore achieved his first double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds as the top-seeded Tar Heels rolled into the South Region championship game with a 92-80 beating of fourth-seeded Butler at FedEx Forum.
Joel Berry led all scorers with 26 points and Justin Jackson added 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in a smooth all-around effort as North Carolina (30-7) assured itself of a spot in Sunday's regional final opposite either UCLA or Kentucky.
But the story was Maye, who entered the game averaging a modest 5.1 ppg and 3.8 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. He'd shown flashes of excellence with four double-figure scoring efforts and 15 rebounds in a January win over Florida State, but no one, except perhaps for coach Roy Williams, could have expected what Maye delivered.
By halftime, Maye already scored a career-high 14 points while adding nine boards -- just two fewer than the physical Bulldogs (25-9) managed as a team.
"We see this from him in practice all the time," Williams said. "He lights up the (starters) all the time and has a smile on his face while doing it. He could play better on defense, and he put up a jump hook one time with Kennedy Meeks wide open under the basket.
"So he could see his teammates better, but I'm telling you, you haven't seen the best of him yet at North Carolina."
Maye is a legacy recruit of sorts, as his father Mark played quarterback for the Tar Heels about 30 years ago. Williams noted that the son had other Atlantic Coast Conference schools which offered him, as well as Bob McKillop's Davidson.
But Williams convinced father and son to remain patient, that there would be a spot for him in Chapel Hill. Not willing to settle for being a nice face on the end of the bench after a quiet freshman season in which he didn't play a lot, Maye pledged to Williams that no one would outwork him.
"I just wanted to play the best I can and limit my mistakes and help this team win," Maye said. "Today I got a couple of shots to fall in and I felt pretty confident, and they kept going."
Maye's early explosion presented North Carolina with a working margin it maintained for the night's remainder, even as it lost focus at times in the second half. Butler could never shave the lead under 10 points, though, as it simply couldn't stop the high-powered Tar Heels or compete with them on the glass.
The Bulldogs entered the game yielding just 68.2 points per game, but North Carolina got to 30 before the game was 10 minutes old and led 52-36 at the half, eventually finishing with a season high against its defensive-minded foe.
"We let them get into a rhythm, especially in the beginning, and when you let a team like that feel good about themselves, it's tough to get them out of that," Butler forward Andrew Chrabascz said. "They answered every run we had. Give credit where it's due; they played unbelievably tonight."
Chrabascz did his part to keep the Bulldogs in contention with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Kelan Martin added 16 points, 14 after halftime, and Kamar Baldwin scored 14.
But Butler sank just 43.5 percent of its field-goal tries and went only 8-of-28 from the 3-point line while getting drummed 38-26 on the glass. By contrast, the Tar Heels converted 54.4 percent from the field, drawing assists on 22 of their 31 field goals.
Maye's performance factored heavily into their success.
"He can shoot the ball, and he can rebound the ball," Williams said. "He's got a big role with this team and it's only going to get bigger and bigger."
NOTES: North Carolina entered the game leading Division I in offensive rebound percentage at 42.9. It's one of only three teams to collect more than 40 percent of its misses. ... Butler came into this one ninth in Division I in fewest turnovers per game at just 10.2. ... Tar Heels G Joel Berry (ankle) started despite being hobbled at times in a 72-65 win Sunday night over Arkansas.
South Carolina blows out Baylor
Friday, March 24 at 11:31 PM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- Before South Carolina coach Frank Martin acknowledged his players for a terrific defensive performance in the Gamecocks' 70-50 win over Baylor in the East Regional semifinal on Friday, he paid homage to his Southeastern Conference rivals.
"I want to credit the teams in our league in the SEC for preparing us for the kind of games that you have to play at this time of year," Martin said. "Those coaches, those players that we fought against every single day got these guys prepared to harden, to understand how hard and how disciplined you have to play to have a chance to win at this time of year."
South Carolina (25-10), seeded seventh, is headed to the Elite Eight for the first time after a stellar defensive effort in front of a pro-Gamecocks crowd at Madison Square Garden. Martin's squad held Baylor to just 30 percent (17 of 56) shooting, forcing 16 turnovers and holding the Bears to a long scoring drought in the first half that they never recovered from.
It was South Carolina's second 20-point margin of victory in this tournament. The Gamecocks knocked off Marquette 93-73 in the first round.
The Gamecocks went 12-6 in the rough-and-tumble SEC, which sent five schools into the tournament.
Sindarius Thornwell, the Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference, led South Carolina with 24 points. P.J. Dozier and Chris Silva added 12 points each.
Johnathan Motley paced third-seeded Baylor (27-8) with 18 points and nine rebounds.
South Carolina turned in one of its best defensive efforts of the season in the first half, leading to a 37-22 cushion. It held the Bears to just 25 percent (8 of 32) from the floor.
"We got to have guys that are going to believe in our mission, that are going to believe in what we want to do," said Martin of his team's defensive philosophy. "Once they believe, then we can teach them the technique. It all starts with our mindset. We have got guys that are completely bought into what we do."
Thornwell scored 10 points in the half and nine points with six rebounds as the Gamecocks held the lead for 16:11.
"We pride ourselves on our defense," Thornwell remarked. "We know that's our bread and butter and we know we have a good defense and we go out and guard. We know it's a 40-minute game, and we know teams are going to make runs, but we can't take our foot off the pedal, we got to keep the pressure on and keep guarding."
The Bears used a 10-0 spurt to get within 49-38 with 10:41 to play, but would get no closer the rest of the way. The Gamecocks responded with 3-pointers from Duane Notice and Thornwell within 54 seconds of each other to push the South Carolina lead to 55-38 at the 9:22 mark.
The Gamecocks extended their lead to 46-26 after a layup from Notice early in the second half.
Thornwell's 3-pointer, his fourth to that point, and a jumper from Rakym Felder, pushed the Gamecocks' lead to 63-41.
The Bears were plagued by foul trouble in the first half and South Carolina took advantage, making 9 of 12 from the line. The Gamecocks were in the double-bonus for the latter part of the half.
"It's one of the best defenses that we came across," noted Baylor guard Ishmail Wainwright, who was held scoreless and committed four turnovers. "West Virginia also has the same defense. But they (South Carolina) just executed, they double teamed, they triple teamed Mot (Johnathan Motley) and made it tough to score the ball every time we caught it.
"Every time we got a catch, there was somebody right there and, I mean, it was, Coach (Frank) Martin did a great job with the guys and they're a great defensive team."
An 18-0 run by the Gamecocks gave them a 31-15 lead with 2:50 left in the half. Baylor went 7:47 without a basket, committing four of its seven first-half turnovers in that span.
South Carolina led 37-22 at the half, tying for the least amount of points allowed this season in a half.
Baylor missed 11 of its first 14 shots, but only trailed 11-9.
NOTES: Baylor is the 17th opponent South Carolina has held to under 40 percent from the field. ... The Gamecocks entered the game ninth in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. ... Baylor became the 18th opponent to shoot below 30 percent from 3-point land against the Gamecocks this season. ... Baylor and South Carolina were meeting for the seventh time, with all games occurring since 2006. Baylor leads the series 4-3. ... Baylor F Ishmail Wainright is the first player in the school's history to appear in four NCAA Tournaments. He failed to score, while committing four turnovers. ... F Johnathan Motley is the first-ever unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection for Baylor. ... The Bears were ranked No. 1 in January after winning their first 15 games of the season. ... The Gamecocks are fifth in the nation in turnovers forced. They forced 16 miscues against Baylor.