NCAA Tournament Daily Recap
Thursday, March 17
(1) Pittsburgh 74, (16) North Carolina-Asheville 51
The Pittsburgh Panthers defeated the North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon. The top-seeded Panthers recovered from an uneven first half and dominated the out-matched Bulldogs in the second half. Pittsburgh shooting guard Ashton Gibbs scored 20 of his 26 points in the second stanza as the Panthers grabbed a firm hold of the game after drifting for roughly 30 minutes. A 16-seed has never defeated a one-seed and the Big East regular season champions weren’t about to make history in the nation’s capital city. Matt Dickey led the losing Bulldogs with 21 points. North Carolina-Asheville fished the season at 20-14. Pittsburgh advanced to the second round and will play eighth-seeded Butler on Saturday.
(8) Butler 60, (9) Old Dominion 58
The Butler Bulldogs squeaked by the Old Dominion Monarchs in the first game of the Thursday afternoon session in Washington, D.C. Veteran big man Matt Howard was in the right place at the right time for the team that dashed to the national championship game one year ago. His tip-in as time expired gave Butler an immensely satisfying victory over Old Dominion, the champion of the Colonial Athletic Association. There were 21 lead changes during the contest and neither team led by more than six points. It was nip-and-tuck competition from the jump ball to the final buzzer, and in the end, it was Howard, the savvy senior from Connorsville, Indiana, who pushed his storied collegiate career another few days to the weekend. Big man Frank Hassell had 20 points for the Monarchs who finished the season 27-7. Butler advanced to play top-seeded Pittsburgh on Saturday.
(5) Kansas State 73, (12) Utah State 68
The Kansas State Wildcats defeated the Utah State Aggies in NCAA Tournament competition from the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona, on Thursday evening. The Wildcats survived the dreaded 12-5 seed matchup by dominating the first half and making key baskets down the stretch to score the victory. KSU superstar Jacob Pullen, who was battling a sickness prior to the game and displayed flu-like symptoms on the court, stepped up for the Wildcats and delivered a 22-point, 5-assist performance. The Aggies simply couldn’t find an offensive rhythm and were inundated with foul trouble all evening long. Tai Wesley, Utah State’s meal-ticket player, had 18 points and 6 rebounds but was limited due to foul problems. The Aggies, who appeared to be shocked by foul calls that they weren’t subjected to within the confines of the Western Athletic Conference during their regular season, were knocked off balance both mentally and physically. They finished the season at 30-4. Kansas State advanced to the second round to face fourth-seeded Wisconsin.
(4) Wisconsin 72, (13) Belmont 58
The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Belmont Bears in the first game of the night session in Tucson on Thursday. Belmont, the champion of the Atlantic Sun, was a popular upset pick coming into the game but simply couldn’t get the necessary stops to stay competitive deep into the second half. The Badgers hit 12 three-pointers and shot 50 percent on the evening to surge in the second half and coast home for the win without a tremendous degree of difficulty. Wisconsin’s defense stifled the usually terrific Belmont offense, holding it to just 37 percent from the field. Agile and versatile Wisconsin forward John Leuer, who shrugged off a bad performance against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, led the Badgers with 22 points while Jordan Taylor added 21, including five daggers beyond the three-point arc. Belmont finished at 30-5. Wisconsin will face Kansas State on Saturday.
(11) Gonzaga 86, (6) St. John’s 71
The Gonzaga Bulldogs dominated the St. John’s Red Storm in the first round of the NCAA Tournament from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday evening. The eleventh-seeded Bulldogs never looked like the underdog, as the champions of the West Coast Conference dominated their Big East counterparts in every facet of competition. Gonzaga manhandled St. John’s on the boards and imposed its will at both ends of the floor. The Bulldogs shot 53 percent from the field and outrebounded the athletic Red Storm 41 to 18. Marquise Carter posted 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists to pace the Bulldogs, who will face third-seeded BYU in the next round. Dwight Hardy had a game-high 26 points for St. John’s, which sorely missed injured senior guard D.J. Kennedy, knocked out for the season last week in the Big East Tournament. The Johnnies could have adjusted to the loss of a key player in two or three weeks, but without having a few games in which to play without Kennedy, the turnaround time was simply too abrupt for coach Steve Lavin, who really has nothing to be ashamed of. St. John’s, despite its immense dose of bad fortune, capped a highly successful season with a 21-12 record and a great deal of hope for the future.
(3) BYU 74, (14) Wofford 66
The Brigham Young Cougars defeated the Wofford Terriers in the first game of the night session in Denver on Thursday night. Interestingly enough, this was a more competitive game than the nightcap between Gonzaga and St. John’s. BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette had 32 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds to lead the Cougars to their second straight opening-round NCAA Tournament victory. This was a close game throughout, with BYU holding a modest lead of five to eight points during a majority of the second half. Despite shooting poorly all night long, the Cougars implemented a zone defense in the second half which caused Wofford to struggle down the stretch. Forward Noah Dahlman had 22 points to lead the Terriers, who finished the season at 21-13. Wofford shot just 4-of-19 from 3-point range. BYU will face eleventh-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday in a primetime matchup of the future West Coast Conference foes. The Cougars will join the WCC next season.
(7) UCLA 78, (10) Michigan State 76
The UCLA Bruins held on to defeat the Michigan State Spartans in NCAA Tournament competition from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday evening. The Bruins jumped out to an 18-point halftime lead and pushed their advantage to as many as 23 in the second half before the Spartans mounted a last-ditch rally in the latter portion of the second half. UCLA missed a mind-boggling nine free throws in the final four minutes of play and 17 overall to facilitate a Michigan State comeback that fell just short of the finish line. Draymond Green produced a triple-double, scoring 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists for Michigan State. The game appeared to be over on numerous occasions, but after a UCLA missed foul shot, Michigan State owned one low-percentage chance to either tie or win the game in the final seconds of regulation. With his team down by two points, MSU guard Kalin Lucas sped up the court on the left sideline but was double-teamed by UCLA defenders in the backcourt. Lucas panicked in response to the dwindling game clock (which had just two seconds on it at the time) and was called for a travel as the 35-14 Michigan State run over the last eight and a half minutes came up just two points shy of forcing overtime. Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee scored 16 points apiece to lead the Bruins. UCLA will face second-seeded Florida in the next round. Michigan State finished the year at 19-15.
(2) Florida 79, (15) UC Santa Barbara 51
The Florida Gators blew out the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first game of the night session in Tampa on Thursday. The final score was not indicative of how out-of-hand this contest actually was. The Gators led by 24 points at halftime and as many as 34 in the second half. SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons collected 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists in just 27 minutes of action for the Gators. Florida shot the ball well and dominated the glass, jumping on the overwhelmed Gauchos from the opening tip and putting to rest any chance the 15 seed had for an upset. Orlando Johnson scored 21 points for the champions of the Big West, who finished the season at 18-14. Florida advanced in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. The Gators will face seventh-seeded UCLA on Saturday for a chance to move into the Sweet Sixteen.
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(7) Temple 66, (10) Penn State 64
Juan Fernandez drained an off-balance leaner with less than a second to play, giving the Temple Owls a long-sought NCAA Tournament victory in a thrilling second round game over the Penn State Nittany Lions at the McKale Center. The game, which featured no lead larger than four the entire second half, was tied up by Penn State on a long (27-foot) Talor Battle three-pointer with 12.2 seconds left, setting up the buzzer-beating finish. Battle posted 23 points, including five 3-pointers, to pace the Nittany Lions. Penn State did suffer a blow to start the second half, when forward Jeff Brooks (who averages 13 points per game) left with a dislocated right shoulder. Fernandez and Ramone Moore each rang up 23 points to lead the Owls. The win was monumental for the Temple program because it broke Temple coach Fran Dunphy's NCAA Tournament record 11-game losing streak and was the first win by a Dunphy-coached team in the tournament since 1994, when his Penn team upset Nebraska in Uniondale, New York. The Owls, who trailed by nine at one point in the first half before making a comeback to take a two-point lead into the locker room, advanced to play San Diego State on Saturday.
(2) San Diego State 68, (15) Northern Colorado 50
Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and 10 rebounds, leading the San Diego State Aztecs to a hard-earned victory over the 15th-seeded Northern Colorado Bears on Thursday. Nursing a small lead entering the second half, the Aztecs saw Bear guard Devon Beitzel catch fire after a subpar first half, raising the hopes of an upset for the Big Sky Conference champions. In need of a spark, the Aztecs turned to what they do best: defense. The Aztecs went on a 13-0 run, holding the Bears scoreless for almost seven minutes. That all but sealed the game as the Aztecs went up by 16 and coasted after that, picking up the first NCAA tournament win in school history. Beitzel poured in 25 points in the losing effort for the Bears, accounting for 50 percent of the team's points but getting little help from other sources. Chris Kaba had 10 points and Elliott Lloyd added 9 for Northern Colorado. For the Aztecs, Chase Tapley had 14 points and James Rahon and Billy White each added 12 to help complement Leonard. The Aztecs dominated the boards 42-31, aided by White's 13 and Leonard's 10, and hounded the Bears into 34-percent shooting.
(3) Connecticut 81, (14) Bucknell 52
The Connecticut Huskies, fresh off of five wins in five days to win the Big East Tournament, were facing a team that many thought could give them a scare. Kemba Walker had other ideas. UConn’s superstar guard poured in 18 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out a career-high 12 assists as the Huskies rolled over the Bucknell Bison. The 12 dimes for Walker also set a UConn record for assists in an NCAA Tournament game. Facing double teams off every screen, Walker avoided forcing the issue by finding his teammates, and as a result, the Huskies overpowered the undersized Bison. The Huskies led by 17 at the break and went up by 32 points just five minutes into the second half. Walker, who averaged 26 points in the Big East Tournament run, was not the only guy to get going for the number three seed in the West Region. Roscoe Smith registered 17 points and 7 assists, while Jeremy Lamb contributed 16 points to lead the Huskies to the rout. Mike Muscala scored 14 points to pace the Bison, who succeeded in double-teaming Walker, but at the expense of the rest of the Huskies, who savored the chance to get into the action. The Huskies dominated the boards, 43-21, and held the Bison to one lonely offensive rebound. Connecticut’s defense also showed up as the Bison managed to hit just 31 percent from the floor. The Huskies will move on to face the Bearcats of Cincinnati in the next round.
(6) Cincinnati 78, (11) Missouri 63
The Cincinnati Bearcats brought to the NCAA Tournament the stingy defense they're known for, holding the Missouri Tigers without a field goal for almost 11 minutes in picking up a victory on Thursday in the late game at the Verizon Center in the District of Columbia. The Bearcats held Missouri to 63 points, almost 20 points below the Tigers’ season average. UC limited Mizzou to 38 percent shooting - just 29 percent in the first half - as the number six seed jumped to an 11-point lead. The defense took over early for Cincy: The overwhelmed Tigers didn't get a field goal between the 7:27 mark of the first half and the 16:48 mark of the second half. The Tigers didn't get a single bench point in the first half, and when they finally got something going with Phil Pressey (7 points), Yancy Gates was there for the Bearcats to put an end to any Missouri uprising. Gates finished with 18 points, including a 2-of-2 night from long range (he was 2-of-12 on the season from 3-point range entering the game), and pitched in 11 rebounds. Dion Dixon posted 16 points and Cashmere Wright chipped in with 11 points and 7 assists in the Cincinnati win. Ricardo Ratliffe led the Tigers with 13 points, but starters Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon, and Kim English (who average a combined 38 points per game) combined for just 23 points on 8-of-27 shooting in the loss for Missouri. With the win, the Bearcats advanced to face conference rival Connecticut. The Huskies beat the Bearcats by eight in late February in Cincinnati.
(13) Morehead State 62, (4) Louisville 61
Richmond never led until 12 minutes remained and shotmaking wizard Kevin Anderson hit a 3-pointer that enabled the Spiders to take the lead, 51-50. Richmond's patience was exhibited on its next possession when it controlled the ball for more than two minutes and collected four offensive rebounds before Cedrick Lindsey hit a jumper to put his team ahead by three at 53-50. The Spiders continued to control the clock and never trailed down the stretch.
(5) West Virginia 84, (12) Clemson 76
(4) Kentucky 59, (13) Princeton 57
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