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NCAA Tournament Daily in Review

Sunday, March 20

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WEST REGION

CHARLOTTE, NC

(1) Duke 73, (8) Michigan 71

Unlike the first game of the day in Charlotte, in which North Carolina found itself constantly under siege from Washington, it appeared that the ACC’s other kingpin was going to cruise. The Duke Blue Devils busted open a tight game at halftime to grab leads of 49-37 (14:28 left), 58-43 (with 10:51 remaining), and then 68-56 against the Michigan Wolverines. That last 12-point lead was forged with 6:25 on the clock, giving a national television audience little reason to think that the underdog from the Big Ten Conference had any legitimate hope of staging a comeback. Michigan – young, learning and bereft of statement-making wins on its NCAA Tournament resume – was building for next year… or so the story read. Duke certainly seemed to be in complete control of this contest for the first 33.5 minutes.

And then it happened.

Thanks to a young and hungry backcourt that didn’t know the meaning of the word “quit,” coach John Beilein’s Maize and Blue crew promptly made a gallant dash for glory. Tim Hardaway, Jr., the son of the former NBA star, scored seven straight points in the blink of an eye to lead a 13-2 run over a five-minute span that pulled Michigan within a point of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, at 70-69, with 1:25 left. After subduing the Wolverines for most of the day, Duke – the defending national champion – wore its crown quite uneasily in the home stretch of this suddenly serious showdown. Could Michigan complete one of the all-time great comebacks in the history of the NCAA Tournament?

Amazingly, everything fell into place for the U of M… only for the last note to strike a sour chord.

After an exchange of baskets, Duke clung to a 72-71 lead with 10 seconds left. Nolan Smith made one foul shot but missed the second, giving Michigan a chance to win with a three-pointer. This reality made Duke extend its defense on the perimeter and concede the driving lane to the bucket. UM’s Darius Morris exploited this reality and got within five feet of the tin. Morris could have gotten to the rim, but on balance, his look was a high-quality one. Michigan had overtime in the palm of its… and Morris’s… hand.

There was just one problem: The shot didn’t fall. Duke survived to face Arizona in the Sweet 16 on Thursday evening in Anaheim, California. The Blue Devils are now two wins away from returning to the Final Four to complete the defense of their championship.

 

 

TULSA, OK

(5) Arizona 70, (4) Texas 69

In the 1993 NCAA national championship game, a man named Chris Webber destroyed his team’s hopes of victory because he called a timeout he didn’t have. Eighteen years later, in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, a man named Jordan Hamilton destroyed his team’s hopes of returning to the Sweet 16 because he called a timeout he DID have.

Yes, a legitimate controversy emerged over a five-second violation that probably should not have been called, but the fact remains that had the Texas Longhorns not called an ill-advised timeout in the final stages of their game against the Arizona Wildcats, they’d probably be packing their bags for Anaheim, California.

Instead, it’s Arizona that’s ticketed for Southern California this upcoming Thursday. Coach Sean Miller, back in the NCAA Tournament after leading Xavier to the Sweet 16 in 2009, guided his feisty Wildcats to a thrilling win over Texas that was just as wild as the previous day’s memorable finish between Butler and Pittsburgh. For the second time in 24 hours, a riveting March Madness tournament tussle was decided by wayward decisions in the closing seconds of regulation time.

Texas, which had trailed by a 36-25 score at halftime despite shutting out Arizona star forward Derrick Williams, did a lot of hard climbing in the second half, but thanks to the exploits of guard J’Covan Brown, who tossed in 13 of 13 foul shots and repeatedly shredded Arizona’s defense with dribble penetration into the lane, the Longhorns caught and then passed the Cats down the stretch. Texas reached the top of the mountain and grabbed a 69-67 lead with 14 seconds to go, owning possession in its backcourt after big man Tristan Thompson rejected a shot by Williams on Arizona’s (seemingly) last-ditch possession.

Then, Jordan Hamilton’s brain spun sideways, and this game took a horrid left turn for Texas and coach Rick Barnes.

Hamilton, for no apparent reason (he plainly panicked), called a timeout instead of allowing Arizona defenders to foul him as he cradled the ball. The timeout brought about a completely unnecessary inbounds play, and when the referee made what replay showed to be a premature five-second count, calling the violation on the fourth extension of his arm, Arizona was awarded the ball. On the Wildcats’ inbounds play, Williams received a perfect feed from teammate Kyle Fogg and roared to the goal. Hamilton was there to take a charge and make up for his previous blunder, but the Texas forward simply couldn’t hold his ground or – as an alternative – get out of the way. Williams scored the tying bucket, but what was even more calamitous for Texas was the fact that Hamilton committed a blocking foul to give Williams a shot at the win from the foul line. Williams nailed the free throw to give the Wildcats the lead, and when Brown missed a tough leaner against ferocious Arizona defense with two seconds left, UT’s Cory Joseph was not able to release a follow-up shot in time. Joseph did get fouled, but only (as replay indicated) after the red light – signifying the end of regulation time – flashed behind the backboard. Arizona moved on to the West Regional semifinals, and Texas once again suffered a wrenching defeat in the NCAA Tournament.

 

EAST REGION

CHARLOTTE, NC

(2) North Carolina 86, (7) Washington 83

The North Carolina Tar Heels didn’t play very much defense on Sunday afternoon. However, they played just enough to get by and live for another few days.

North Carolina, the second seed in the East Region, struggled to defeat the No. 7 seed Washington Huskies in the round of 32 at the NCAA tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena in the early afternoon tip on Sunday. The Tar Heels, 29-1 in tournament play in the state of North Carolina, trailed by 11 points in the first half and five in the second half before taking the lead for good with 4:02 remaining in regulation on a Harrison Barnes three-pointer.

The final minute was filled with drama; Carolina had the ball and a four-point (84-80) lead, and used most of the 35-second clock before Barnes missed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining. Then Washington’s Isaiah Thomas fed the ball to Scott Suggs for a made three, and the Huskies – who were nipping at the heels of the Tar Heels all day long – trailed by only one point with 17 seconds on the clock. Suggs promptly fouled Kendall Marshall on the in-bounds play, and Marshall – still a freshman, mind you – felt the pressure of the moment and missed the front end of his one-and-one attempt. However, Washington couldn’t take advantage, as Carolina finally delivered the defense that had been missing for much of the afternoon in Charlotte. The Heels crowded the lane on the Huskies’ most important possession of the game and forced a missed layup in traffic near the tin. After that missed layup at the Washington end of the floor, UNC’s Deter Strickland was fouled to send the Tar Heels back to the line, where the young man hit the two biggest free throws of his life… at least to this point in time. Trailing by three points (86-83) with five seconds remaining, Washington’s Venoy Overton foolishly launched a tying three-point attempt from mid-court, but the shot missed badly. Yet, Carolina’s John Henson awkwardly touched the ball before it hit the baseline to give the Huskies the ball with 0.5 seconds on the clock. On the subsequent inbounds play, Thomas missed a two-pointer (his toe was on the three-point line) that Henson – still not thinking clearly – might have interfered with. Video reviews showed that the clock probably should have been reset to at least 1.1 seconds before the inbounds play. Washington, trailing by three points at the time of the clock controversy, didn’t own a very good chance to tie (let alone win). Nevertheless, the blatant refusal of the referees to add time to the clock reinforced the notion that Carolina received home cooking in its Charlotte-based back yard.

Washington finished its season 24-11. The Huskies were led by Terrence Ross with 19 points, Matthew Bryan-Amaning with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Thomas with 12 points and eight rebounds. Aziz N’Diaye had four points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies. On the other side of the divide, the Tar Heels were powered by their big names. Barnes (22 points) and Tyler Zeller (23 points) combined for 45 of Carolina’s 86 points. Strickland and Marshall had 13 points each, and Henson had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

North Carolina advanced to play No. 11 seed Marquette in the Sweet 16 at the East Regional semifinals. The game in Newark, N.J., will start at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time on Friday evening.

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CLEVELAND, OH

(1) Ohio State 98, (8) George Mason 66

The NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed is playing like one. This is not good news for the rest of the field.

Ohio State, looking every bit the favorite over the course of the next two weekends of basketball, dismantled No. 8 seed George Mason in the round of 32 at Quicken Loans Arena in the early- evening game on Sunday. The Buckeyes hit 61 percent of their field goals, including 61.5 percent beyond the arc, all while limiting the Patriots to 44.1 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.

George Mason was playing without Luke Hancock who was sick with food poisoning and missed this contest entirely. Hancock had scored 18 points in Mason’s first-round against Villanova on Friday. The Patriots were led by Cam Long with 16 points and Ryan Pearson with 13.

Ohio State fifth-year senior David Lighty, playing before a home crowd in his hometown, led the Buckeyes with 25 points, including 21 from 3-point range – he connected on all seven of his attempts. William Buford and Jared Sullinger posted 18 points each, and Jon Diebler had 13 points in the win. Freshman point guard Aaron Craft contributed only six points, but dished out 15 assists and just two turnovers for the dominant Buckeyes.

Ohio State advanced to play fourth-seeded Kentucky in the Sweet 16 at the East Regional in Newark, N.J. The game on Friday will tip off 30 minutes after game one between Marquette and North Carolina; the tentative tip time is approximately 9:45 Eastern.

 

(11) Marquette 66, (3) Syracuse 62

The Big East’s forced cannibalization of itself, brought on by an NCAA Selection Committee that bracketed conference rivals to play each other in the second round, is now complete.

Darius Johnson-Odom drilled the tie-breaking three-pointer with 27 seconds remaining to play, as the 11th-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles upset the third-seeded Syracuse Orange in an all-Big East NCAA Tournament East Region second round contest.  The stage was set for Johnson-Odom’s heroics when the Orange failed to successfully inbound the ball with the score tied at 59 and 51 seconds remaining.  

Dion Waiters’s pass was too high, forcing Syracuse teammate Scoop Jardine to land on the midcourt line on the catch. The play looked awkward, and it led the referee to whistle Jardine for a backcourt violation, giving possession to the Golden Eagles. However, since there’s no team control on an inbound pass, the violation should not have been called. Alas, Syracuse – which committed 20 turnovers on the day – tempted fate one time too many. Marquette ran its offense with Johnson-Odom springing open at the top of the key, and making the three-pointer.  Jae Crowder scored 16 points and Jimmy Butler added 10 points for Marquette.  

Syracuse was led by Waiters, who scored 18 points.  Kris Joseph chipped in 12 points for the Orange.  Syracuse finished the season with a 27-8 record.

The Golden Eagles will face second-seeded North Carolina in the East Regional semifinals this Friday night in Newark at 7:15 p.m. Eastern.  Marquette improved to 22-14 with the victory.

 

SOUTHWEST REGION

CHICAGO, IL

(11) Virginia Commonwealth 94, (3) Purdue 76

The 2006 George Mason Patriots and the 2008 Davidson Wildcats have found their new soul brother. Its name, you might ask? VCU. A double-digit seed from a mid-major is destroying power-conference teams in its path. It’s beginning to feel a whole lot like Christmas for college basketball’s underclass once again.

Bradford Burgess scored 23 points to lead the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams to a rout of the third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers in an NCAA Tournament Southwest Region second round game on Sunday.  The Rams emphatic victory - their third win in five days - put to rest any remaining questions there may be about whether the 11th-seeded team belonged in the field of 68.  

The Rams overwhelmed the Boilermakers with their depth and balance.  Senior point guard Joey Rodriguez repeatedly broke down the Purdue defense, feeding open teammates for easy buckets.  Rodriguez capably directed the Rams’ attack,  finishing with 12 points, 11 assists, and no turnovers in 34 minutes of playing time.  Jamie Skeen scored 13 points, Juvonte Reddic added 12 points, and Ed Nixon chipped in 11 points for the Rams.

VCU took a 42-32 halftime lead and hit seven of its first eight shots in the second half to blow the game wide open.  The lead grew to 59-44 after Rodriguez drilled a three-pointer from NBA range.  The Rams kept the Boilermakers at bay the remainder of the game, coasting to victory and the Sweet 16.  VCU will face tenth-seeded Florida State in a Sweet 16 contest that seemed highly improbable on Selection Sunday. The Rams improved to 26-11 with the win.

Purdue was led by JaJuan Johnson, who scored 25 points.  The Boilermakers senior playmaker E'Twaun Moore struggled, finishing with 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field.  Purdue finished the season with a 26-8 record and yet another loss in March that felt far too premature.

 

(10) Florida State 71, (2) Notre Dame 57

The Big East’s awful weekend began the way it started. After West Virginia lost the first game of Saturday’s second round, Notre Dame lost the last game of Sunday’s round of 32 session.

Bernard James scored 14 points to pace a balanced Florida State attack, as the tenth-seeded Seminoles upset the second-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in an NCAA Tournament Southwest Region second round contest.  Michael Snaer added 12 points while Okaro White and Derwin Kitchen each chipped in 10 points to help lead the Seminoles to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993.  

The Seminoles led for nearly the entire game, as their vaunted defense hounded the Fighting Irish into miserable 19-of-60 shooting (30.6 percent) from the field.  Notre Dame was trailing 34-23 at the half, and saw its deficit grow to as much as 52-29 before a last ditch rally closed the gap to 54-42.  Florida State responded, as James threw down a dunk to extend the lead to 56-42 with about 6:00 remaining.  The Fighting Irish never threatened the remainder of the game.

Tim Abromaitis scored 21 points for Notre Dame.  Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough added 18 points, but he struggled from the field, making 5-of-13 shots.  The Fighting Irish finished the season 27-7 and lost a chance to advance in what had been a hollowed-out Southwest Region bracket. Mike Brey, Notre Dame’s head coach, had a chance to make his first truly deep run in the tournament, but this loss will cast a long shadow over him, his program, and the Big East Conference, which has only two of its 11 teams still remaining after the first weekend of the Big Dance.

The Seminoles will face 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth, upset winners over third-seeded Purdue, in a Sweet 16 contest this Friday night; tip time is roughly 10:00 p.m. Eastern in the late time window.  Florida State improved to 23-10 with the victory.

 

TULSA, OK

(1) Kansas 73, (9) Illinois 59

Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds to lead the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks over the ninth-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini in an NCAA Tournament Southwest Region second round game on Sunday.  Markieff Morris scored 24 points while twin brother Marcus chipped in 17 points for the Jayhawks.  The brothers each grabbed 12 rebounds.  Tyshawn Taylor added 13 points for Kansas while Brady Morningstar had six assists.  

Kansas threatened to blow Illinois out early, jumping out to an 18-6 lead.  The Illini battled back, however, getting as close as 28-25 when D.J. Richardson capped a 10-2 run with a three-pointer. The Jayhawks led 33-29 at the half and maintained a lead throughout the second half, but were unable to completely pull away from the Illini.  It took a 10-0 spurt that Markieff Morris finished with a two-handed alley-oop slam that extended the lead to 66-52 with 2:02 remaining for the Jayhawks to secure their spot in the Sweet 16.  

The Jayhawks will face 12th-seeded Richmond in a Sweet 16 contest in the early game on Friday at 7:25 p.m. Eastern.  Kansas improved to 34-2 with the victory.

Illinois was led by Mike Davis, who scored 17 points.  The Boilermakers senior point guard Demetri McCamey struggled, finishing with just six points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field. Illinois finished the season with a disappointing 20-14 record.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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