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Controversy? No. 1 Syracuse avoids infamy vs. 16-seed UNC-Asheville

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Syracuse survives.

The No. 1 seed Orange, playing without Big East Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo, got 15 points and eight boards from James Southerland off the bench as they hung on to beat a feisty UNC-Asheville team, 72-65.

Never before, in the history on the NCAA tournament on the men’s side has a No. 16 seed beaten a No. 1 seed (it happened once in the women’s tournament), and for a while it looked like the Bulldogs could end up being the first. They took a four point lead into the halftime break, but after a trio of clutch jumpers from Southerland in the second half, UNCA found themselves down 62-54 with just 2:24 left in the game.

How game compares to other 16-1 close calls

This is where the conspiracy theorists are going to make an appearance.

After a pair of buckets from the Bulldogs, cut the lead to four, Scoop Jardine made his way to the free throw line for a one-and-one. He missed the first, but JP Primm was called for a lane violation. It was a weird call, not one that you often see, but it was also the correct call. Jardine proceeded to knock down both free throws and push the lead to six.

The resilient Bulldogs weren’t done yet, however. On the ensuing possession, Jaron Lane buried a three to cut the lead to three with just over a minute left. On the inbounds, Brandon Triche had the ball clearly bounce off his hands, but the referees awarded the ball to the Orange. The presumption? They didn’t want to call a foul on UNCA (which would have been just as bad of a call) and instead gave possession to Syracuse.

UNC-Asheville player says: ‘Refs need it call, that’s it.’

(For what it’s worth, NCAA coordinator of officials said he would have given the ball to UNC-Asheville on the play in question.)

The Orange would go on to hit their next six free throws and the Bulldogs never would get another possession with the ball and a chance to tie the game.

It is a devastating way for the Bulldogs to lose, particularly for Matt Dickey. One half of UNCA’s talented senior back court — the other being JP Primm — Dickey went just 1-13 in the game. He came in as the Bulldog’s leading scorer. That hurts.

As far as I’m concerned, this performance from Syracuse had nothing to do with Fab Melo’s absence from the lineup and everything to do the presence of his distraction. Defense wasn’t the issue. Effort and focus was. And if that doesn’t change, the Orange are going to lose to Kansas State on Saturday.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.