Russ Smith

Louisville rolls past Missouri, meets Duke in Battle 4 Atlantis final

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The Battle 4 Atlantis final will be between a pair of top-5 teams as Duke will take on Louisville Saturday night.

Hours after No. 5 Duke was able to hold off the havoc VCU Rams, Louisville was able to breeze past the No. 13 Missouri Tigers, 84-61.

Missouri was plagued with turnovers all night long, giving up the ball 22 times, which led to 31 points for Louisville. The Cardinals, who struggled shooting the ball against Northern Iowa on Thursday night, got an unlikely source of offense

Transfer forward Luke Hancock entered Friday night with 23 total points on the season. In 28 minutes of action, and a handful of 3-pointers, the 6-foot-6 reserve forward ended with a game-high 19 points.

The Cards started the half with a 39-31 lead, the Tigers quickly got within four. Louisville responded with an 11-0 run, that opened up the game for Rick Pitino’s squad.

Peyton Siva won the matchup with Phil Pressey, as the Mizzou guard struggled with seven assists to eight turnovers on the night. Alex Oriakhi had 15 points and 8 rebounds for Mizzou, while Russ Smith added 18 points with six rebounds and six steals.

Missouri is still without guard Michael Dixon, who is serving a suspension. The trio of guards replacing his production – Keion Bell, Earnest Ross, and Negus Webster-Chan – combined for 3-of-10 for 15 points.

Saturday’s matchup doesn’t just include a battle of two teams that will contend for a national title, but rather a reunion of Coach K and Pitino sharing the floor for the first time since the 1992 East regional final. Yup, the Christian Laettner shot game.

Duke was able to contain the ball, only turning the ball over eight times against VCU, Louisville was able to force 22 turnovers against Mizzou. The Blue Devils should have the advantage in the middle with Mason Plumlee, as U of L’s Gorgui Dieng dealt with foul trouble in Friday’s semifinals, but the Cards’ benefited from solid minutes from reserve forward Stephan Van Treese.

The championship game begins at 9:30 pm on the NBC Sports Network.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

VIDEO: Winthrop’s Keon Johnson goes coast-to-coast for buzzer-beater

Winthrop's Keon Johnson (5) shoots a layup while defended by Coastal Carolina's Warren Gillis during the first half of the Big South Conference Championship college basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 81-70. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
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Winthop earned a Big South road win at Radford on Saturday afternoon as junior guard Keon Johnson raced coast-to-coast and buried the game-winner at the buzzer.

The 5-foot-7 Johnson erupted for 32 points in the win and he’s been one of the most potent mid-major scorers in the country this season. The win moves Winthrop to 18-7 on the season and their 10-4 mark in the Big South ties them with UNC Asheville atop the conference standings.

(H/T: LiveonASN)

After blowout of South Carolina, is No. 22 Kentucky a Final Four contender?

Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis (3) guards the ball after a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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It only took 2:26 for official Doug Sirmons to plant two technical fouls on Kentucky head coach John Calipari, and that may have been the worst thing that could have happened to South Carolina.

He poked the bear, and the result was that a ticked off No. 22 Wildcat team proceeded to run the Gamecocks out of their own gym, 89-62.

The star of the show was interim head coach Tyler Ulis, who put together as dominating of a performance as you’ll ever see out of a player that stands 5-foot-9. Ulis finished with 27 points and 12 assists, hitting 4-for-8 from three and turning the ball over just once.

Marcus Lee added 11 points and 13 boards, including six on the offensive end, and Jamal Murray had his customary 26 points on 9-for-21 shooting, but the story of this game was Ulis.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seed a player under 6-foot capable of dominating a game the way that Ulis can dominate. Murray can take over with the best of them — we saw it against Florida and Ohio State — but when it comes to the NCAA tournament, this Kentucky team will go as far as Ulis carries them.

And based on the way that he’s played in the last six weeks, that could end up being pretty far. In SEC play, Ulis is averaging 19.4 points and 7.6 assists. He’s scored at least 17 points in 12 of the last 14 games and has notched as least five assists in all 14. He just orchestrated a total mollywhopping of a Frank Martin-coached team that was tied for first place in the SEC while playing without his head coach and on the road.

The issue with Kentucky is the same today as it was a month ago. They’re a two-man team with an inconsistent supporting cast. When their two studs play like this, they can beat anyone in the country. When they don’t, they can struggle against anyone.

But here’s the thing: When Ulis is playing the way that he’s played of late, they don’t really need all that much from their supporting cast. Derek Willis needs to be able to space the floor. Lee and Skal Labissiere need to be able to hold their own against opposing big men.

And when that happens?

Kentucky is clearly the best team in the SEC and good enough to be able to win four straight in the Big Dance and get to a Final Four.