Pitt humiliates No. 19 Georgetown, responds after disappointing start

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pitt never went home after their loss to Rutgers in New Jersey on Saturday night, instead opting to head directly to DC, a region five players spent their high school careers.

The 67-62 loss, which required a second half rally form 14 points down just to make the score respectable, dropped the Panthers to 0-2 in the Big East, a bad omen given their lack of non-conference schedule strength and the 0-7 start Pitt had to league play a season ago.

And since allowing a roster full of college kids to have a couple days worth of down time with their high school buddies isn’t exactly the best way to rejuvenate focus for one of the season’s most important games, you can understand why Jamie Dixon and his staff went back and forth on whether or not to stay in DC.

“We were there for so long,” Dixon said after Pitt’s 73-45 mollywhopping of Georgetown, the worst home loss the Hoyas have suffered since the 1971-72 season. “Yesterday, I wasn’t feeling good about the decision. Today? I’m feeling pretty good.”

And he should be.

All of the Panthers should be.

Because they played their best basketball of the year in the season’s most important game to date.

Pitt couldn’t afford another loss to kick off their Big East schedule, not when their best wins prior to the start of league play were Lehigh and Detroit; not when their Big East opener involved blowing a lead at home to Cincinnati, which happens to be the only game that the Bearcats have won in their last four; not when they were coming off of an embarrassing loss to a Rutgers team that is improving but still a long way relevant; not when the sting of a 5-13 Big East season and a trip to the CBI was still fresh in the minds of the players in the Pitt program.

“We let the first one, two games get away from us. Two teams that we think we should have beaten,” senior point guard Tray Woodall said after the game. “But there’s no panic. We just know that we had to come out and get this win. This road trip, two games, we wanted to make sure we go home with at least one win.”

The difference for the Panthers, according to Woodall, came on the defensive end of the floor, where they “wanted to come out and be the aggressor.” Cut down open looks on the perimeter, pressure ball-handlers in the half court and attack the defensive glass. Pitt did just that, as Georgetown — an admittedly awful offensive team right now — never got into anything close to a rhythm on that end of the floor.

“I think our guys are recognizing what we’ve been trying to get across to them defensively,” Dixon said.

But the key to the game had much more to do with Georgetown’s defense than Pitt’s, as the Panthers absolutely shredded what had been one of the stingiest groups in the country coming into the game. Pitt was able to get penetration from Woodall and James Robinson, they knocked down their open threes and they got to the offensive glass. While their total number of points may not be all that impressive, it is when you consider that they put up 73 points in 59 possessions — or 1.237 PPP — against a team that, even with Tuesday’s hideous performance factored in, is allowing just 0.871 PPP on the season.

Pitt thoroughly humiliated a good Georgetown team on the road in a game that they really needed to win.

That’s what good teams do. And that’s how good teams handle adversity.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Dixon said, “and how we responded to a disappointing start.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: