Struggles on both ends doom Washington in home loss to Utah

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In opening Pac-12 play 4-0 the Washington Huskies defended far better than they did during the non-conference portion of their schedule. In conference games entering their home tilt against Utah the Huskies ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to 37.4% shooting from the field.

For a program that’s had some great scorers over the years, it’s expected that the Huskies uphold their end of the bargain on the defensive end as well.

“I think there’s some pride here. I think the culture here, the way we go about things, eventually someone wants to be one of those guys that they want to defend,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said on Friday.

Unfortunately for the Huskies (12-6, 4-1) they got away from defending at the level established in their first four games on Saturday night, and the end result was a 74-65 loss to Utah. Brandon Taylor provided a spark off the bench for the Utes with 19 points and six assists, and as a team the Utes shot 60.4% from the field.

Before Saturday’s defeat Washington hadn’t allowed a single team to shoot better than 50% from the field, but Utah’s patience proved to be too much to overcome with leading scorer C.J. Wilcox going scoreless in the first half.

“We just weren’t determined enough early. Throughout parts of the game, we just weren’t determined enough,” said Romar following the defeat. “We’ll go back and look at the film. We’ll be embarrassed at times about our lack of coverage.”

Utah (9-9, 1-5), who picked up their first conference road victory since joining the Pac-12, was able to consistently find quality looks either for Taylor at the end of the shot clock or for forwards Jason Washburn (18 points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Loveridge (17 points, five rebounds and four assists).

Given how well Washington defended leading up to last night’s loss, the more important aspect of the outcome is their perimeter scoring. Averaging 19.1 points per game, Wilcox is one of the Pac-12’s best scorers and still managed to finish with 14 points after going scoreless in the first half.

Utah essentially face-guarded him and forced Abdul Gaddy (2-of-9 FG, five points) and Scott Suggs (4-of-16, 12 points) beat them, and those two were unable to do so despite getting 17 off the bench from Andrew Andrews. As the conference season wears on Washington should expect similar defensive strategies.

“They did a nice job on C.J. I would have to say it’s pretty close to [how they guarded] Brock Motum,” said Romar. “They just kind of face guard and try to take the guy. They seemed to make a decision as to who they’re going to allow to shoot the ball and who they’re not.”

Washington will bounce back defensively. But if they’re to be a contender for the Pac-12 title they’ll need better offensive performances from Gaddy and Suggs to go along with the dependable Wilcox.

Quotes courtesy of University of Washington Athletics

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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: