Late Night Snacks: Virginia, Kentucky get big conference wins Tuesday

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Game of the Day: Virginia 58, No. 19 NC State 55

NC State thrives in the transition game and they were not able to shift into gear Tuesday. Credit goes to the Virginia defense and the fact that Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown was forced out of the game after just ten minutes with an ankle injury. Without his, TJ Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis all failed to find their groove. Even so, NC State had four possessions in the final three minutes with a chance to tie or take the lead, but could not capitalize.

Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell were the two biggest bright spots for Virginia, scoring 22 points and 14 points respectively.

Important Outcomes 

1. Kentucky 87, No. 16 Ole Miss 74

Kentucky needed a solid conference win on the road to boost its resume in an SEC that is weak this year. They got it Tuesday. Kyle Wiltjer led the way offensively, along with Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress. Defensively, though, Nerlens Noel showed how he can impact a gave when taking just one shot from the floor and going 2-of-8 at the free throw line. He blocked 12 shots, including four down the stretch when he had four fouls. He changed the game defensively in the same way Anthony Davis was able to last season.

2. No. 11 Ohio State 58, Wisconsin 49

Deshaun Thomas was once again the biggest offensive asset for the Buckeyes, but defense ruled the night. Ohio State held Wisconsin to 37 percent shooting and outrebounded the Badgers by six to move to 6-2 in the tough Big Ten.

3. Indiana State 68, No. 15 Wichita State 55 

The Missouri Valley race just got a whole ‘lot more interesting. Indiana State toppling Wichita State makes the Sycamores 7-3 in league play and moves them to third in the conference standings. They’re building a solid postseason resume, which also includes a non-conference victory over the now-surging Miami Hurricanes.

Starred

1. Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky (26 points, 7 rebounds)

Wiltjer’s scoring was the most important part of Kentucky’s offensive gameplan Tuesday night. His career-high point total paced the Wildcats in the second half and gave enough of a cushion to help fend off a late Ole Miss run, giving Kentucky an important road win.

2. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (25 points, 10-of-17 FG)

Thomas is the go-to scorer for the Buckeyes and showed it again on Tuesday night. His 25 points accounted for nearly half of Ohio State’s total. Coach Thad Matta’s team focuses on defense, but Thomas having a big night is what gives the Buckeyes offensive fuel.

3. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee (19 points, 11 rebounds)

Stokes had a big breakout game in his last outing against Alabama and continued that Tuesday night against Vanderbilt. He tallied his second straight double-double in a win over Vanderbilt.

Also of Note: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky (12 blocks)

Struggled 

1. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin (2 points, 1-of-10 FG, 3 TOs)

Evans was part of a Wisconsin attack that couldn’t reach the 50-point mark Tuesday vs. Ohio State. He fell significantly from his season average of 10.9 per game.He has been out of sync in three of his last four games, having shot 9-of-39 from the floor in his last four games.

2. Carl Hall, Wichita State (2 points, 0-of-2 FG, 4 fouls)

Wichita State struggled from the field as a team on Tuesday and was disrupted by Indiana State’s defensive sets. His foul trouble changed his game, as well, but the Sycamores did a good job of now allowing Hall to get to the free throw line, where he typically thrives.

3. NC State Backcourt/Wings (TJ Warren 3 points, 1-of-7 FG | Tyler Lewis, 1-of-3 FG | Rodney Purvis, 2-of-7  FG)

Point guard Lorenzo Brown played just 10 minutes after injuring his ankle, and this trio struggled in his absence. Virginia’s defense slowed the typically lethal transition attack of the Wolfpack and allowed the Cavaliers to get the win. Lewis was thrust into the role, playing more minutes than he has at any point during the conference season, which likely had a ripple effect.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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

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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: