Late Night Snacks: UK loses, Arizona survives, and Naadir Tharpe awakens

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Arizona 72, Michigan 70

The Wildcats held off Michigan in a thriller in Ann Arbor to kick off Saturday afternoon’s action. Glenn Robinson III was dominant in the first half, scoring 16 of his 20 points, but he was shut down by Aaron Gordon in the final 20 minutes. Brandon Ashley led the way with 18 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 18 North Carolina held off No. 11 Kentucky 82-77, getting . It was the third win for North Carolina over the nation’s consensus top three teams in the preseason. Who saw that coming? The key for the Heels was the play of J.P. Tokoto and James Michael McAdoo, as Raphielle Johnson wrote here.

2) Naadir Tharpe finished with eight points and nine assists and Joel Embiid went off for 18 points and four blocks in one of his most impressive performances of the season as No. 13 Kansas put a thorough beating on New Mexico in the second half of an 80-63 win.

3) The biggest winner of the day may have been Notre Dame, who desperately needed the win they picked up against Indiana. The Irish have a lot of kinks they need to work out, not the least of which is Eric Atkins’ struggles. But this is a team with quite a bit of talent, one that has enough back court talent to make some noise in the ACC this season.

STARRED

1) Tekele Cotton finished with 19 points, five boards, four assists and two steals as No. 12 Wichita State beat Tennessee 70-61. One sequence where Cotton blocked a shot and finished an and-one at the other end changed the game.

2) Stephen Holt finished with 24 points and six assists to lead St. Mary’s to a win at Boise State.

3) Ryan Harrow went for 33 points as Georgia State picked up a win they badly needed over Old Dominion.

STRUGGLED

1) VCU scored just 20 first half points and shot 36.9% from the floor as they lost at Northern Iowa 77-68 on Saturday. The biggest culprit? Briante Weber, who shot 2-for-11 from the field.

2) Cincinnati got worked over by archrival Xavier despite 20 turnovers by the Muskies and just eight points and five fouls from Semaj Christon.

3) Utah beat BYU 81-64. Matt Carlino’s 3-for-15 performance without any assists wasn’t much better than the 6-for-22 that Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth combined to shoot.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith each had 18 points in a win for No. 3 Ohio State over North Dakota State.
  • No. 4 Wisconsin shot 60.5% from the field and 9-for-15 from three in a blowout win over Eastern Kentucky.
  • No. 5 Michigan State is banged up, which is why I’m not terribly concerned about their close win over Oakland on Saturday.
  • Russ Smith had 14 points and 10 assists to lead five players in double-figures as No. 6 Louisville beat Western Kentucky.
  • Le’Bryan Nash seems to be embracing his role as the No. 3 option, but he was a star on Saturday, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards in No. 7 Oklahoma State’s win over Louisiana Tech.
  • A late 11-0 run spurred No. 15 Oregon to a 71-64 win over Illinois.
  • Augustine Rubit went for 35 points, but it wasn’t enough for South Alabama to pull off the upset against No. 20 Gonzaga.
  • Cady Lalanne led five players in double-figures with 17 points in a win over Northern Illinois for No. 22 UMass.

NOTABLES

  • Jordan Adams had 18 points in a win for UCLA over Prairie View A&M.
  • Kellen Dunham stayed hot, hitting for 25 points in a win over Purdue.
  • Marshall Henderson moved into the starting lineup for Ole Miss on Saturday, finishing with 15 points (on 11 shots) and five assists without a turnover.
  • Pitt improved to 9-0 on the season with a 91-73 win over Youngstown State.
  • Richard Solomon finished with 17 points, 14 boards, three steals and two blocks in a win over Fresno State.
  • Five players scored in double-figures as Marquette put up 86 points in a win over IUPUI.
  • T.J. Warren is one of the best scorers no one is talking about. He went for 29 on Saturday.
  • Toledo is still undefeated as well, knocking off Sam Houston State.
  • Jordan Woodard scored 24 points to lead Oklahoma to a win over Tulsa and his brother, James.
  • Princeton erased an 18 point deficit in the final 6:34 of regulation to knock off Penn State in overtime.

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: