auriemma

No. 1 UConn moves to 35-0 with win in NCAA tournament opener

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One day after fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame improved its unblemished record to 33-0, No. 1 UConn moved to 35-0 with an 87-44 win over No. 16 Prairie View A&M in its NCAA tournament opener Sunday. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies, the top seed in the Lincoln Region, have won all 35 of their games by double digits with their 11-point win over Baylor on January 13 being the closest result.

Against the SWAC champion Lady Panthers, UConn would lead by as much as 50 in the second half with Breanna Stewart scoring 19 points and grabbing ten rebounds to lead the way offensively. All five starters scored in double figures for the Huskies, who led 44-12 at the half.

Next up for UConn is No. 9 Saint Joseph’s, which beat No. 8 Georgia 67-57 in the first game of the doubleheader in Storrs. The men’s programs met Thursday night in Buffalo, with the Huskies beating the Hawks in overtime.

Saint Joseph’s was one of five lower-seeded teams to win Sunday, with just three such teams were able to pull off the feat Saturday. Two 11-seeds were among the five, with Stanford Region No. 11 Florida beating Dayton 83-69 and Lincoln Region No. 11 James Madison knocking off No. 6 Gonzaga 72-63. CAA Player of the Year Kirby Burkholder put together quite the line for JMU, finishing the game with 28 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.

Both teams will have challenging road tests Tuesday, with the Gators taking on No. 3 Penn State and the CAA champion Dukes playing No. 3 Texas A&M.

The other one-seed in action Sunday was Stanford Region No. 1 South Carolina, which won the SEC regular season title. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks held off Cal-State Northridge 73-58 in their NCAA tournament opener, with guard Tiffany Mitchell scoring 24 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and center Alaina Coates providing 13 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Louisville Region No. 2 West Virginia and No. 3 Louisville were also winners Sunday, with the Mountaineers beating No. 15 Albany 76-61 and the Cardinals throttling No. 14 Idaho, 88-42. And in the game that provided the most suspense, Stanford Region No. 4 North Carolina came back from 18 down to beat UT-Martin, 60-58. Diamond DeShields scored 15 points and dished out four assists for the Tar Heels, and Xylina McDaniel’s putback with 56 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.