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Rout of Arizona gives No. 5 Oregon a boost looking ahead

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) After a loss at Colorado and a close call against Arizona State, Oregon bounced back big time with a rout of Arizona.

The 85-58 victory on Saturday pushed the Ducks from No. 13 to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 released Monday. The jump was the largest in this week’s poll and brought Oregon back to its preseason ranking.

The Ducks (21-3, 10-1) now sit atop the Pac-12 standings with Arizona and have the tiebreaker with their victory. The Wildcats (21-3, 10-1) dropped from fifth to No. 9 in Monday’s poll.

“If they have another level above that, that’s a bad thing for every team in the country,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said about the Ducks after the loss.

With seven regular-season games to go, perhaps Oregon’s biggest challenge down the stretch will come on Thursday when the team travels to Pauley Pavilion to face No. 9 UCLA (21-3, 8-3). And of the Ducks’ seven remaining games, five are on the road.

But the victory over Arizona certainly gave the team confidence.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said. “We can play even better than that.”

Oregon coach Dana Altman used the upcoming schedule to spur his team on against the Wildcats.

“I told our guys we have five road games. We got a much tougher schedule (than Arizona),” he said. “We have to win the game today or it’s over, and it would have been.”

Before the statement-making win over Arizona, the Ducks were slumping a bit. They fell 74-65 at unranked Colorado on Jan. 28 then struggled at home in a 71-70 victory over Arizona State last Thursday.

The Ducks built a 38-18 lead over the Wildcats and cruised to the win, leading by as many as 37 points in the second half. It was such a blowout that the home crowd started to chant for Charlie Noebel, a walk-on who had played just 23 minutes this season. Fans got their wish and Noebel played the final three minutes.

The victory was Oregon’s 40th straight at Matthew Knight Arena, now the nation’s longest home winning streak after Kansas fell at home on Saturday.

“It’s the best game we’ve played in the three years I’ve been here,” Brooks said. “Guys were focused and confident in their shots.”

Tyler Dorsey led the Ducks with 23 points and six 3-pointers. Brooks added 18 points, and on Monday was named the Pac-12 player of the week – not only for his performance against the Wildcats but because of his rally against the Sun Devils. The Ducks trailed Arizona State by a point with 3:15 left, but Brooks went on a personal 12-point run for the win and finished with 27 points.

Brooks is leading the Ducks with an average of 14.4 points a game, but he’s averaging 16 points against Pac-12 opponents.

The Ducks’ No. 5 ranking brings the team back to their preseason position in the AP poll. Oregon had some trouble out of the gate, with November losses at Baylor and against Georgetown in Maui, but had a 17-game winning streak before the Colorado loss.

Last season, the Ducks won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Oregon earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.

The Ducks also rebounded from a brief stumble last season: They lost back-to-back games on the road in mid-February. Under Altman, the Ducks are 40-16 in the second half of the conference season.

Brooks credits his coach with keeping the team focused.

“He always finds a way – if we’re on top, keeps us level-headed and keeps us focusing and working hard, and if we’re down, finds a way to push us to go harder,” he said.

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Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

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BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.

And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.

For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.

Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.

With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.

That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.

On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time, but the game was won during that five-minute surge when West Virginia just didn’t have an answer.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

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Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.

It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:

A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.

He dunked on Sagaba Konate:

I am having way too much fun at this game.

No. 1 Kansas into Elite Eight with win over No. 5 Clemson

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OMAHA, Neb. — Once Kansas found its stride, Clemson had little chance of keeping pace – even after a late stumble.

The No. 1 Jayhawks ran away from the No. 5 Tigers with a second-half flurry that powered them to a 80-76 victory Friday night at CenturyLink Center to put them in the Elite Eight on Sunday against either Duke or Syracuse.

Kansas moves on to the Midwest Region final on the back of a second-half offense that Clemson had nearly no success in slowing until the final minutes, when the Tigers turned a 20-point laugher into  a six-point nail-biter.

Malik Newman paced Kansas with 17 points while Devonte Graham 16 and Udoka Azubuike 14 and 11 rebounds.

Clemson got 31 points from senior Gabe DeVoe, but there just wasn’t enough help around him for the Tigers to keep things competitive after the Jayhawks hit them with three-consecutive 3s in the opening minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point lead.

Clemson was already hanging on by a threat after it shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and committed eight turnovers. DeVoe’s 12 first-half points kept the Tigers afloat, but they never enjoyed a lead before halftime.

The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had five players  score at least six points in the first half, including 10 from Azubuike, Their usual strengths – 3-point shooting (4 of 13) and Devonte Graham (1 of 7) – were absent in the first half, but Clemson was unable to take advantage as Kansas continued to get quality looks inside and stops on defense.

The Jayhawks previously played Syracuse in December, beating the Orange by 16 on a neutral floor in Miami. They haven’t faced the Blue Devils, though they have already shared a building with them once this year in the Champion’s Classic. Kansas topped Kentucky, 65-61, while Duke defeated Michigan State, 88-81, that November night in Chicago.

VIDEO: Mikal Bridges tries to dunk on Sagaba Konate, gets denied

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There really is nothing better in this world than seeing someone who is typically a great dunker take flight to try and dunk on Sagaba Konate of West Virginia, because it never, EVER ends well for the dunker.

See: Bridges, Mikal:

Auburn AD Greene gives Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence

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Speaking publicly for the first time about head coach Bruce Pearl, new Auburn athletic director gave his embattled head coach a vote of confidence.

Greene was on an in-house podcast produced with the voice of Auburn sports, and was asked about Pearl’s standing in a pod that lasted less than five minutes and felt more like a press release than anything else.

“He’s been a tremendous blessing for the Auburn family,” Greene said. “The FBI investigation is a long process. We’re going through that process to make sure that we, as a university, are doing what it is that we’re supposed to do to comply. Coach Pearl has been excellent in that regard and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we continue to do the very best to support he, his staff and the student athletes of Auburn University.”

This is the first time since former assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested that a member of the Auburn athletic department had spoken so positively about Pearl. In the fall, Auburn’s president Steven Leath lamented Pearl’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, but just last week released a statement saying Pearl is “working with university officials as part of our due diligence.” Pearl said after his team’s 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA tournament that he would like to return.

There has been speculation that Pearl’s job was in jeopardy ever since Auburn was mixed up in the FBI’s complaint. Two players were forced to sit out this entire season after the FBI alleged they had received money funneled through Person from a runner for an agent and a financial advisor.

“One of the challenges that we have facing the industry is college basketball,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we work incredibly hard to clean up the game, to make it as pure as it can possibly be so that our student-athletes can enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience. one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the state of college basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m a little bit disappointed that auburn is involved in that, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done.”