Morris leads No. 23 Iowa St past Cowboys in Big 12 tourney

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Monte Morris had the ball in his hands with Iowa State’s victory assured, knowing he was only an assist shy of the second triple-double in the history of the Big 12 Tournament.

The senior star held the ball until teammate Naz Mitrou-Long came over and took it so he’d get the turnover instead when the shot clock ran out.

The moment at the conclusion of the No. 23 Cyclone’s 92-83 victory over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals Thursday was evidence of two things: How selfless and mature Morris has become during his career in Ames, and how respected he is by Mitrou-Long and the rest of his teammates.

“People were telling me about the triple-double,” said Morris, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, “but you can play for stats or you can play for the win.”

Well, the win pushed the Cyclones (21-10) into a semifinal matchup with either No. 1 Kansas or TCU on Friday night.

As for the stats? They had some gaudy ones, too.

Deonte Burton finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mitrou-Long hit three of the Cyclones’ 12 3-pointers and had 14 points. Darrell Bowie and Matt Thomas added 13 points apiece.

“They were terrific,” first-year Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. “They were the better team.”

Sophomore guard Jawun Evans did everything he could to keep the Cowboys (21-11) afloat, pouring in 29 points and handing out four assists. Backcourt mate Jeffrey Carroll added 21 points and Phil Forte had 12, but not even that offensive output was enough to keep pace with the Cyclones.

The matchup to kick-off the quarterfinals was entertaining from start to finish, the shot clock rarely a factor as the teams raced up and down the floor during a frenetic 40 minutes.

Iowa State was clinging to a 62-57 lead with about 10 minutes left when the intensity finally boiled over. Morris was tied up near midcourt and several players got into a shoving match, the Cowboys’ Brandon Averette and the Cyclones’ Donovan Jackson getting hit with technical fouls.

The Cyclones retained possession and Morris quickly scored, beginning a brief charge that gave the 2014 and ’15 tournament champions a cushion that they were never in danger of losing.

“We spent the majority of the week working on the defensive end, but give them credit,” Underwood said. “Monte Morris, an assist away from a triple-double? Pretty effective day at the office.”

Indeed, the only question down the stretch was whether Morris would get one more assist.

He had the ball in his hands on a couple of possessions, and a couple fans seated courtside were aware of his stat line, yelling for him to get one more assist. But the Cowboys often were quick to foul and Morris wound up short of his second career triple-double. Texas Tech’s Kasib Powell had the only one in Big 12 Tournament play against Texas in 2003.

“I love the kid,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm, adding he was glad the triple-double didn’t happen on a meaningless basket. “I don’t think he’d have wanted it that way. I wouldn’t have.”


Morris was not among the 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard. And that certainly caught Prohm’s attention. “I don’t know what tape they’re watching,” he said, “that he’s not one of the top guards in the country. I’m going to make my own award for him at the end of the season. You couldn’t have a better representative.”


Oklahoma State had won 10 of its last 13 games after losing six straight to start Big 12 play, and that should be enough to get the Cowboys into the NCAA Tournament. But the biggest strike against them is their record against Top 25 foes, which dropped to 1-8. “We put ourselves in a place to play in the tournament and hopefully get a good seed,” the Cowboys’ Leyton Hammonds said. “Going to be exciting.”

Iowa State relied on its usual barrage of 3-pointers but also a massive crowd advantage. Cyclones fans always paint the Sprint Center red during the tournament, even for an early tipoff.


Oklahoma State awaits its fate on Selection Sunday.

Iowa State prepares for the semifinals on Friday night. The Cyclones split the season series with Kansas and with TCU.

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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.”