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Ball State shocks No. 9 Notre Dame

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ball State had never come close against Notre Dame, let alone beat the Fighting Irish.

Both changed Tuesday night on Tayler Persons’ left-wing 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining as the Cardinals shocked the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish 80-77 at Purcell Pavilion.

“I’m going to create shots for myself,” Persons said after confidently dribbling down the clock against Rex Pflueger. “Just stay aggressive. I’ve always had the same mindset — just hit more shots.”

Persons scored 24 points, Tahjai Teague added 13 and Sean Sellers had 11 as Ball State knocked off a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since downing No. 4 UCLA 91-73 more than 16 years ago.

Notre Dame (7-2) lost a nonconference home game for the first time since falling to North Dakota State four years ago.

The Cardinals (5-4) led by a high of 67-58 with 6:45 to go, but the Irish charged all the way back to a 77-77 tie on Matt Farrell’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go.

Persons then drained his 3-pointer off the dribble for the victory.

“I think we stayed relaxed because as a team, I think we’ve grown a lot,” Persons said. “We know how to play in any moment, and it was rocking in there and that’s a fun environment for anyone to be in.”

Ball State had lost each of nine previous meetings to its in-state rival, the most recent being almost 32 years ago by a 119-78 count. The closest the Cardinals had come against the Irish was 14 points, and ND’s average margin of victory had been 29.

Bonzie Colson led all players with 26 points for the Irish. Farrell added 14 points and eight assists with no turnovers, while Martinas Geben finished with 12 points.


The Cardinals consistently gave themselves extra opportunities with their crashing of the offensive glass.

Ball State gathered 13 offensive rebounds and turned those into 14 second-chance points, while Notre Dame had just four offensive boards, good for three second-chance points.

“They got us on the backboards,” Irish coach Mike Brey said after his team was outrebounded 40-26 overall. “You know what, give them credit. They played great.”

The rebounding totals landed as they did despite the Cardinals being outboarded 37.1 to 34.8 per game going into the contest and the Irish holding a 35.8 to 33.6 advantage in their games.


The Cardinals won their fourth straight game, all four coming against in-state opponents, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that Ball State would be stoked for such contests.

The team’s roster includes 11 players hailing from Indiana high schools, easily the most of any Division I program in the state.

Four of those native sons are starters, too, in Persons (Kokomo), Teague (Indianapolis), Sellers (Greensburg) and Kyle Mallers (Fort Wayne).

Persons is a redshirt junior who transferred from Northern Kentucky after his freshman season, while Teague and Mallers are just sophomores. Sellers is a senior.

“I give credit to all our guys,” Persons said. “Every time out, we just tried to settle each other down. . (We) just played to win. That’s what our coach tells us and that’s what we do.”

Under coach James Whitford, Ball State is 46-31 over the last two-plus seasons after going 12-48 over his first two.


Ball State: Ball State’s early season schedule has included road or neutral-site games against Oklahoma, Oregon and Dayton.

Notre Dame: The Irish continue to struggle on the heels of winning the Maui Invitational, dropping their second loss in three games. They were whipped 81-63 last week at Michigan State, then downed St. Francis Brooklyn 71-53 in a rugged contest Sunday that saw Brey ejected for the first time in his 23-year head coaching career.


Ball State completes its swing of five straight in-state opponents, and plays the first of six straight home games, when Valparaiso (8-0) visits Muncie on Saturday.

In a homecoming for Brey, Notre Dame visits Delaware (4-4) Saturday. Brey began his head coaching career with the Blue Hens, going 99-52 over five seasons, before landing at ND in 2000.


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The end was disappointing, but Kentucky’s season outpaced all expectation

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In yet another example of what makes March Madness the greatest and most unpredictable sporting spectacle on the planet, Kentucky’s run to the Sweet 16 this season is going to be looked at as a disappointment.

Who saw that coming back in January?

Who thought that this team had second weekend potential when they were in the midst of the first four-game losing streak of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington?

And please, show me who, at that point in time, predicted that Kentucky media would be calling a loss in the Sweet 16 “the worst loss” in the Calipari era back when there were actual discussions being had over whether or not the Wildcats were going to get into the NCAA tournament?

It’s amazing how quickly the tide turns in college basketball

Kentucky lost on Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell to the ninth-seeded Wildcats of Kansas State in a game that turned into drama-filled slugfest down the stretch. The final score was 61-58. Kentucky had two shots at the end of regulation to force a tie or take the lead. They also gave up an offensive rebound to a 6-foot-3 no-name with 40 seconds left that led to the game-winning bucket.

The narrative is going to be that Kentucky choked this game away, that their inability to run offense — and P.J. Washington’s free throw yips — cost them the Final Four that seemed a given Thursday morning and a pipe dream on Selection Sunday.

The truth is that Kentucky was a flawed basketball team that got hot at the right time before running into a team that executed a game-plan to perfection while getting the benefit of a couple of bounces and whistles going their way.

And let me be perfectly clear: In no way, shape or form am I saying that Kentucky or Big Blue Nation should be happy with this loss. It should be disappointing. It should hurt — more so for the players than the fans, but whatever. The bracket broke perfectly for them. Everyone in their region was a cinderella. We weren’t wrong in thinking that Coach Cal’s kids were the heavy favorites to get to San Antonio out of Catlanta.

But we need to say that while also acknowledging this: There is a reason that Kentucky was a No. 5-seed this season.

This was a flawed basketball team.

They were young. They didn’t have enough shooting. Their offense was entirely too predictable, even when they were winning. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox weren’t carrying the load for them on that end, they didn’t really have anywhere to turn. And on Thursday night, they ran into a team that had the personnel and a game-plan to take away Kentucky’s two go-to guys.

Kansas State is not overly talented, but what they have in abundance are tough, athletic and older guards that are going to put in a shift on the defensive end of the floor. Kentucky fans may not know who Barry Brown is, but I guarantee you that fans of every Big 12 team can tell you just how good he can be. I guarantee that coaches in the Big 12 can tell you just how annoying their guards are, and those little guards played that role to perfection.

To put it another way, it wasn’t a fluke that Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make plays off the dribble the way he has for the last two months of the season. It wasn’t an accident that Kevin Knox struggled to find a way to get the looks he had become accustomed to getting coming off of Kentucky’s circle sets.

And in a 40 minute basketball game, when one team matches up well with another, something as simple as Xavier Sneed catching fire and Washington going 8-for-20 from the foul line will get you beat.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Because the real point that I am trying to make here is that this particular Kentucky team just wasn’t all that good. They were young. They were injured. They had their flaws masked by the improvement of a couple of kids who played out of their minds for long stretches of the season, and I just don’t think that’s something that should be overlooked.

Maybe this is just my mindset as a fan. I enjoy the ride more than I need to celebrate the ending. Give me a reason to tune in every game. Make me excited to have the monotony of a week broken up when the ball tips. I’m good.

And I think this Kentucky team accomplished just that.

But two weeks ago, no one thought this team had a shot of getting to the Elite 8. Two months ago, every Kentucky fan would have taken a trip to the second weekend in a heartbeat.

The ending sucked.

No doubt about it.

But this team kept fighting and kept improving and, in the end, lost because someone took makeup remover to the cosmetics that Calipari applied.

Be disappointed, but don’t lost sight of the big picture.

VIDEO: Townes’ late 3 seals Loyola’s win over Nevada

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Nevada was faced with a dilemma. The Wolf Pack were down just one possession – just one point – and were on defense with with a five-second differential between the game and shot clocks.

Foul and extend the game or play it out and hope for a stop?

Nevada opted to play it straight-up, and Loyola hit them with the worst-case scenario – a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

The 3-pointer from Marques Townes made it a two-possession game and the clock all but ruled out the possibility for two possession.

And that’s why Loyola is now in the Elite Eight.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Florida State was an afterthought heading into the season in an ACC that was as loaded as it was top-heavy.

They were a No. 9-seed in the NCAA tournament in part because they were able to pick off North Carolina and Clemson at home by a combined three points.

They needed three overtimes to hold off Miami and Syracuse at home. They needed a win over Boston College on Senior Night to avoid heading into the ACC tournament with a losing record, and they ended up going and losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to a Louisville that never really sniffed the bubble and parted ways with their interim head coach as soon as their NIT run ended.

They were almost universally picked to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Missouri because everyone knew Michael Porter Jr. was back and secretly hoped that the potential top five pick might actually make some noise as a collegian before his run came to an end.

The Seminoles have been written off and ignored for the entire college basketball season.

And now they are a win away from the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night. The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972, which was the last Elite 8 before their last Elite 8.

Put another way, the program that has been ignored all season long has been to precisely one Elite 8 since 1972.

That’s a long time to be irrelevant.

So I guess it’s time that we all started to pay attention.

And here’s the interesting part of this: The Seminoles are actually a fun team to watch this year. This is not the kind of grind-it-out Florida State teams that we have become accustomed to with Leonard Hamilton at the helm of this program. They don’t try to play as many enormous human beings at one time as they can. Florida State plays a lot of small-ball. They have a lot of physical, athletic and switchable defenders. They press. They try to force turnovers. They get out and run in transition. They have a couple dudes; Mann and Braian Angola and M.J. Carter. They’re not exactly VCU and they’re not exactly West Virginia and they’re not exactly last season’s South Carolina, but there’s a little bit of all of them there.

And that’s what did Gonzaga in.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

If there was an issue with Tillie being out, it came when Gonzaga tried to space the floor.

The Zags were playing without enough shooters, particularly in the front court. That clogged the paint and made it difficult for the likes of Johnathan Williams III and Rui Hachimura to get some space down there to operate. Perhaps the most telling stat on Thursday — more than Gonzaga’s 34 percent shooting or the 5-for-20 that they shot from three — was that the Zags were 8-for-27 on layups on the night.


For 27.


And it makes me wonder just how Michigan is going to be able to handle this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ll get to it in time.

For now, it is time for the Seminoles and their fans to basket in this moment.

They were right, we were wrong.