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Underclassmen help Louisville string together wins


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville’s title prospects appeared shaky 11 days ago following a third consecutive loss and a left ankle injury that sidelined leading scorer Deng Adel.

But the Cardinals (18-8, 8-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) are back in the race with consecutive blowouts of Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh after some lineup changes and impressive contributions from their underclassmen. Their goal now is maintaining that momentum over the final five regular season games that will determine seeding for next month’s conference tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

“Our confidence is high, it always has been,” said Louisville junior forward Ray Spalding, who has nursed a sprained ankle as well. “But now it’s more about paying attention to little things when it comes down to stretches of the basketball game that we didn’t pay attention to before. We’re doing a better job. We’re just staying after it.”

Louisville interim coach David Padgett said Friday that barring further setbacks, Adel “should be ready to go a little bit” on Saturday night against No. 14 North Carolina (20-7, 9-5). The junior forward/guard still leads the Cardinals with a per-game average of 15.5 points, but freshmen — including guard Darius Perry and forward Jordan Nwora and sophomore guard Ryan McMahon — have filled the void with some of their best performances this season.

“They’re always ready to come off the bench when their number is called,” Spalding said.

Nwora has 29 points the past two games behind 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. The 6-foot-2 Perry had a team-high seven assists in Sunday’s 94-60 rout of Pitt and has developed backcourt chemistry with senior Quentin Snider. Every contribution has been helpful as the Cardinals sought to regroup from their recent slump.

“It was a collective effort from a lot of guys to step up when we needed to and it helped us get two very good wins,” Padgett added.

That has been evident in Louisville’s tall, lengthy frontcourt, which has developed a strong inside presence with many combinations.

Senior 7-footer Anas Mahmoud has averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds in three starts after coming off the bench the previous 10 contests. Freshman Malik Williams, 6-11, has improved on defense. Despite being injured in a close loss to FSU, Spalding (11.4 points, 8.8 rebounds) has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent performers on both ends of the floor.

Though Louisville’s wins have come against teams that are a combined 4-23 in league play, the Cardinals will take anything they can get after three defeats by 19 total points. Padgett is especially glad his team quickly regrouped to respectively limit the Yellow Jackets and Panthers to 36 percent and 35 percent shooting while forcing 33 combined turnovers.

“The most impressive thing I saw these last two games with Deng being out is nobody tried to do everything themselves in the absence of one of your better players,” the coach said.

“Guys came in and did what they did. Nobody tried to do anything that they can’t do, nobody tried to do anything that they shouldn’t do. They just played their roles.”

Louisville hopes its depth will help the Cardinals down the stretch, starting with the high-scoring Tar Heels.

Sandwiched between road games next week at No. 12 Duke and Virginia Tech and the regular season finale at North Carolina State the following weekend is a March 1 rematch with top-ranked Virginia, which is 6-1 against the Cardinals since they entered the ACC. A huge hurdle for sure, but one the Cardinals believe they can clear if everyone is involved.

“It’s five very difficult games, there’s no beating around the bush on that,” Padgett said, “but it’s five opportunities to give us a chance to get some really good wins.”

Police: Thief steals electronics from UNC basketball program

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Police say someone stole thousands of dollars in electronics from the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team locker room and office while they were away for the ACC tournament.

UNC-Chapel Hill campus police said on Twitter that the break-in happened at the Dean Smith Center on March 9, and they released images of a man they believe may have been involved.

A police report says the thief managed to get into the team locker room and basketball office without forced entry, according to The Herald-Sun.

The report says the thief stole a PlayStation 4, Xbox One and clothing worth $2,900 that belonged to the athletic department. Police say the thief also stole a laptop worth $1,200 and a financial document worth about $3,000 belonging to one of the players.

No upsets over here: No. 1 seed UConn women set scoring records in first round game

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The No. 1 overall seed on the men’s side of the NCAA tournament made history on Friday night.

They because the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament, as Virginia lost to UMBC, if you were still unaware.

Over on the women’s side, the bracket is nowhere near as broken, because UConn’s women made history, too. They set NCAA tournament records for … well, almost everything it seems like.

The Huskies were up 55-19 at the end of the first quarter of their first round game against St. Francis (PA). Those 55 points are an NCAA tournament record. They held a 94-31 lead at the half, another NCAA tournament record, and held on to win 140-52.

The 140 points that Geno Auriemma’s team scored was an NCAA tournament record. The 88 points that they won by was one point short of an NCAA tournament record 89 points that was set by Baylor in a win over Texas Southern last season.

Oh, and the Huskies set the record for more assists in an NCAA tournament game — 38 — for good measure.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the fans in Storrs had a better weekend than the fans in Charlottesville. Hopefully, that will allow them to forget the fact that the men’s basketball program has become a laughing stock.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Maryland Governor calls UMBC upset, so does NBC Sports’ writer son

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Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed upset a No. 1 seed.

That was until Friday night, when UMBC sent the No. 1 overall seed Virginia packing.

And if you thought no one had picked that upset, you were wrong.

Let’s start with the Maryland Governor, who was clearly a homer in picking UMBC to not only beat Virginia, but to win a national title:

Never say never, but … that’s never going to happen bud.

But how about this: My son, who is two years old and based his picks on his hard and fast rule of “all the doggies”, called this upset!

He also called Penn over Kansas, Fullerton over Purdue and Butler winning a national title, but whatever.

That bracket is actually pretty good!

VIDEO: Virginia’s Ty Jerome does not appreciate dumb question after UMBC loss

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You have to give Virginia some credit.

After losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the players on that roster faced the music. They went up to the dais and answered question from reporters on national television.

There is no way they enjoyed that.

And you can tell because Ty Jerome had absolutely no interest in answering dumb questions from reporters:

He was not amused.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for the first four days of the NCAA tournament.

(Lines are updated for Saturday morning.)

Pittsburgh: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 1 Villanova (-11.5) vs. No. 9 Alabama, CBS (149.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 2 Duke (-9.5) vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, CBS (149)

Boise: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) vs. No. 13 Buffalo, CBS (155)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 4 Gonzaga (-4) vs. No. 5 Ohio State, CBS (141.5)

Dallas: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore and Ros Gold-Onwude

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 3 Tennessee (-5) vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago), TNT (131.5)
  • 8:40: No. 3 Texas Tech (-1.5) vs. No. 6 Florida, TNT (133.5)

Wichita: Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 1 Kansas (-4.5) vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, TBS (154.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan (-3) vs. No. 6 Houston, TBS (135)