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No. 19 Arizona pulls away late to beat Cal 66-54

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Sean Miller grabbed the microphone to address the McKale Center when, just for a brief second, his voice broke.

“It’s been a tough week,” the usually-fiery coach said.

It could not have ended any better: With Miller cutting down the nets as Pac-12 champion for the fifth time in six seasons.

A week that started with Miller’s job in jeopardy ended in joy Saturday night with a Pac-12 clinching 66-54 victory over California.

“Devastating and the second word I would use is remarkable,” Miller said. “A lot lesser programs, teams, universities would have crumbled and we didn’t. That says something about us and our future.”

Miller’s future appeared to be in doubt after an ESPN report said the coach was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Deandre Ayton to attend the school.

Miller missed last weekend’s game against Oregon and sat out three practices as the school investigated. He vehemently denied the report in a statement on Thursday and, just a few hours later, university President Robert C. Robbins announced Miller would keep his job.

The Wildcats clinched a share of the Pac-12 title later that night with a victory over Stanford, setting up a chance to clinch it outright in the Arizona seniors’ final home game.

Instead of rolling over the last-place Bears, Arizona (24-7, 14-4) had a hard time shaking them, needing a 13-1 closing run to finish off the title and tumultuous week.

Ayton had 26 points and 20 rebounds, giving the Wildcats the lift they needed during an off night by second-leading scorer Allonzo Trier.

“Lot of emotions, an emotional week, a lot of things flying around,” Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “Everybody was just drained mentally and physically.”

Cal had a chance to spoil Arizona’s party, bouncing back from a disappointing first game on the road trip through the desert. The Bears (8-23, 2-16) matched Arizona shot for shot in the first half and miss for miss in the second, keeping the Wildcats within reach until the final 4 minutes.

Justice Seung had 17 points to lead the Bears, who ended the regular season with seven straight losses.

“I feel really good about our guys’ effort, heart and determination against a very good basketball team,” Cal coach Wyking Jones said. “They followed the game plan, played with toughness and that’s all we ask of them.”

Cal held its own against the Wildcats in the first half by getting good penetration off the dribble, something it didn’t do in a lopsided loss to Arizona State on Thursday. The Bears took a 17-16 lead with a 7-0 run and rallied from 11 down to pull within 38-35 at halftime on Don Coleman’s lean-in 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Both teams shot well in the first half. Neither did to start the second, including with a combined scoreless streak that stretched past 4 minutes.

The Bears used a slowed-down game to their advantage keeping Arizona within reach until the Wildcats pieced together a 6-0 run to go up 61-53 with 2 1/2 minutes left and kept going from there.

“We turned it over and it didn’t feel like we got a really good look the last couple possessions, so that was kind of the difference in the game,” Jones said.


Cal bounced back nicely from its 31-point loss to Arizona State with a solid performance that should give it a boost headed into next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.

Arizona looked lackluster at times against the Pac-12’s last-place team on a night when it should have been motivated to send its seniors off in a blowout. The Wildcats found a way to close it out, earning the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.


Three key Arizona players had rough nights in their final home games. Trier, who’s expected to leave after his junior season, scored two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Jackson-Cartwright and fellow senior Dusan Ristic combined for seven points.

“It means so much to them, they want to play well and it almost works against them,” Miller said.


Arizona honored its seniors — including regulars Jackson-Cartwright, Ristic and Keanu Pinder — after the game, but Miller took it a step further. In the past, he has not acknowledged players who were expected to leave early for the NBA draft. He did with Saturday night, saying they would leave early and thanking Ayton, Trier and Rawle Alkins in front of the home crowd.


Arizona has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas and will play on Thursday.

Cal opens the Pac-12 Tournament Wednesday as the No. 12 seed.

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.”