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Barford’s 27 points sends Arkansas past No. 23 Florida

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Believe it or not, Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes appeared all but lost a little more than a month ago.

The way the Razorbacks have played since, they’re arguably the hottest team in the Southeastern Conference and looking to do far more than just reach the NCAAs for a third time in the last four seasons.

Led by Jaylen Barford’s 27 points and 10 rebounds, Arkansas advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament with an 80-72 win over No. 23 Florida on Friday night. The win is the eighth in the last 10 games for the sixth-seeded Razorbacks (23-10), a winning stretch matched in the SEC only by No. 13 Tennessee — who Arkansas will face on Saturday.

“I think we’re slowly picking up steam and we’re getting better,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “… This team is believing in each other.”

In addition to how often Arkansas has won since falling to 15-8 after back-to-back road losses to Texas A&M and LSU, it’s who the Razorbacks have defeated that’s so impressive. The win over the third-seeded Gators (20-12) was the school’s third over a ranked opponent in the last month, improving Arkansas to 5-1 against ranked opponents this season.

It also ended an eight-game losing streak to Florida team that had won three games in a row coming into the tournament.

Barford, the third-leading scorer in the SEC, finished one off his career high in points in the win and he matched his best with the double-digit rebounds. He did so a night after hitting a key late 3-pointer in the Razorbacks opening win over South Carolina , finishing 9 of 17 from the field and showing off his usual array of physical finishes around the rim for all of the SEC to see.

Arkansas freshman Daniel Gafford added 16 points and also matched his career-best with 12 rebounds, keying an effort that saw the Razorbacks outrebound the Gators 43-28. Gafford also put the exclamation point on the victory with a windmill dunk on the break in the closing minute that sent the vocal Arkansas crowd into a frenzy in the Scottrade Center.

“I think our confidence is great right now as a team,” Barford said. “We came together, and I think everybody knows what’s at task right now. It’s game time, and everybody’s ready to play.”

Keith Stone led Florida with 22 points and finished 8 of 10 from the field. Chris Chiozza added 16 points and KeVaughn Allen 11 for the Gators, who hit six of their first 10 3-pointers before hitting only seven of their next 22 to finish 13 of 32 overall from behind the arc.


Barford’s career high of 28 points came earlier this season in a loss at Florida, giving the first-team All-SEC guard a total of 55 points in two games against the Gators this season. “(Barford) scored on whoever was guarding him,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He scored off ball screens, he scored off step-back jumpers against our bigs. Two games this year he dominated us.”


Arkansas: The last time the Razorbacks won a game against Florida was on Feb. 5, 2013, in Fayetteville. Since then, they had lost the eight straight games to add to a stretch of 13 losses in 14 games to the Gators. Arkansas has now won 40 straight games when leading at halftime, and it’s well on its way to a third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons.

Florida: Allen is from Arkansas and played in at North Little Rock High School with Arkansas guard Anton beard. The senior scored a season-high 28 points in Florida’s 88-73 win over the Razorbacks on Jan. 17, but he was held to a 4-of-11 shooting effort on Friday. The loss was the first of Allen’s career against his home state, coming after he had been a part of six straight victories over the Razorbacks.


Florida waits for its NCAA Tournament destination.

Arkansas faces second-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.

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.”