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No. 25 Rhode Island rallies vs. Saint Joseph’s in A10 semis

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WASHINGTON — No. 25 Rhode Island needed a second-half rally to finish off Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday. Now, the Rams are one step closer to repeating their Selection Sunday itinerary from a year ago.

The defending champion Rams (25-6) advanced to the conference title game with a 90-87 victory behind Andre Berry’s 18 points and Fatts Russell’s two crucial 3-pointers in the final six minutes.

“We talked about what it felt like on Sunday last year, landing at T.F. Green (Airport in Providence) and having hundreds of fans,” coach Dan Hurley said. “We want to experience that again and force (Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette) McGlade to hand us a third straight trophy.”

Rhode Island is the first No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 to reach the conference championship game since Saint Louis in 2013. Jeff Dowtin added 16 points and 10 assists for the Rams, while Russell and E.C. Matthews both had 14 points to help erase an 11-point second-half deficit.

“I guess it just took us a while to settle into the moment,” Dowtin said. “In the first half, we were kind of rushing our shots a little bit.”

Shavar Newkirk had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the fourth-seeded Hawks (16-16), who drubbed Rhode Island 78-48 last week. Saint Joseph’s appeared poised to deliver another upset while trying to extend its injury-riddled season.

“There’s going to be a point in time when I’m daydreaming this summer and I’ll say: `You know what? That’s pretty good,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “It took 90 to beat us.”

Cyril Langevine gave Rhode Island its first lead, 73-71, when he completed a 3-point play with 6:16 remaining. After Newkirk tied it with a basket on the next possession, Russell connected on a 3 to give the Rams the lead for good.

Russell had another 3 with 4:29 to go, and Jared Terrell added a 3 off an offensive rebound and kickout on the Rams’ next possession to make it 82-75. Dowtin added an insurance 3 with 19.3 seconds left to put the Rams up 87-81.

The Hawks missed out on a chance to tie when Taylor Funk traveled near midcourt with 0.5 seconds left.

Key to the comeback was Rhode Island’s offensive rebounding. The Rams scored 21 second-chance points, including 19 in the second half. Beyond that, the Hawks more than matched Rhode Island.

“We didn’t get exactly what we deserved,” Martelli said. “That was a championship effort, six guys in double figures, 10 turnovers — really nine turnovers. The last one’s just silly. That’s just silly, that a guy would take away a kid’s chance to fire up a half-court shot. That’s just silly. But it was offensive rebounds. Great credit to Rhode Island.”


Rhode Island: After dropping three of their last five regular-season games, the Rams manufactured tight victories over VCU and Saint Joseph’s to reach their second consecutive Atlantic 10 title game.

Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks won seven of eight before Saturday’s loss and started only one senior in the conference tournament. “They’re going to be a big problem next year with that group of young guys,” Hurley said.


Rhode Island will attempt to win consecutive Atlantic 10 tournaments for the first time. The last team to do so was former A-10 member Temple, which won three in a row from 2008 to 2010.


Rhode Island: The Rams will meet either second-seeded St. Bonaventure or third-seeded Davidson in Sunday’s title game. Rhode Island managed a season split with both teams.

Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks’ season is likely finished.

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.”