Kris Dunn

AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Second half run pushes No. 1 North Carolina into Sweet 16

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Faced with the task of slowing down the tandem of guard Kris Dunn and forward Ben Bentil, East No. 1 North Carolina relied on its depth to get the job done. Roy Williams’ Tar Heels were in a fight for the game’s first 30 minutes but managed to pull away down the stretch, winning 85-66 to advance to the Sweet 16.

North Carolina’s depth and talent won out, with Dunn and Bentil both having to deal with foul trouble and the latter fouling out with 7:23 remaining. By that point the Friars were already down 14, and the loss of Bentil was essentially the final nail in the coffin for Ed Cooley’s team.

Providence’s bigger issue was that they didn’t get much from the supporting cast outside of Kyron Cartwright’s seven points on the night. No Friar outside of Dunn (29 points), Bentil (22) and Cartwright scored more than two points, with Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsay scoring two points apiece. The lack of consistency outside of Dunn and Bentil cost Providence during Big East play, and against a team as good as North Carolina that can’t happen.

North Carolina’s improved defensively down the stretch of this season, and while Providence’s two main cogs combined to score 51 points they were made to work for them all. And when you add in the Tar Heels’ defending of Providence’s other players, it’s easy to see why Roy Williams’ team managed to advance.

Offensively North Carolina performed well, with Brice Johnson finishing with 21 points, ten rebounds and two blocks and four other Tar Heels reaching double figures. As a team they shot 52.5 percent from three and 19-for-21 from the foul line, areas in which they held a clear advantage over the Friars. Next up for North Carolina is No. 5 Indiana in Philadelphia Friday night, and the Hoosiers pose a different test for the Tar Heels on both ends of the floor.

With more scoring options Indiana will be a tougher cover for North Carolina. But with their improved attention to detail, something that wasn’t present in the first half of their win over FGCU, the Tar Heels are capable of adding to their current run of seven straight wins.

Last-second layup gives No. 9 Providence first tourney win since 1997

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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It had been nearly two decades since East No. 9 Providence had experienced a win in the NCAA tournament, with their 1997 Elite Eight team being the last to do so. And with Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn battling foul trouble for much of the night, it appeared as if the streak would continue on for another year. But other players stepped forward down the stretch, and Rodney Bullock’s layup with 1.4 seconds remaining gave the Friars a 70-69 win over No. 8 USC in Raleigh.

Bullock finished the game with 16 points and ten rebounds, stepping up to provide help on the offensive end on a night in which Ben Bentil needed 22 shots to score 19 points and Dunn tallied 16 on 5-for-13 shooting. Providence also received ten points and five assists from guard Kyron Cartwright, who helped the team do just enough to hang around with their floor general on the bench.

But it’s important to acknowledge that the Friars had some help down the stretch from a USC team that was making its first NCAA tournament appearance in five years. Andy Enfield’s young Trojans were in position close the game out at multiple points in the second half, but turnovers, poor shot selection and missed free throws left the door open for a Providence comeback.

After losing 20 games in each of Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm the Trojans won 21 this season. And with just one scholarship senior on the roster, USC can use Thursday’s crushing defeat to push them into a 2016-17 campaign they’ll begin with the expectation of being a contender in the Pac-12.

As for Providence, next up for them is East No. 1 North Carolina, and the Tar Heels will present a far different test for Ed Cooley’s team. Possessing depth, talent and experience, the Tar Heels are one of the favorites to get to Houston and if Providence is to win they’ll need contributions from everyone.

With one star on the bench and the other struggling to find his groove offensively other options stepped forward against USC, which is why the Friars will get their shot at North Carolina.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 15 Duke, No. 18 Indiana pick up wins

AP Photo/Ben McKeown
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Charlotte 114, UTSA 108 (2OT)

The 49ers and Roadrunners are playing for seeding in the upcoming Conference USA tournament, and they produced an entertaining contest Thursday night. Six players scored at least 21 points in the game, three for each team, with UTSA’s Ryan Bowie leading all scorers with 23 points. Charlotte received a 21-point, 16-rebound outing from Joseph Uchebo and Curran Scott shot 13-for-15 from the foul line in scoring his 22 points for Mark Price’s team.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 15 Duke 80, Florida State 65: The Blue Devils were balanced offensively, with Grayson Allen leading five double-digit scorers with 18 points. The Seminoles shot 50 percent from the field, but their 15 turnovers were converted into 16 points by the Blue Devils. Of course, Allen was involved in some controversy following the game regarding the possible tripping of Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes in the second half.

Seton Hall 70, Providence 52: The Pirates and Friars are headed in opposite directions at the point, as Seton Hall won by a comfortable margin in Newark. Isaiah Whitehead played very well at the point, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four blocked shots as he was far better than Providence’s Kris Dunn who didn’t appear to be at full strength. The Friars pulled to within seven in the second half, but the loss of Ben Bentil (31 points) to a flagrant 2 with just under five mintues remaining essentially ended the game. Seton Hall’s now 7-1 in its last eight games, and Providence is 2-6 during a similar stretch.

No. 18 Indiana 74, Illinois 47: The Hoosiers moved one step closer to a Big Ten title, as they shut down the Fighting Illini in the second half of their 27-point win in Champaign. Yogi Ferrell led the way with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the Hoosiers’ defensive effort was noteworthy as well. Illinois scored just 19 second-half points, and Indiana (mainly OG Anunoby) managed to limit Malcolm Hill to five points on 2-for-7 shooting.

California 75, UCLA 63: The Golden Bears are evidence that the season’s a marathon rather than a sprint. And with their win over the Bruins, Cuonzo Martin’s team is tied with Arizona and Utah for second place in the Pac-12, a game behind Oregon, with three games left to play. Jabari Bird scored 20 points and Jaylen Brown added 16 and ten boards for Cal, which is now 17-0 at home this season. For all the issues Cal had earlier in the season, they’re hitting their stride at just the right time.

STARRED

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: 25 points, six rebounds, nine assists, four blocks and just two turnovers in the Pirates’ win over Providence.

Quinton Hooker, North Dakota: Hooker scored a career-high 38 points, with the final two coming on free throws that sealed UND’s 80-77 win over Portland State.

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: 27 points, five rebounds and five assists in the Hoosiers’ blowout win at Illinois.

STRUGGLED

Kris Dunn, Providence: Eight points on 4-for-12 shooting, no assists and three turnovers in an 18-point loss at Seton Hall.

Malcolm Hill, Illinois: Five points on 2-for-7 shooting in Illinois’ 74-47 loss to Indiana.

Jordan McLaughlin, USC: McLaughlin struggled in the Trojans’ loss at Stanford, scoring two points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 22 Utah steamrolled Arizona State, 81-46, in a game they led 33-4 at one point. Jakob Poeltl was limited to just seven points, but the attention he drew from Arizona State factored into his teammates making a school-record 17 three-pointers. Brekott Chapman led four Runnin’ Utes in double figures with 15 points while also grabbing nine rebounds.
  • No. 24 SMU moved into a tie for first in the American with a 69-62 win at Memphis. Sterling Brown scored 14 points and Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy added 12 apiece for the Mustangs, who are looking to win back-to-back regular season conference titles for the first time since they won three straight from 1965-67 (Southwest Conference).

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Hofstra moved into a tie for first in the CAA with a 70-69 comeback win at UNCW, which entered the game in sole possession of the top spot. The Pride trailed by as much as 18 Thursday night, avenging a home loss to UNCW February 4 that they led by 22 at one point.
  • ETSU moved to 13-4 in SoCon play with an 80-75 win over Furman. Ge’Lawn Guyn led five Bucs in double figures with 23 points, and ETSU trails first-place Chattanooga (13-3) by a game in the loss column.
  • UConn took care of business on the road, beating USF 81-51 in Tampa. Rodney Purvis led the way for the Huskies with 18 points.
  • North Florida wrapped up the A-Sun regular season title and home court advantage throughout the conference tournament with an 81-80 win at Jacksonville. The Dolphins will be the three-seed, with league newcomer NJIT the two and FGCU the four-seed.
  • Also wrapping up home court advantage throughout its conference tournament was Wagner, which clinched the NEC title with a 69-54 home win over Saint Francis (PA). Behind the Seahawks are four teams (Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis-Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson and Sacred Heart) with matching 10-7 league records heading into Saturday’s close to the NEC’s regular season schedule.
  • High Point outlasted Winthrop 87-85 to move into a three-way tie for first place in the Big South, but the win may have come at a cost for Scott Cherry’s Panthers. Star forward John Brown left the game with a foot injury and did not return. His status will be a key factor in the upcoming conference tournament.
  • IPFW clinched at least a share of the Summit League regular season crown with an 87-75 win at Western Illinois. Mike Landis scored 24 points for the Mastodons, who received 19 points apiece from Michael Calder and John Konchar.
  • Montana and Weber State both took care of business in their respective games, setting up a showdown with first place in the Big Sky on the line Saturday. The Grizzlies won 90-77 at Idaho State, and Weber State beat Montana State 68-60 without the injured Joel Bolomboy.
  • Joining Charlotte and UTSA in triple digits Thursday was Omaha, which scored 102 points in its four-point win over Oral Roberts. Devin Patterson scored 29 points and Randy Reed 21 for the Mavericks, who shot 56.3 percent from the field.
  • Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga both moved to 14-3 in WCC play, with the Gaels beating Santa Clara 75-50 and Gonzaga winning 82-60 at San Diego. The Gaels hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, so Gonzaga will need some help if they’re to grab the top seed in next weekend’s conference tournament.
  • USC is still searching for its 20th win of the season as they were blown out by Stanford, 84-64. Dorian Pickens led the way for the Cardinal with 25 points, with Rosco Allen adding 17 points.
  • Kyle Collinsworth posted the NCAA record 11th triple-double of his career in BYU’s 99-81 win over Portland. Collinsworth finished with 14 points, ten rebounds and 16 assists.
  • Playing without forward Taylor Johns, UC Riverside handed Hawai’i its second Big West loss of the season, 77-71 in Honolulu. Jaylen Bland scored 20 points and Secean Johnson 19 to go along with ten rebounds to lead the way for Dennis Cutts’ Highlanders, with D.J. Sylvester scoring 18 off the bench.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 20 Duke wins at UNC, No. 3 Oklahoma falls

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 20 Duke 74, No. 5 North Carolina 73

Duke, already shorthanded, lost Matt Jones in the first half to a left ankle injury and they couldn’t slow down Brice Johnson either. But they continued to fight, ultimately winning on two Grayson Allen free throws with 1:09 remaining. To say the least North Carolina’s execution down the stretch left much to be desired, as Johnson’s last shot attempt came with just under five minutes left in the game. He finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds, while Allen led Duke with 23 points and seven boards and Brandon Ingram added 20 and ten.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Penn State 79, No. 4 Iowa 75: Within a two-week period the Nittany Lions have knocked off two of the three teams tied atop the Big Ten standings in the loss column (No. 22 Indiana being the other). Donovon Jack scored 19 points and Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner 18 each for the Nittany Lions, who won despite Peter Jok scoring 28 points and Jarrod Uthoff 19.

Saint Joseph’s 79, No. 15 Dayton 70: Phil Martelli’s Hawks picked up a big win, as they ended Dayton’s nine-game win streak to force a three-way tie atop the Atlantic 10. DeAndré Bembry led five Hawks in double figures with 16 points while also grabbing 13 rebounds, and it was the combination of their offensive balance and solid defense that won the game for Saint Joseph’s.

BUBBLE BANTER: Wednesday’s key results

Texas Tech 65, No. 3 Oklahoma 63: The Red Raiders picked up their third straight win over a ranked opponent, holding off the Sooners in Lubbock. Aaron Ross scored 17 points and Keenan Evans 14 for the Red Raiders, who limited Buddy Hield to 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting. Jordan Woodard led Oklahoma with 25 points, but with everyone else struggling it wasn’t enough.

No. 8 Xavier 85, No. 23 Providence 74: The Friars lost for the fourth time in their last five games Wednesday, falling by nine in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Myles Davis posted his first career triple-double (11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists), Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points and Jalen Reynolds went for ten and 15 boards. Kris Dunn led the Friars with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times on the night.

STARRED

Retin Obasohan, Alabama: 35 points, four rebounds and three assists in the Crimson Tide’s win at LSU, shooting 11-for-18 from the field and 11-for-11 from the foul line.

Myles Davis, Xavier: Davis posted a triple-double, going for 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to lead the Musketeers to a comfortable win over No. 23 Providence.

Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds. Why he didn’t get more touches down the stretch in their loss to No. 20 Duke is something that will be discussed for quite some time.

STRUGGLED

Eli Carter, Boston College: Carter had a miserable night at Clemson, shooting 1-for-17 from the field in the 64-55 loss. He finished with five points and six assists.

Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Paige and Berry combined to shoot 4-for-22 from the field in their loss to No. 20 Duke.

Starters not named Khristian Smith, Indiana State: Smith shot 5-for-12 from the field and scored 14 points in the Sycamores’ 78-50 loss at Illinois State. The other four starters combined to score ten points on 3-for-25 shooting.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Top-ranked Villanova won for the 15th time in their last 16 games, as they beat Temple 83-67 at the Liacouras Center. Jalen Brunson, whose father played at Temple, scored 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field as the Wildcats won the Big 5 title outright.
  • No. 11 Miami got going in the second half as they beat Virginia Tech 65-49. Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes outscored the Hokies 44-27 in the second half.
  • No. 12 Arizona steamrolled rival Arizona State, beating the Sun Devils 99-61 in Tucson. Allonzo Trier scored 20 points, and the Wildcats scored 52 points in the paint.
  • No. 18 Louisville rebounded from a slow start and blitzed Syracuse in the second half, beating the Orange 72-58. Damion Lee scored 15 points and Chinanu Onuaku added 13 points and 15 boards for the Cardinals.
  • No. 22 Indiana rebounded from its loss at Michigan State by taking care of business at home, beating Nebraska 80-64. Troy Williams led four Hoosiers in double figures with 18 points on the night.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Clemson, which is looking to play its way back into the NCAA tournament discussion, avoided a bad loss by beating Boston College 64-55.
  • St. Bonaventure’s hopes of getting into the bubble conversation took a major hit, as they lost 71-64 at La Salle. The Bonnies are now two games out of first in the Atlantic 10 as a result of this loss.
  • Stony Brook’s 18-game win streak came to an end as they were beaten soundly at Albany, 82-70. The Great Danes sent double teams at Jameel Warney all night long, which helped them limit the Seawolves to less than 40 percent shooting.
  • Bucknell retained sole possession of first place in the Patriot League with an 87-52 win over Loyola (MD). Trailing the Bison by a game are Lehigh, which beat Navy 77-74 on the road, and Boston University (71-68 win over Colgate).
  • Seton Hall continued its run towards an NCAA tournament bid with a 72-64 win over Georgetown. Isaiah Whitehead scored 22 points, Khadeen Carrington 18 and Desi Rodriguez 17 for the Pirates.
  • Alabama picked up a nice win on the road, as they beat LSU 76-69. Retin Obasohan, who’s been one of the best guards in the SEC this season, scored a career-high 35 in the win.
  • Chris Mullin picked up his first conference win as head coach at St. John’s, as the Red Storm beat DePaul 80-65. The Red Storm had lost 16 straight games before tonight.
  • Trailing by 15 with 6:01 remaining, New Mexico close the game on a 19-2 run as they beat Boise State 80-78. Elijah Brown scored 26 points and Tim Williams 18 for the Lobos, who are now in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.
  • USC came back from a 15-point deficit to beat Colorado 79-72, moving to 15-0 at the Galen Center this season. Julian Jacobs, who sparked the run, scored 17 points and Jordan McLaughlin finished with 25 points, four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win

Ben Bentil hurts ankle, Kris Dunn struggle as No. 11 Providence loses to DePaul

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The headline is going to read that No. 11 Providence lost to DePaul, and for anyone that is even remotely aware of DePaul’s recent history as a basketball program, you’ll understand why that is an issue.

Let’s put it like this: No one is college basketball is happier about the struggles that St. John’s is having than the Blue Demons, because it means they’re no longer the running joke of the Big East.

Doesn’t mean they’ve actually gotten much better under Dave Leitao, which is why the 77-70 win that they just landed over the Friars is such a big deal.

It also comes with an asterisk: Ben Bentil injured his right ankle midway through the first half, tried to return to play on it and couldn’t. He sat on the bench for most of the second half as DePaul somehow managed to hold onto their lead despite doing everything they could to let Providence make a run. Bentil’s presence is critical for the Friars; he’s the leading scorer in the Big East, after all.

Cooley announced after the game that Bentil was undergoing x-rays on the ankle, but had no update as to the severity of the injury.

But his absence also drives home the fact that Providence has such a minuscule margin for error when it comes to their Big Two. They can’t afford to have Bentil or Kris Dunn get injured and miss a significant amount of time. They can barely afford to have one of them have an off-night given just how inconsistent the rest of their starting lineup has been.

On Tuesday night, Dunn finished 5-for-20 from the floor for just 14 points. He also missed two critical 1-and-1 front-ends down the stretch of the second half.

That would qualify as an off-night.

And when you combine an off-night for Dunn with an injured ankle for Bentil, this is what you get.

A loss to DePaul.