NCAA Tournament Day 4 recap

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Game of the Day: Arizona 70, Texas 69

Arizona was sitting pretty. The Longhorns were playing like garbage, digging themselves a 13 point hole early in the second half, despite the Wildcats getting absolutely nothing from Derrick Williams early on. The all-american sophomore had just three points and two boards in the first half, going 0-6 from the floor.

But in the second half, J’Covan Brown brought Texas back, scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half and making a short jumper with just over a minute left to give Texas a 69-67 lead. At the other end, Texas forced consecutive misses from Arizona, but on the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for five seconds (very questionably), giving the ball back to Arizona. Kyle Fogg ran a pick-and-roll with Derrick Williams, throwing a gorgeous bounce pass to Derrick Williams for a tough, left-handed layup. Jordan Hamilton bailed out on taking a charge, which gave Williams an and-one. At the other end of the floor, both Brown and Gary Johnson missed layups that feasibly could have been called fouls.

Team of the Day: Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles were one of the last eight to ten teams to get into the tournament, and like Georgetown without Chris Wright, they were clearly not the same team without Chris Singleton. Singleton is back, but he’s only healthy enough to give Leonard Hamilton’s team 26 minutes in two games. That didn’t matter against Notre Dame, as the Seminoles beat down the Big East’s second best team, 71-57.

Florida State is a defensive minded team, but without Singleton there was concern that not only would the Seminoles, a team that struggled to score, be without their best defensive player, but also their best scoring threat. Not so on Sunday night. Florida State went 9-19 from three, shot 45.8% from the floor, and assisted on 15 of their 22 field goals. It was an impressive offensive performance from a team not known for impressive offensive performances.

The other Team of the Day: VCU Rams

The Rams completed a three game winning streak in just five days with a beat down of three seed Purdue, 94-76. And don’t be fooled, this was a beat down. Purdue has the reputation of being one of the best defensive teams in the country, and deservedly so. But the Boilermakers were torched in every aspect of the game. VCU shot 56.5% from the floor, consistently getting open looks in the paint and around the rim. They hit eight threes. They assisted on 26 of their 37 field goals and turned the ball over just four times. VCU scored 1.32 PPP. That’s impressive.

Indelibly, the comparisons between VCU and the 2006 George Mason are going to get made. And rightfully so. Mason was one of the last at-large teams to get into the tournament, as was VCU. Both decisions were relatively controversial. Both teams were 11 seeds. Both knocked off big name programs en route to the Sweet 16. Both had favorable matchups in the Sweet 16, and both were lined up to face the most talented team in the tournament in the Elite 8. Can the Rams put together the same finish that the Patriots did?

Player of the Day: David Lighty, Ohio State

Lighty, in his homecoming to Cleveland and on the day that he graduated from Ohio State, finished with 25 points against George Mason. He was 9-10 from the floor and hit all seven of his threes. Lighty also added four rebounds and three assists. In fact, the only thing that Lighty did wrong in Ohio State’s 98-66 win was miss a pair of free throws and commit a turnover.

In all honesty, any one of a number of Buckeyes could be named player of the day. Jared Sullinger had 18 points and eight boards in just 22 minutes. Jon Diebler and William Buford added 31 points and eight threes. Most impressive, however, was Aaron Craft. The freshman point guard showed no signs of being a freshman, finished with 15 assists (to just two turnovers) and six boards.

UNC 86, Washington 83: We may not have had a more entertaining basketball game this tournament. Its pretty much what you would expect coming from two teams that like to get out in transition. Washington was in the lead for much of the game, but down the stretch, their execution failed them. UNC used a 15-4 run to take a 84-78, the last basket of which came on a steal by Harrison Barnes that led to a Dexter Strickland layup. The Huskies had a shot late, getting a couple of stops and a missed free throw from Kendall Marshall. But a couple of dumb shots from Venoy Overton and a turnover by Justin Holiday did Washington in.

Duke 73, Michigan 71: Nolan Smith took over midway through the second half, leading the Dukies to a 15 point lead and seemingly putting them in control of the game. But Michigan started to get some stops and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris led the Wolverines back. After cutting the Duke lead to just one point, Irving hit one of two free throws. Morris went the other way, but he missed a 12 foot runner off the back of the rim, and Duke advanced. Smith led the way with 17 of his 24 points in the second half.

Marquette 66, Syracuse 62: In what turned into a classic Big East battle, the Golden Eagles and the Orange found themselves tied with just over a minute left in the game. But an unfortunate back court violation (which appeared to be the wrong call) on Scoop Jardine gave Marquette the ball back. Darius Johnson-Odom knocked down a three with under a minute left, and after another dumb shot from Jardine with 20 seconds left — a three that bounced off the back board — the Golden Eagles went on to win.

Kansas 73, Illinois 59: The knock on Illinois all season long was their lack of interior strength, and Kansas exploited that. The Jayhawks pounded the ball into the Morrii, who finished with a combined 41 points and 24 boards.  Illinois was within single digits for most of the second half, but the Jayhawks were never seriously threatened by the Illini.