Tourney Snacks: Kentucky, Notre Dame win in Midwest; Arizona, Wisconsin advance to set up Elite Eight rematch

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TOP PERFORMERS

  • Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker: The junior wing had a career-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds as Wisconsin advanced back to the Elite Eight with a win over North Carolina. Dekker was aggressive attacking the rim and had help from senior center Frank Kaminsky, who contributed 19 points and eight rebounds.
  • Arizona’s T.J. McConnell: It was a bit of an off-night for the senior point guard in a win over Xavier, but McConnell made big plays down the stretch and still stuffed the stat sheet. McConnell had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists on Thursday night and helped crack Xavier’s 1-3-1 zone that flustered the Arizona offense at times in the second half.
  • Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson: Senior guard Jerian Grant was perhaps the more important all-around player for the Irish, but Jackson’s early scoring set the tone for Notre Dame’s offense as the sophomore played with a ton of confidence in a win over Wichita State. The former McDonald’s All-American finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists while also going 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

RESULTS:

  • No. 3 Notre Dame 81, No. 7 Wichita State 70: A second-half flurry from the Notre Dame offense put this game away as Demetrius Jackson had 20 points and Jerian Grant had nine points and 11 assists. Grant might not have scored like he usually does, but he was dominant on the offensive end with his ability to make plays for himself or others off the dribble. The Notre Dame defense also held Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton to a combined 4-for-20 from the field on Thursday night as Wichita State’s offense struggled outside of 25 points from Fred VanVleet.
  • No. 1 Kentucky 78, No. 5 West Virginia 39: This score isn’t some kind of misprint. The Kentucky blowout win over West Virginia was as bad as it appears. The Wildcats led 18-2 and pulled ahead 44-18 at halftime and didn’t let up much from there as five players finished with at least 12 points. The trash talk of West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr. helped give Kentucky an extra bit of motivation and they made sure to let the Mountaineer freshman know about it after the game.
  • No. 1 Wisconsin 79, No. 4 North Carolina 72: Things looked a bit dicey for the Badgers when they trailed in the second half, but a big final push finished off the Tar Heels as Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky were both very productive in the win. Senior point guard Traevon Jackson also made his return for the Badgers, as he played for the first time since Jan. 11. Wisconsin’s win in the West Regional sets them up to play Arizona in a rematch of last year’s fantastic Elite Eight contest.
  • No. 2 Arizona 68, No. 6 Xavier 60: The Wildcats were able to pull away late from Xavier as T.J. McConnell stepped up his play down the stretch. Arizona also shot 17-for-19 from the free-throw line and junior center Kaleb Tarczewski had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shook off an earlier leg injury to clear some big rebounds and help with some stops in the final minutes.

DUNK OF THE DAY: Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds

The Musketeers fell after a battle with Arizona, but Reynolds had Thursday night’s best poster.

TEAM OF THE DAY: No. 1 seed Kentucky

Kentucky has embarrassed some NCAA Tournament teams already during the regular season but the Thursday night win over West Virginia showed just how dominant the Wildcats can be if they’re fully engaged on both ends of the floor. We already knew Kentucky was the heavy favorite entering the Tournament, but the performance against the Mountaineers in the Sweet 16 was a clear reminder that the national championship is Kentucky’s to lose.