Pitt holds Iowa State to 23 percent shooting in 59-41 first-round win

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Nelly Cummings scored 13 points and No. 11 seed Pittsburgh held sixth-seeded Iowa State to 23% shooting in a 59-41 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Jamarius Burton added 11 points and Greg Elliott had 10 for coach Jeff Capel’s Panthers, who stormed to a 22-2 lead after Iowa State missed its first 11 shots. Things didn’t get much better for the Cyclones, who had three stretches in which they missed at least eight consecutive shots.

Pitt (24-11), which edged Mississippi State in the First Four, moves on to Sunday’s second-round Midwest Region game against third-seeded Xavier, which had to rally from 13 points down to beat No. 14 seed Kennesaw State.

“What an unbelievable defensive performance,” Capel said. “We were a really good defensive team for the majority of the year except for the last month of the season – and we’ve really dialed back in these past two games and played at an elite level.”

Gabe Kalscheur and Jaren Holmes each had 12 points for Iowa State (19-14), which reached the Sweet 16 last year in coach T.J. Otzelberger’s first season.

The Cyclones, who had lost nine of their previous 13 games, didn’t make a field goal until Holmes’ short jumper with 9:53 left in the first half, which drew a sarcastic cheer from Iowa State fans.

Iowa State’s poor start came while shooting at the same basket that officials worked to fix before the game, causing a brief delay.

“Iowa State asked us during pregame warmups to check if the rim was level,” the NCAA said in a statement. “Building personnel checked it and made a minor adjustment prior to the game beginning. We offered them additional warmup time but they declined.”

Otzelberger said he wasn’t sure if the issue with the basket might have gotten into his players’ heads and contributed to their poor shooting, saying, “you’d have to ask the players.”

Kalscheur said it wasn’t, adding that players are trained to handle adversity.

The Cyclones clawed within 30-23 at the break but started the second half much like they did the first – making two of their first 19 shots.

When Pitt’s Nike Sibande was fouled on a 3-pointer from the left corner with under five minutes left and made the ensuing free throw to put the Panthers up by 20, it was all but over.

The Cyclones went nearly eight minutes without a field goal in the second half before Tamin Lipsey made a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:13 left to cut the lead to 19.

One the biggest highlights for Pitt came late in the second half when wiry 7-foot center Jorge Diaz Graham lofted a perfect pass to his identical twin brother Guillermo for a dunk, causing the Panthers’ bench to erupt in celebration.

The brothers don’t see many minutes on the floor together since they’re freshmen and play the same position.

“It was a blast of energy,” Guillermo Diaz Graham said. “That ball coming from my brother especially … it was amazing.”

Added Jorge Diaz Graham: “The funny thing is yesterday in practice he dunked on me and (teammate) Nate (Hinson) and he was talking trash. So I told him, ‘OK, you want to talk now, but just do it in a game.’ And so he did, and now I have to shut up and say thank you for making my assist.”

Pitt also got an emotional boost from center Federiko Federiko, who received a huge ovation from the Panthers faithful when he checked into the game in the first half. Federiko sat out with a knee injury against Mississippi State and the Panthers were outrebounded by 21.

“We’ve had something to prove since the preseason ranked us 14th our conference,” Cummings said. “We’ve had a chip on our shoulder the first time we seen that. Dayton (the First Four site) was just another example of us having to put a chip on our shoulder again. We’re definitely looking forward to proving more.”

BIG PICTURE

Pitt: The Panthers knocked down eight 3s against one of the better defenses in the country when they beat Mississippi State for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2014. They stayed hot against Iowa State, making their first three shots from beyond the arc.

Iowa State: Despite playing in the competitive Big 12, the Cyclones weren’t quite ready for the big stage, enduing one of the poorest shooting performances in recent memory.

“We’re a team that is fueled by our defense and felt like early we didn’t dictate and disrupt quite as well as we needed to to get our natural rhythm going,” Otzelberger said.

Gonzaga’s Timme among five finalists for men’s Wooden Award

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – Drew Timme of Gonzaga is one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year.

He’s joined by Zach Edey of Purdue, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Jalen Wilson of Kansas.

Timme took his team farthest in the upset-riddled NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga losing in the Elite Eight. Sasser helped Houston reach the Sweet 16. Purdue lost in the first round, while Indiana and Kansas were beaten in the second round.

The winner will be announced April 4 on ESPN. All five players have been invited to Los Angeles for the 47th annual presentation on April 7.

Also among the top 10 vote getters were: Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA, Brandon Miller of Alabama, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis.

Voting took place from March 13-20.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will receive the Legends of Coaching Award during the ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Indiana’s Teri Moren wins AP Coach of the Year

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK
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DALLAS – Teri Moren has led Indiana to some unprecedented heights this season.

The team won its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years, rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll and earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Moren was honored Thursday as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year, the first time she has won the award. She received 12 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley was second with eight votes. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received five and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks three.

Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

“I think a lot of people were like this is going to be a year where Indiana is reloading, rebuilding, they won’t be as good as they had been the year prior. We were picked third in the Big Ten,” Moren said.

Moren was surprised by her team, who told her she won in an elaborate ruse.

“Anytime you can share it with people that made it happen. the staff, the players, the most important people who have been instrumental in the season and this award is special. I was speechless.”

Moren accepted the award at the Final Four, sharing the stage with AP Player of the Year Caitlin Clark to complete a Big Ten sweep.

The team has come a long way from when Moren was a young girl growing up in southern Indiana. She was a diehard fan of the Indiana basketball team. The men’s one that is.

She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.

As far as the women’s team, they just weren’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 75 consecutive weeks starting with the preseason one in 2019-2020. That’s the fourth-longest active streak.

Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six times.

“People still talk to me about living in Bloomington and they couldn’t afford a ticket to the men’s game. Not that they settled, but became women’s basketball fans. At that moment, you could walk in and find any seat you wanted and watch women’s basketball,” Moren said.

“There were 300-400 people in the stands, now to what it is today, it’s an unbelievable thing to watch it grow. Things you dream about to see fans and bodies up in the rafters.”

The Hoosiers had six of the school’s top 10 most attended games this season, including crowds of over 13,000 fans for the first round of the NCAA Tournament and 14,000 for the second round game – a shocking loss to Miami.

“It stings right now, but that last game doesn’t define our season,” Moren said.

AP source: Alabama’s Brandon Miller declares for NBA draft

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Alabama All-American forward Brandon Miller is heading to the NBA after displaying versatile talent and athleticism in a lone season of college ball that was blemished by revelations he was present at a fatal shooting in January near campus.

ESPN first reported on Miller’s decision, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the report to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Miller hadn’t yet made an official declaration for the draft.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound freshman, who was one of the nation’s top high school recruits, is projected as a potential top 5 draft pick.

Miller displayed his accurate 3-point shooting and athleticism in the most productive season of any freshman in Alabama history. He led the Tide to their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while hitting 38% from 3-point range. But he was scoreless in his first March Madness game, and went 3 of 19 and scored just nine points in a Sweet 16 loss to San Diego State.

Miller was described as a cooperating witness after the Jan. 15 shooting and was never charged with a crime.

But he and the Tide were dogged by off-court questions for the final two months of the season. Former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris, who was killed in early on Jan. 15.

Miller and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley were placed at the scene as well. According to police testimony, Miller brought Miles his gun. Miller’s attorney said the Tide forward was on his way to pick Miles up when Miles texted asking him to bring the weapon, but that Miller never handled the gun and didn’t know any criminal activity was intended.

Miller received threats after the news came out, and was accompanied by a university-provided security guard. “It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats at the NCAA regional in Birmingham, Alabama, “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”

Alabama finished the season 31-6 and won the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark wins AP Player of the Year

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Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital – a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.

“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”

Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.

“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson who won it in 2019.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA draft

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft, weeks after a leg injury forced him out of the season’s final six games.

The junior from Riverside, California, announced his plans on his Instagram account Wednesday.

“Thank you to UCLA and coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me,” Clark’s post read. “I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 draft.”

Clark didn’t indicate whether he would hire an agent ahead of the June 22 draft or retain his remaining eligibility. He has until May 31 to withdraw and be able to return to Westwood.

He suffered a lower right leg injury in the regular-season finale against Arizona on March 4. Clark averaged 13 points and six rebounds while starting 29 of 30 games. He led the Pac-12 in total steals with 78, tying for third all-time in single-season steals for the Bruins.

He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection, was named the league’s defensive player of the year and made its five-man All-Defensive Team.

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25