Tshiebwe’s 25 boards helps Kentucky top Providence in NCAAs

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Oscar Tshiebwe kept battling for position, pushing his way to daylight and grabbing seemingly every loose rebound with a rugged relentlessness.

No one was going to stop him, either.

When it was over, the two-time Associated Press All-American had turned in the best rebounding performance in the NCAA Tournament in nearly a half-century – and Kentucky was free to move past last year’s one-and-done showing.

Tshiebwe pulled down 25 rebounds and Antonio Reeves scored 22 points, helping the Wildcats beat Providence 61-53 in Friday night’s first round.

Tshiebwe’s rebounding output represented the most in any tournament game since 1977. Eleven of his rebounds came on the offensive glass – a big factor in the sixth-seeded Wildcats (22-11) staying in control as both offenses grinded to a halt after halftime.

“I told (my teammates), I said, ‘This year we come in and fight, last year doesn’t matter anymore,'” said Tshiebwe, who entered as the nation’s leading rebounder at 13.1 per game.

The “last year,” of course, was the shocking first-round exit against 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s that had hung over the program all season. Now the Wildcats are moving on to face the Montana State-Kansas State winner Sunday in the East Region.

“Yeah, it was a big relief obviously,” forward Jacob Toppin said.

When the horn sounded, guard Cason Wallace let out a scream before giving a chest bump to Reaves. And Tshiebwe soon emerged from a postgame TV interview by gleefully skipping his way off toward the locker room.

His rebounding total was the most in the tournament since Michigan’s Phil Hubbard had 26 boards against Detroit Mercy in 1977.

Behind Tshiebwe, Kentucky finished with a 48-31 rebounding advantage, controlling the offensive glass (plus-10) and dominating in second-chance points for an 18-2 edge.

That was vital considering shots weren’t falling; Kentucky shot 36.5% overall but just 7 of 28 (25%) after halftime.

Reeves hit five 3-pointers to lead the offense, while Toppin had his own big game with 18 points. Tshiebwe managed eight points, but he was still an indomitable force that the 11th-seeded Friars (21-12) just couldn’t manage.

“Sometimes you just have an ‘it,’ a la Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “Those guys just have an ‘it’ for it. Some guys have an ‘it’ to score. Some people have an ‘it’ to pass. He has an incredible ‘it,’ an elite ‘it’ to rebound.”

Ed Croswell scored 16 points for Providence, which shot just 36.2% while making 5 of 24 3-pointers. The Friars matched the Wildcats’ second-half troubles, making just 8 of 27 shots (29.6%).

“You can say you wish you could win this game and all that,” Friars guard Jared Bynum said, “but you have to embrace the moment at the end of it.”

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars have been to the NCAAs seven times in the past nine seasons under Cooley, including last year’s Sweet 16 before falling to eventual champion Kansas. But they entered this game just 3-6 in NCAA games under Cooley.

Kentucky: The Wildcats got off to a successful though grinding start to March Madness – and that was good enough for coach John Calipari.

“If in this tournament, winning is a relief, what the heck are you doing here?” he said. “This is joy.”

KEY STRETCH

Tshiebwe came through in a tight game, starting with – what else? – his rebounding.

With Kentucky leading 50-46, he leapt to dunk home Wallace’s missed drive. Minutes later, he came up with a steal, then an offensive rebound off his own miss before feeding Chris Livingston on the other side of the paint for the layup and a 54-46 lead with 2:43 left.

BUMPY REUNION

The game marked a reunion between Providence star Bryce Hopkins and the Kentucky program he left behind. Hopkins came in averaging 16.1 points, but finished with just seven on 2-for-9 shooting in a tough night while being chased primarily by Toppin.

Hopkins fought back tears as he made his way through the postgame handshake line with Calipari and former teammates.

FULL STOP

The game’s oddest moment came at the foul line.

With 8:36 left before halftime, Providence’s Clifton Moore launched a free throw that hit the rim on the left side and rolled all the way around the inside of the rim before popping out and sitting on the back of the goal.

And then, it just stopped and stayed there.

The 6-foot-9 Toppin stood next to an official under the net looking up at the ball, his hands on his hips, before jumping to tap it loose.

It went down as a miss. Moore made the second.

LOOK-INS

The upset by 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson against No. 1 seed Purdue in Columbus, Ohio, drew a captivated audience in Greensboro Coliseum for live look-ins being shown on the scoreboard.

During one timeout, with Fairleigh Dickinson up five in the final seconds, fans in Greensboro began chanting “FDU! FDU!” and booing whenever the game was taken off the scoreboard even when Providence-Kentucky had resumed on the court below.

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

caitlin clark
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