Arkansas to open against Louisville in Maui Invitational

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Arkansas will face Louisville in the opening round of a loaded 2022 Maui Invitational bracket.

The eight-team bracket announced for the November event will include six teams that went to the 2022 NCAA Tournament, including three that reached the Sweet 16.

Arizona faces Cincinnati in the opening round after reaching the Sweet 16 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season. Texas Tech, another Sweet 16 team last season, plays Creighton and San Diego State faces Ohio State in the tournament’s return to the Lahaina Civic Center on Nov. 21-23.

The 2020 tournament was held in Asheville, North Carolina, and last year’s was played in Las Vegas.

Arkansas has reached the Elite Eight the past two seasons under coach Eric Musselman.

Big Ten places four teams in women’s Sweet 16 again

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Womens Championship - Second Round - Maryland v Florida Gulf Coast
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It has been seven years since the Big Ten had a team reach the Final Four and more than two decades since the conference had a national champion in women’s basketball.

With the conference having four teams in the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year, those streaks could be ending soon.

Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State and Maryland are all playing in the regional semifinals this weekend – matching the ACC for most teams left in the NCAA Tournament.

All four coaches credit the toughness of the conference as one of the main reasons for the success they’ve had so far on the game’s biggest stage.

“I think the biggest thing is we prepare each other for these moments,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “It’s so good and so competitive that we’re prepared for these games. The Big Ten prepares us for all these opponents we’re seeing right now.”

Indiana reached the regional final last season and has most of its team back from that run. The Hoosiers face UConn on Saturday in the Sweet 16.

Maryland, which faces Stanford on Friday, was the last team from the Big Ten to reach the Final Four, doing so in 2014. Coach Brenda Frese knows how important it can be to have made it to the regionals before.

“You have to gain that experience to get to the Sweet 16s and get to an Elite Eight like Indiana last year,” Frese said. “Your roster has to get that experience. That’s the cool thing to see now back-to-back years four teams making it to the Sweet 16. Teams are gaining a ton of experience to understand these rounds and how difficult it is.”

Michigan, which faces South Dakota on Saturday, is playing in its second straight Sweet 16 after never making it that far before.

“I’ve said it since I got here, the quote Geno (Auriemma) gave me 20 years ago. It’s easy to get there, the hard part is staying there,” Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “When you have a league that has back-to-back four teams in the Sweet 16, it really speaks to you staying there and having arrived.”

All of the coaches are rooting for each other to succeed. As soon as the other Big Ten schools advanced, Frese tweeted out her excitement for them.

“Brenda has been a real champion of this and is 100% right,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “A lot of the other leagues out there have TV networks that trumpet their teams. We have to similarly as coaches promoting how good we are. We know how good we are. Everyone knows it as well.”

The sixth-seeded Buckeyes will face Texas on Friday

With the four women’s teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and a couple of Big Ten men’s teams still playing also, it will be a busy next few days for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. He plans to try to take in as many of the games as he possibly can in person while watching others on his phone.

He believes his conference is really close to breaking its national semifinals drought.

“We are on the forefront of putting teams in the Final Four on a regular basis and winning national championships,” Warren said in a phone interview from the airport. “I look forward to seeing them go into the Final Four and look forward to the day when I see when the national championship trophy is handed to them.”

Warren also made changes in the conference office this season, hiring Megan Kahn in November to be the conference’s Vice President of Women’s Basketball.

“That showed the true commitment from Kevin Warren, our commissioner, who is passionate about women’s hoops,” Moren said. “Him hiring her and really making this a position exclusive for women’s basketball is a huge deal.”

Warren said creating that position was one of his top goals when he got hired.

“I had a list of transition initiatives and that was a top one,” he said. “The first year we had to deal with COVID, so it got delayed.”

He also has spent the last two years developing relationships with many of the coaches and players. He went to all of the women’s games at the conference tournament and constantly texts them before and after games.

“They know I’m there. They know I can’t be in two places at once or I’d be there,” he said. “I’ll see Indiana this weekend. Hopefully all four of our teams win, so I can figure out where to go.”

Sheldon paces Ohio St. to 79-64 2nd-round NCAA win over LSU

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Jacy Sheldon had 23 points, eight assists and three steals, and sixth seed Ohio State beat No. 3 seed LSU 79-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night.

Taylor Mikesell scored 18 and Rebeka Mikulasikova had 12 points for the Buckeyes (25-6), who responded to a large, loud and hostile crowd in the Tigers’ home arena by seizing momentum in the opening quarter and putting LSU in the deepest deficit it had face all season at 24 points late in the third quarter.

LSU (26-6), which overcame a 10-point deficit inside the final five minutes of their first round game against Jackson State two days earlier, lacked the firepower to climb out of a bigger hole against Sheldon and Co.

Khayla Pointer, the Tigers’ second-team All-America guard, scored 32 points, but also missed 18 of her 30 shots, her dry spells coming as the Buckeyes pulled away. Jailin Cherry scored 12 points for LSU, which hit just twice from 3-point range on eight attempts.

Autumn Newby grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers.

Ohio State led by eight at halftime and put LSU in a deep hole by opening the third quarter with a 13-2 run that Mikesell capped with a deep 3 to give the Buckeyes a 47-28 lead.

Later in the third, Sheldon hit consecutive 3s from each side of the court to make it 57-33.

After Pointer hit a 3 on LSU’s first shot of the game, the Tigers missed 15 of their next 17 shots. That’s when Sheldon began to exert her full-court influence on the game, converting three steals into fast-break layups in a span of little more than two minutes.

The third of those baskets gave Ohio State a 12-8 lead, and then Mikesell hit her first 3 of the game to put the Buckeye up 15-8 after one period.

Rebeka Mikulasikova and Mikesell each hit two 3s as Ohio State widened its lead to as much as nine in the second quarter.

Pointer, who had 11 first-half points, helped stem the tide with a jumper and a driving, double-pump scoop off the glass.

But Rikki Harris’ offensive rebound of a missed jumper and kick out to the top of the key set up Braxtin Miller’s 3 to give Ohio State a 34-26 lead at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes overcame the the Tigers’ front-court size advantage by shooting well from outside and effectively defending the paint when Pointer tried to drive. Ohio State’s 10 3s on 22 attempts were more than their average per game coming in and they shot 48.3% overall (28 of 58).

Meanwhile, Harris, a starting guard, was helped back to the Ohio State locker room with about three minutes left after falling hard along the sideline and crashing into the scorers’ table.

LSU: The Tigers eight points in the opening quarter tied for their lowest scoring quarter of the season. It was a bad omen as they struggled with their shooting all night. The Tigers finished 25 of 68 shooting (37%), committed 11 turnovers that led to 16 Ohio State points and missed 10 of 22 free throws.

Still, coach Kim Mulkey’s first season at LSU was an enormous success

UP NEXT:

Ohio State advances to the Spokane Region semifinals against second seed Texas on Friday.

Villanova back to Sweet 16 after 71-61 win over Ohio State

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH — Collin Gillespie saw Eric Dixon out of the corner of his eye and sent a cross-court pass that doubled as permission to let it fly.

So Dixon did, knocking down the biggest shot of his team’s season, one that sent the second-seeded Wildcats back to familiar territory against a familiar opponent on a familiar stage.

Dixon’s 3-pointer from the wing with 1:38 to go gave Villanova the breathing room it needed in a 71-61 win over seventh-seeded Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, propelling the Wildcats (28-7) back to San Antonio to face 11th-seeded Michigan (19-14) in the South Regional semifinal on Thursday.

Four years ago, Gillespie was a freshman on the Villanova team that held off the Wolverines for the program’s second national title in three seasons. Now he’s a two-time Big East Player of the Year and the unquestioned leader of a group that seems to feed off Gillespie’s “follow me” vibe, one on full display in the final moments.

The Wildcats led by 64-59 when Gillespie backed into the post. The Buckeyes scrambled to double-team him, freeing up the 6-foot-8 Dixon. Gillespie had options.

The fact he sent it over to a player with just 28 3-point attempts on the season hardly mattered. It was the smart play. Gillespie made it. It’s what he does.

Dixon caught the ball and drilled the shot, buoyed by the show of faith from Gillespie.

“I think they have the confidence if ‘Collin is giving it to me, that’s telling me, Go ahead and shoot it,’ ” Villanova coach Wright said.

Gillespie finished with 20 points, four assists with a steal and a rebound against just one turnover in 38 minutes. Dixon’s 3-pointer gave him 13 points and eight rebounds as the Wildcats fended off a second-half push from the Buckeyes (20-12), who trimmed a 15-point deficit to two before Villanova regained its footing.

“They had a stretch where they were hitting shot after shot, and we just stuck together and came together on the defensive end and told each other, ‘Let’s get this next stop, let’s get this next stop’ and tried to make the next play.”

The Wildcats made all of the right ones when it mattered. Ohio State missed six of its final seven shots and turned it over twice after Jamari Wheeler’s 3-pointer pulled the Buckeyes within 60-58 with 5:39 to go.

They got no closer. Jermaine Samuels hit a layup and Gillespie knocked down a pull-up jumper before Dixon delivered the knockout punch.

“Credit to (Villanova), they played hard,” Ohio State star E.J. Liddell said. “I thought we went out there and played hard but we’ve got to take care of the ball a little bit more.”

Liddell scored 17 points and six rebounds in likely his final game with the Buckeyes before heading to the NBA. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Malachi Branham – who could be joining Liddell in the pros – scored 15 of his 23 in the second half.

It just wasn’t enough to send the Buckeyes to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2013. Ohio State never led and was forced to play the final 8:55 without forward Kyle Young, who was being evaluated for a concussion after taking a blow to the head. Young missed several games late in the season while in the concussion protocol.

The Buckeyes found a way to keep it close after he left but never got over the top while falling to 0-3 in the second round under coach Chris Holtmann.

“Gotta keep getting here, gotta keep growing,” Holtmann said, later adding, “You keep getting here, you get here enough, you get here consistently, and it will happen.”

The second round used to be a stumbling block for the Wildcats. Not anymore. After a so-so – by the program’s high standards – regular season, Villanova looks dangerous once again.

A week after rolling to the Big East Tournament title, the Wildcats won their first two tournament games in Pittsburgh by double digits, just as they did in 2018 on their way to a national title that culminated with a blowout over Michigan.

Gillespie and Samuels both said they didn’t consider the parallels between 2018 and 2022 until someone brought it to their attention. It’s a different team than the one that was never tested on its way to a championship.

Yet just like that group, this one appears to be peaking, led by the unassuming Gillespie.

“We never expected this,” Wright said of Gillespie. “All of the intangibles that he brings we expected. To be able to go out and dominate games like he does, we did not.”

Ohio State had no answers. Two days removed from a dominant win over Loyola Chicago, the Buckeyes’ swagger vanished against the more polished and poised Wildcats.

“When (Ohio State) makes the run if you haven’t been there before and know that you can withstand that, that this is what happens when you play great teams and it’s happened to you before, and you can fight through it, if you haven’t done it, it’s hard, you can panic,” Wright said. “But all these guys have been there.”

It’s the Villanova way.

Ohio State puts clamps on Loyola Chicago in 54-41 NCAA win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH — No extended March stay for Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean this time.

Not with Ohio State taking away every inch of open space. Not with E.J. Liddell creating a bit of his own with each pull-up jumper. Not with the seventh-seeded Buckeyes showing that when healthy, they can make every trip down the floor for their opponent a frustrating mess.

E.J. Liddell scored 16 points, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Malaki Branham added 14 and Ohio State shut down the 10th-seeded Ramblers from start to finish, winning 54-41 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

The Buckeyes (20-11) advanced to play Villanova on Sunday in the South Region while preventing another March run by the Ramblers (25-8), who shot 27% (15 of 56) from the floor.

“We knew we were in for a rock fight, and that’s very much what it was,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said, calling it “the best defensive performance we’ve really had in a couple years.”

Certainly, it’s the best the Ramblers have faced in a while. Loyola’s 41 points were a season low and the program’s fewest since scoring 39 against Indiana State in 2020. After hearing repeatedly about the Ramblers’ smothering defense, the Buckeyes provided some of their own.

“We love that type of challenge, and we just have to respond,” said forward Kyle Young, who had nine points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes in his return from a concussion that cost him several games. “So it was just about who is going to play more physical and tougher with 50/50 balls and things like that.”

Braden Norris gave the Ramblers 14 points but star Lucas Williamson endured perhaps his worst game of the season. The winningest player in program history finished with four points on 1-of-10 shooting and committed three turnovers as Loyola fell in the first round after reaching the Sweet 16 last season and the Final Four in 2018.

“I mean, I’m disappointed in myself,” Williamson said. “I don’t feel like I played to the standard that I put myself at. But, yeah, I mean, like (coach) Drew (Valentine) said, kind of just at a loss for words. Kind of just stunned right now.”

Sister Jean, Loyola’s 102-year-old chaplain, led the Ramblers in a pregame prayer and took in the school’s third NCAA appearance in five years from the mezzanine but could only watch as Loyola – listed as a slight favorite by FanDuel Sportsbook, a nod to the program’s rise – fumbled away an opportunity to further cement its status as an emerging mid-major power.

Ohio State came in having lost four of five games, including a baffling setback to lowly Penn State in the Big Ten tournament last week. A year ago, Ohio State came in as a two seed only to get ambushed by 15th-seeded Oral Roberts in the opening round. Not this time.

Liddell endured a rocky first half while getting hounded by Williamson but collected himself after the break, hitting a series of mid-range jumpers. The 6-foot-7 bruiser’s go-to move was using one of his shoulders to nudge a Rambler out of the way before rising up into the void.

“We played with an edge tonight, played like the underdogs,” Liddell said. “We’ve got to keep playing like that because people have been counting us out big time. We’ve got to have that same mindset next game.”

The Ramblers were in fact a popular pick to knock off the Buckeyes, but Ohio State’s size and relentlessness were too much.

At one point, Valentine grew so animated his gum flew out of his mouth as he implored his team for more effort.

The Ramblers’ effort wasn’t the issue. Execution, however, was another matter as Loyola ended its stint in the Missouri Valley Conference – the Jesuit school located along Lake Michigan is heading to the Atlantic 10 next fall – with a thud. It shows how far the Ramblers have come that a first-round exit is considered a disappointment.

“I think the main thing that I want to focus on is the program’s in a lot better spot than it was when a lot of these guys got here five years ago,” Valentine said. “So I’m proud of our group, but obviously today we really struggled offensively, making shots, free throws. Thought we had too many turnovers. I thought defensively we were solid at times, but probably fought a little too much.”

UP NEXT

Ohio State seeks its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2013.

Jones, Michigan beat No. 23 Ohio State; B10 tourney up next

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — DeVante’ Jones scored 21 points and Michigan rallied in the second half, wrapping up its up-and-down Big Ten regular season by beating No. 23 Ohio State 75-69 Sunday.

Fill-in coach Phil Martelli guided the Wolverines (17-13, 11-9) as coach Juwan Howard finished out his five-game suspension for hitting a Wisconsin assistant in a postgame handshake line.

Howard is expected back on the sidelines when the Big Ten conference begins this week.

E.J. Liddell recorded his eighth double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds for Ohio State (19-10, 12-8).

Seedings for the conference tourney are still to be determined.

Trailing by as many as nine points in the first half and down by seven at the break, the Wolverines went on a 14-1 run midway through the second to jump ahead 56-44 with 10:18 left.

The Buckeyes pulled within four points with 11 seconds remaining, but Terrance Williams II made a pair of free throws to seal it.

Williams added 17 points for the Wolverines while Eli Brooks and Moussa Diabate scored 14 apiece.

Malaki Branham led Ohio State with 18 points and Justin Ahrens had 12, including four 3-pointers.

DICKINSON UNAVAILABLE

Wolverines 7-foot-1 center Hunter Dickinson missed Sunday’s game due to a stomach ailment.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines’ offense took a blow in Dickinson’s absence, shooting 41% after reaching at least 50% in the last three games.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes dropped their fourth game against unranked teams in their last seven outings. Opponents have shot 42.2% or better in six of those games.

UP NEXT:

The Big Ten Tournament begins Wednesday.