UCLA turns away Saint Mary’s 72-56, returns to Sweet 16

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Tyger Campbell scored 16 points and fourth-seeded UCLA completed a more conventional path to the Sweet 16, beating fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s 72-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

UCLA (27-7), which went all the way from the First Four to the Final Four last season, will face eighth-seeded North Carolina on Friday in the East Region semifinals in Philadelphia. The Tar Heels are the more surprising half of that blueblood pair after they beat defending champion Baylor earlier Saturday.

The Bruins lost star Jaime Jaquez Jr. to a right ankle injury with 6:58 in the game. He winced as he was helped off the court by teammates and later returned to the bench with his ankle wrapped in ice. Jaquez finished with 15 points, all in the first half.

Logan Johnson scored 18 points for Saint Mary’s (26-8), the only team in the West Coast Conference to beat No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga this season.

The Bruins took a 36-29 lead into halftime but the Gaels closed within 38-37 early in the second half on Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer. Jules Bernard hit a 3 and a layup that pushed UCLA’s lead back to 48-41.

Johnny Juzang made three consecutive jumpers that put the Bruins up 54-44 with 9:41 left and UCLA pulled away, leading by as many as 18 points down the stretch. Juzang finished with 14 points.

The Gaels hit three 3-pointers to jump out to an early 16-9 lead. Shutting down Saint Mary’s with physical defense, the Bruins went on an 11-2 run to pull in front 24-22.

Saint Mary’s was 0-for-12 from the field and had three turnovers during a stretch of more than seven minutes toward the end of the half.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels downed all three of their common opponents with UCLA this season – Oregon, Gonzaga and Bellarmine. The Bruins fell to Gonzaga and twice to the Ducks. The 18th-ranked Gaels earned their highest seed in 11 NCAA Tournament appearances but fell short of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2010.

UCLA: The Bruins are 11-2 all-time against Saint Mary’s, but the teams had not played since 1990. … UCLA is making its 51st tournament appearance. The Bruins have a record 11 national titles.

Fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s routs No. 12 Indiana 82-53

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Logan Johnson scored 20 points and fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s took advantage of No. 12 seed Indiana’s grueling recent schedule, rolling to an 82-53 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Tommy Kuhse added 19 points and six assists for the Gaels (26-7), the only team to beat Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference this season. Saint Mary’s will play the winner of the East Region’s late game between No. 4 seed UCLA and 13th-seeded Akron.

Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12 points for Indiana (21-14), which arrived in Portland on Wednesday morning after an all-nighter because of flight delays from Dayton following the First Four. The Hoosiers won their first tournament game since 2016 by beating Wyoming 66-58 on Tuesday night.

Thursday’s game was Indiana’s fifth in seven days. Saint Mary’s came in fresh from a 10-day layoff after falling to the Bulldogs in the WCC Tournament title game.

Saint Mary’s pulled away late in the first half and led by as many as 34 points – and the overtaxed Hoosiers couldn’t catch up.

The Gaels, ranked No. 19 in last AP Top 25, earned their highest seed ever in 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. Their best finish in the tournament came in 2010, when they went to the Sweet 16.

Saint Mary’s stature in the tournament was no doubt boosted by its 67-57 win at home over No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 26.

Indiana, which has won five NCAA championships, was making its 40th tournament appearance.

At least at the start, Indiana wasn’t showing any fatigue. The Hoosiers had a narrow lead for much of the half until Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer that put Saint Mary’s in front 25-21. The Gaels extended the lead to 33-26 on another Ducas 3.

Saint Mary’s ground Indiana down and led 40-28 at the half. Ducas, a junior from Australia, finished with 13 points.

The Gaels stretched the lead to 55-31 in the second half on Kuhse’s 3-pointer.

A LITTLE HELP?

When the ball got stuck between the backboard and the shot clock early in the second half, the players tried with no success to get it free. A ref even stood on a folding chair to try and poke it free, to no avail.

Enter Indiana’s resourceful cheer squad: A cheerleader lofted by a male counterpart was able to rescue the ball.

BIG PICTURE

Indiana: The only previous meeting against Saint Mary’s was way back in 1957. The Hoosiers won, 79-66 in Bloomington. … Jackson-Davis averaged 18.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Saint Mary’s: Bennett, in his 21st season with the Gaels, was named the WCC Coach of the Year. He’s won the honor four times. But the latest comes after turning around a team that struggled last season to finish 14-10. … Saint Mary’s wore warmup jerseys that read “No Quit.”

UP NEXT

The winner will play the winner of Thursday’s late game in Portland between UCLA and Akron on Saturday.

Indiana, Wyoming one win from big bracket

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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Indiana coach Mike Woodson talked about the NCAA Tournament as a goal during the course of the 2021-22 season.

The Hoosiers (20-13) achieved that objective by putting together a run in the Big Ten tournament. Indiana brings momentum as a 12 seed when they face 12th-seeded Wyoming in a First Four matchup on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.

The winner will fly to Portland, Ore., to face fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s on Thursday in an East Region matchup.

Indiana, a blueblood program with five national titles, is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016. As a player at Indiana from 1976-80, Woodson was part of two NCAA Tournaments in four seasons.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Woodson said. “I’m so thrilled because these guys have worked their butts off to get to this point, and I want to see them move on. I want to see us continue to win. That’s what it’s all about.”

Indiana made a late push to secure a big by pulling of back to back wins over Michigan and Illinois in the Big Ten tournament before falling to eventual Big Ten tourney champion Iowa 80-77 on a last-second shot by Jordan Bohannon.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was named to the All-Big Ten tournament team, fueled Indiana’s tournament run by averaging 25.3 points and 8.7 rebounds over the three games.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see us right now,” Jackson-Davis said. “I think we’ve proven not only to the Big Ten but to the country that we’re also a team, a top team that can compete with anyone. So took the last-second three to beat us to the hottest team in the Big Ten right now and it stings, but at the same time I feel like we’ve got a lot of ball left.”

Point guard Xavier Johnson has also played at a high level for the Hoosiers late in the season. Johnson has scored in double figures in eight straight games, averaging 18.1 points and 6.8 assists during that stretch.

“Maybe he wasn’t too comfortable early on with me kind of in his ear a lot,” Woodson said. “But I was just trying to get him to play the right way and he’s done that here the last eight to 10 games.”

Wyoming (25-8) finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference under second-year coach Jeff Linder and are coming off a 68-61 loss to Boise State in the MWC tournament semifinals. The Cowboys are making their 16th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and first appearance since 2015.

Wyoming has been led this season by sophomore center Graham Ike (19.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg), who is just one of four players nationally averaging more than 19 points and six rebounds per game. Hunter Maldonado, a 6-foot-7 guard, is another strong all-around player who is averaging 18.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists for the Cowboys.

“It’s a great opportunity for our team and the University of Wyoming,” Linder said. “The beauty of the First Four is that you’re the only games on that night. You get a lot of exposure for your program, the school and the state.”

Gonzaga, Arizona remain atop AP Top 25 in week of changes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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The top six and seven of the top nine teams in the AP Top 25 lost on the same day last week, an unprecedented day of chaos that led to some big changes in this week’s poll – everywhere but at the top.

Gonzaga and Arizona remained the top two teams in the poll released Monday, holding steady despite both losing their most recent games.

The Zags received 43 first-place votes from the AP’s 61-person media panel after being a unanimous pick last week. No. 3 Baylor had four first-place votes and No. 4 Duke picked up 11. Auburn rounded out the top five.

Gonzaga, Arizona, Auburn, Purdue, Kansas and Kentucky all lost on Saturday, marking the first time in the AP poll era (1948-49) that the top six teams lost on the same day. No. 9 Texas Tech also lost, setting another record for most top-10 teams losing in one day.

“It’s kind of life in late February and early March, especially on the road,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Zags’ 67-57 loss to No. 19 Saint Mary’s to close out their regular season.

Baylor was the biggest beneficiary of its Saturday win, moving up seven spots after beating Kansas 80-70. The Jayhawks fell one spot to No. 6 with the loss.

Auburn lost three spots from last week after losing to No. 13 Tennessee. No. 7 Kentucky fell a spot after losing to No. 14 Arkansas and Purdue dropped four places to No. 8 with its loss to Michigan State.

Got all that?

In all, every team but four got shuffled in this week’s poll; only Gonzaga, Arizona, No. 14 Houston and No. 16 Southern California held steady.

No teams fell out or moved into the poll, but things are getting awfully interesting with conference tournaments just around the corner.

BATTLING BEARS

Baylor, the reigning national champion, looked like a good bet to get back to the Final Four at the start of the season after opening 15-0 while holding the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 for five weeks.

Then things got a little shaky.

The Bears lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2015-16, then injuries began piling up, including a gruesome leg injury to forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.

After tumbling down the poll, Baylor may be finding its footing. The Bears won a rematch over Oklahoma State in Stillwater and did the same against Kansas on Saturday, improving to 10-1 against top-10 teams the past two seasons.

“I know our team looked a little bit different in the beginning of the year than we do now but don’t count these guys out,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They persevere.”

RISING/FALLING

Baylor’s jump was the biggest of the week by gaining seven spots. Tennessee, Arkansas and Saint Mary’s all climbed four spots.

No. 17 UCLA and No. 20 Illinois had the biggest drops (five spots). The Bruins lost to Oregon before beating Oregon State last week and the Illini lost to No. 23 Ohio State before knocking off Michigan.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big Ten and Southeastern conferences led the way again this week, each with five teams ranked. The Big 12 had four ranked teams, with the Pac-12 and Big East getting three each. The West Coast Conference had two ranked teams for the second straight week, with the Atlantic Coast, American Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences at one each.

No. 1 Gonzaga falls at Saint Mary’s on tough day for Top 10

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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MORAGA, Calif. – Tommy Kuhse had 14 points and six rebounds and No. 23 Saint Mary’s beat No. 1 Gonzaga 67-57 on Saturday night to prevent the Bulldogs from completing another undefeated run in the West Coast Conference.

The top six teams in the AP poll all lost and seven of the top-nine fell Saturday.

Fans poured onto the court at in a wild celebration of the Gaels’ 18th consecutive win at McKeon Pavilion.

Saint Mary’s ended Gonzaga’s 17-game winning streak, beating a No. 1 team for the first time since knocking off the Bulldogs in the 2019 conference tournament title game.

Matthias Tass added 13 points for the Gaels (24-6, 12-3) and made a pivotal block with 1:15 seconds remaining. Kyle Bowman made a pair of clutch 3-pointers after missing his first seven shots.

Rasir Bolton scored 16 points for Gonzaga (24-3, 13-1). Drew Timme had six points and eight rebounds, but shot 2 of 10 for the Bulldogs, who had already clinched the WCC regular-season title.

Saint Mary’s had lost seven straight to its rivals from the Pacific Northwest, including five straight at home, before stunning the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs had beaten the Gaels handily on Spokane two weeks earlier and had won 34 consecutive conference games, 33 by double-digits.

But Saint Mary’s never let Gonzaga get comfortable, leading from start to finish while winning their fourth straight since that loss to the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga trailed by 16 with 13 minutes remaining and got to 57-50 before Bowen buried a 3-pointer. The Bulldogs responded with four points, but Bowen made another 3 and Logan Johnson sank a pair of free throws.

The game drew a packed house at McKeon Pavilion, with scouts from the Warriors, Knicks and Pistons in attendance.

Two nights after thumping San Francisco 89-73, Gonzaga appeared sluggish and out of sync against Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs shot 31% in the first half and were outscored 17-5 over the final seven minutes before the break.

Timme, who was taunted by Gaels fans before the game as he practiced shooting from midcourt, was smothered by defenders every time he got the ball in the paint. Gonzaga’s leading scorer missed all eight shots he took in the first half, was called for a three-second violation in the key in the second half and nearly got hit with a technical after inadvertently tossing the ball near a referee’s head.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Timme was a non-factor for most of the game which set the Bulldogs into a big hole they never got out of. The final score was not indicative of how dominant St. Mary’s was. Gonzaga is 0-3 this season when trailing at the half.

Saint Mary’s: Coach Randy Bennett spent the week telling anyone who would listen that he liked his team’s chances. He was rewarded with the Gaels biggest win in more than three years.

UP NEXT

Both teams will get an extended break before playing in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas in March. Gonzaga is the top seed while Saint Mary’s is No. 2. Both will get byes and won’t have to play until the semifinals on March 7.

Gonzaga unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Arizona up to 2

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Gonzaga is the unanimous No. 1 in the latest Associated Press men’s basketball poll. The Zags aren’t likely to budge the way they’re dominating the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga remained at No. 1 for the second straight week, receiving all 61 votes from a media panel in the poll released Monday. Arizona moved up a spot to No. 2 for its highest ranking in four years, with Auburn, Purdue and Kansas rounding out the top five.

Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0 WCC) has followed up last year’s run to the national championship game with another dominating regular season. The Zags haven’t lost since Dec. 4 and their lopsided wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara last week clinched a 10th straight WCC regular-season title.

Gonzaga is winning its WCC games by an average of 27 points, one of the most dominant conference seasons in the past 25 years, according to KenPom.com. The Zags are on pace to match the 2019 team for largest margin of victory in conference games. They have four of the top five spots on that list in the last 25 years, joined by the 1999 Duke team.

“They could win the whole thing,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said after an 86-66 loss to Gonzaga last Wednesday. “They have size, they have scoring ability, they can guard.”

Gonzaga closes out the regular season with road games against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s before getting the top seed in the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

CLIMBING CATS

Arizona keeps finding ways to win under first-year coach Tommy Lloyd, a longtime Gonzaga assistant.

Picked to finish tied for fourth in the Pac-12 Conference, the Wildcats (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) have a 2 1/2-game lead over No. 16 Southern California with two weeks left in the regular season.

Arizona shrugged off a shaky start to beat Oregon State 83-69 last Thursday, then outlasted Oregon 84-81 in a high-level game on Saturday.

The wins, combined with Auburn’s loss to Florida, put the Wildcats right behind Gonzaga, where Lloyd coached under Mark Few the previous 22 seasons.

“Weird, cool, awesome – I’m proud of those guys, they’ve got a great team,” Lloyd said. “They’re family and I think they’re happy for us.”

RISING/FALLING

No. 18 Arkansas had the biggest jump of the week, moving up five spots after blowing out Missouri and shutting down No. 17 Tennessee. UConn was next, climbing three spots to No. 21 with wins over Seton Hall and Xavier.

No. 22 Ohio State had the biggest drop of teams still in the poll, falling four spots after losing to Iowa. No. 10 Baylor, No. 11 Providence and No. 15 Illinois all lost three spots.

IN AND OUT

No. 23 Saint Mary’s returned to the poll after a one-week absence following wins over San Francisco and BYU. No. 25 Iowa is ranked for the first time this season following its win over Ohio State.

Michigan State dropped out of the poll from No. 19 with losses to Penn State and Illinois. The Spartans, ranked in the top 10 earlier this season, have lost four of five.

Wyoming’s first stint in the AP Top 25 since 2015 didn’t last long. The Cowboys fell out from No. 22 after splitting against New Mexico and Air Force last week.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 10 and Southeastern conferences had five ranked teams each and the Big 12 four. The Pac-12 and Big East each had three and the West Coast Conference two with the addition of Saint Mary’s.

The Atlantic Coast, American Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences each had one ranked team.