N.C.A.A. March Madness: North Carolina and Oregon Avoid Upsets
Down 75-72, with no timeouts, Rhode Island had one last chance to tie the game. But a long 3-pointer by E.C. Matthews, defended by Jordan Bell, sailed long.
Tar Heels Escape Razorbacks’ Charge
Well, that was interesting. North Carolina narrowly — narrowly — avoided being the second No. 1 seed to get knocked off in the opening weekend.
The Tar Heels did not make it easy on themselves. After leading at one point 30-13 late in the first half, North Carolina let No. 8 Arkansas creep back and then, finally, take the lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
The Tar Heels were sloppy with the ball (17 turnovers) and putrid shooting the ball (38 percent from the field). The Razorbacks lead by three with just over two minutes remaining. But it seemed as though Arkansas simply ran out of gas.
A 6-0 run and some energized defensive stands against an exhausted Arkansas team gave the Tar Heels a 68-65 lead with 35.7 seconds left. Arkansas had a chance to trim it but Moses Kingsley missed two free throws.
After a missed free throw by Isaiah Hicks, Arkansas guard Anton Beard pulled up for a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 14 seconds left. It clanged off the back rim.
Arkansas went scoreless in the final 3 minutes 31 seconds of the game. North Carolina won with its defense, because its offense looked very out of sorts.
U.S.C. and Baylor Locked in a Tight Game
Southern California faced a double-digit deficit but managed to trim No. 3 Baylor’s lead to five at the half, 36-31.
The size of the Bears gave the No. 11 Trojans a lot of trouble, as Baylor gathered 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, compared with just one for U.S.C. But the Trojans have already survived double-digit deficits in both of its wins already in this tournament. They should be encouraged by how they finished the half.
Kansas Outlasts Young Spartans
When Michigan State cut Kansas’s lead to 54-53 with 12 minutes remaining, fans buckled up for an exciting finish. Unfortunately, it never came to be.
The No. 1 Jayhawks outscored the Spartans, 36-17, from that point on to win easily, 90-70. There just was no stopping Kansas out in the open floor. The game became a highlight reel of alley-oops and dunks. Four players scored in double figures, led by Josh Jackson (23 points), Frank Mason III (20 points), and Deonte Graham (18 points).
Foul trouble for Michigan State’s Nick Ward, and a banged up Miles Bridges meant the Spartans were not the same as they had been on Friday. Coach Tom Izzo squeezed everything he could out of his team, but they just ran out of steam.
Kentucky Blocks Wichita’s Path Again
The No. 2 seed in the South region is still alive.
Kentucky withstood a late rally by No. 10 seed Wichita State in what was a highly physical, strong defensive matchup, winning, 65-62. The Shockers did not let the Wildcats play their style: fast-paced and above-the-rim. But this young and dangerous Kentucky team proved it could win anyway.
The Shockers trailed by five, 58-53, with 2:30 left when Landry Shamet was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. He hit all three free throws to cut the deficit to 2.
Shamet hit another 3-pointer with 55 seconds left to make it a 1-point game —- 19 of his 20 points came in the second half. After a Kentucky miss, Wichita had a chance to take the lead. But Malik Monk blocked a deep shot attempt by Markis MaDuffie with 10 seconds remaining.
It was one of two blocks on deep shots in the closing seconds that sealed the win and showed how good Kentucky’s perimeter defenders can be at closing out. After Monk connected on two free throws, making it a 3-point game, the Shockers still had a chance. But Bam Adebayo blocked Shamet’s 3-point attempt as time expired.
The Wolverines’ Magical Run Rolls On
Now it’s getting serious.
No. 7 Michigan’s improbable run continued Sunday as it stormed back from a 9-point second-half deficit to upset No. 2 Louisville, 73-69, in Indianapolis.
The Wolverines have not lost since that plane incident before the Big Ten tournament. Now they are heading to the Round of 16. Sophomore forward Mo Wagner had a huge second half, finishing with a career-high 26 points on 11 of 14 field goals to lead Michigan.
A Louisville steal and a layup out of the full-court press made it a 2-point game with just under a minute. But Derrick Walton Jr. drove and scooped it high off the glass with 29 seconds left to put the Wolverines back ahead by 4.
Layups by Donovan Mitchell (19 points) kept bringing the margin down to 2. But Michigan’s D.J. Wilson was clutch at the free-throw line, going 4 for 4 in the closing seconds to keep Louisville at bay.
Louisville’s defense flustered Michigan in the first half, but the Cardinals’ youth and inexperience showed down the stretch with some bad fouls and stagnant offense. Coach Rick Pitino had cracked before the game that many of his players are so young they did not know who Grant Hill is. On the other side, Michigan, led by seniors Walton and Zak Irvin, still have yet to crack under pressure.
Syracuse Assistant Heads to Washington
Before any second-round action tipped off, a shockwave was sent around the college basketball world early Sunday: Mike Hopkins, an assistant under Coach Jim Boeheim for 22 years, and the designated coach-in-waiting once Boeheim retires, was named the new coach at Washington, according to the Huskies’ twitter account.
The move was initially reported by ESPN.
Coach Hop, a respected tactician and recruiter, apparently got tired of waiting. Though he has had offers to leave Syracuse in the past, Hopkins had always remained at the Hall of Famer Boeheim’s side. Boeheim has said repeatedly he intended to retire after the 2017-18 season.
Now, that might have to be seriously re-evaluated. Or perhaps Hopkins knew it already was.
Hopkins, a Southern California native, played for Syracuse and began coaching there in 1995. At Washington, he will inherit a program that had the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, according to ESPN, although a lot of that depends on what happens with the top prospect Michael Porter, Jr., who has indicated he might reopen his recruitment.
It was certainly not a good weekend for Syracuse, which lost in the second round of the N.I.T. on Saturday to Ole Miss.
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