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October 1, 2014

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NCAA Basketball Recap: Arizona beats Zags 84-61 to reach Sweet 16

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Lenny Ignelzi / AP

Arizona guard Gabe York scores a basket while playing Gonzaga during the first half of a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in San Diego.

Updated Sunday, March 23, 2014 | 9:18 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 18 points each, and Arizona looked every bit the No. 1 seed in the West while blowing out Gonzaga 84-61 on Sunday.

After four days of upsets and buzzer beaters, Arizona (32-4) closed out the NCAA tournament's first weekend with a display of domination.

The Wildcats harassed the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (29-7) into 21 turnovers — 15 on steals — that led to 26 points.

Arizona led by 21 in the first half and continued to work over Gonzaga to earn its third trip to the Sweet 16 in four years.

Up next for the Wildcats is a trip up the coast to Anaheim, where they'll meet San Diego State, a team they beat in this same arena early in the season.

Przemek Karnowski scored 14 points and Kevin Pangos added 12 for Gonzaga.

Virginia beats Memphis 78-60 in NCAA East Region: Joe Harris scored 16 points and top-seeded Virginia shot 56 percent to beat Memphis 78-60 on Sunday night, earning its first trip to the NCAA tournament round of 16 in nearly two decades.

Anthony Gill added 13 points for the Cavaliers (30-6), who turned in a dominating performance while controlling the tempo and shutting down the eighth-seeded Tigers (24-10) at nearly every turn.

Virginia led by 15 at halftime and pushed that to 27 points late, picking right up where it left off in its strong finish to Friday's tournament-opening win against Coastal Carolina.

In what has already been the program's most successful season in decades, Virginia added another milestone: its first regional semifinal appearance since making it to a regional final in 1995. And the Cavaliers, carrying a No. 1 seed for the first time since the days of Ralph Sampson, look ready to go even farther.

Now they're headed to New York to face fourth-seeded Michigan State (28-8) on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

On top of that, it's Virginia — not traditional powers Duke and North Carolina or league newcomer Syracuse — that stands as the Atlantic Coast Conference's only team still alive in the round of 16.

The reasons were all on display against a Memphis team eager to speed up the deliberate-paced Cavaliers and score in transition to avoid working against Virginia's stingy set defense.

Instead, coach Tony Bennett's team checked nearly everything off its to-do list, steadily overpowering the Tigers with confident efficiency.

The Cavaliers knocked down open looks. They played tough in the paint to contest Tigers' drives. They patiently ran their offense to make Memphis defend deep into the shot clock, then snatched down every loose rebound when the Tigers missed chances to cut into the deficit.

There was no sign of the Virginia team that looked out of sorts while falling behind by 10 in the first half Friday against the 16th-seeded Chanticleers. Only the one that put Coastal Carolina away in the final 9 minutes.

Harris led the offensive effort that had five players scoring in double figures. Virginia also had a 40-28 advantage on the boards while backed by a loud crowd filled with Cavs fans who made the drive one state south for the start of Virginia's tournament push.

Austin Nichols scored 15 points to lead the Tigers, who shot 41 percent — including 3 of 13 from 3-point range — and scored 17 points fewer than their season average.

Memphis came in looking for its first trip to the round of 16 since 2009, John Calipari's final year as coach before Josh Pastner took over. The Tigers hadn't made it out of the opening weekend since, prompting senior guard Geron Johnson to promise shortly after the American Athletic Conference tournament that this year would be different.

Instead, Memphis' season ended on the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

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Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) embraces a teammate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball third-round tournament game against Mercer, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Raleigh. Tennessee Won 83-63.

Tennessee ends Mercer's NCAA run with 83-63 romp: After turning Tobacco Road into "Raleigh Top," Tennessee is headed to the round of 16.

Tennessee denied Mercer a second straight upset in decidedly one-sided fashion, routing the Bears 83-63 in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night behind 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds for Jarnell Stokes.

Josh Richardson had a career-high 26 points and Antonio Barton had 18 for the 11th-seeded Vols (24-12), who are making the most of their first tournament appearance since 2011.

"NIT two straight years, I guess that's what you'd call starting from the bottom," Stokes said. "A lot of people doubted us, and that just makes the ride much better."

The Tennessee band had plenty of chances to blare their beloved "Rocky Top" during this rout, which followed the same script as their 19-point thumping of Massachusetts two days earlier: The Voles outrebounded Mercer 41-19 to keep the Southeastern Conference perfect in the tournament.

They joined Florida and Kentucky in the regional semifinals — the first time three SEC teams made it that far since 2007.

"I've been hearing that the SEC has been a football conference for a long time but I don't know how you can still say that when you've got three SEC schools in the Sweet 16," Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said.

Tennessee will face second-seeded Michigan (27-8) in a Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.

Stokes broke his 2-day-old school tournament record for rebounds.

Langston Hall had 15 points to lead the 14th-seeded Bears (27-9). They knocked off Duke in the signature upset of the tournament but couldn't answer Tennessee's size.

"I think hopefully by the time (reality) sets in, we'll all be able to put a smile on and realize that what we've been able to do at our school, and for the city, has been phenomenal," forward Jakob Gollon said. "It's kind of hard to see right now."

Mercer trailed by double figures for the entire second half before the Bears threatened another fantastic finish.

They had the ball down 12 with about 2½ minutes left when Gollon — one of the heroes of the Duke upset two days earlier — threw the ball away in the lane, then fouled out a few seconds later.

McRae hit two free throws, and Richardson added a fast-break layup to push the Tennessee lead to 77-61 with 1½ minutes left.

McRae finished with 13 points for the Volunteers, who have won eight of nine with the only loss coming to the top-ranked Gators in the SEC tournament.

They are in the round of 16 for the fourth time in eight years, and the third team to go from the First Four to the Sweet 16 since the introduction of the extra round in 2011.

They also got a bit of payback: Mercer ended Tennessee's season last year with a 75-67 win in the first round of the NIT.

Ike Nwamu scored 12 points, Anthony White Jr. had 11 and big man Daniel Coursey added 10 for Mercer, the plucky Atlantic Sun Conference school trying to match Florida Gulf Coast's run last year to the regional semifinals.

The Bears drew a perfect matchup for their first game — and couldn't have had a worse one for their second.

"Any time we have Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell wearing Tennessee orange," McRae said, "we always feel like we have the advantage."

They were bigger, more experienced and more precise than a Duke team loaded with high school All-Americans and a leaky defense, carving them up down the stretch in a 78-71 victory that ranks among the top upsets in the history of the tournament.

Mercer starts five seniors and has seven on the roster — but the Bears were down one with 6-foot-11 Monty Brown out with a possible concussion.

Even with him, a Tennessee team with Stokes — who set the school's short-lived tournament record with 14 rebounds in that 86-67 rout of UMass — was going to be a challenge.

Without him, it was nearly impossible.

"It's hard to match up with them, but at the end of the day, mainly it was probably my fault towards the end," Coursey said. "They had a lot of rebounds, and I should have boxed them out."

Tennessee never trailed and held a 24-4 rebounding advantage in the first half. Richardson scored 10 straight points midway for the Volunteers to turn a tight game into a double-figure lead. His 3 from the right wing made it 29-18 with 6½ minutes left.

Meanwhile, Stokes and Maymon effectively turned Mercer into a jump-shooting team: The Bears managed just one offensive rebound in the first half and didn't attempt their first free throw until there was just 8:40 left.

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Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) dunks against Wichita State during the second half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis.

Kentucky ends Wichita State’s perfect run, 78-76: It took a program stocked with NBA prospects to finally end Wichita State's perfect run.

Andrew Harrison scored 20 points, twin brother Aaron had 19 and Kentucky survived a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Fred VanVleet to knock off the undefeated Shockers with a 78-76 victory Sunday in the NCAA tournament.

Julius Randle added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and James Young also had 13 points for the No. 8 seed Wildcats (26-10), who made a series of clutch free throws in the closing minutes to advance to the Sweet 16 in arguably the most captivating game of a thrilling first weekend.

Now, Big Blue Nation gets to jump right into another high-profile matchup: Louisville awaits in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Indianapolis. The Wildcats beat their bitter in-state rival in December.

Cleanthony Early scored 31 points and Ron Baker had 20 for the Shockers (35-1), who hadn't lost since last year's Final Four while taking an entire city — and state — on quite a ride.

Kentucky took the lead for good at 73-71 when Young knocked down a 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes to go. Early answered with a basket for Wichita State, and Andrew Harrison made two free throws for Kentucky. Baker banked in a 3-pointer and Randle made two more foul shots.

Early's two free throws with 9.8 seconds left got the Shockers within 77-76, and they still had a chance when Andrew Harrison missed the second of two free throws and Early got the rebound.

VanVleet raced up court and called timeout with 3.2 seconds left.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall drew up a play that had Tekele Cotton inbounding the ball to VanVleet, who took a shot from the top of the key. But the shot was wide the entire way, and it clanked off the rim as the buzzer sounded and Kentucky began to celebrate.

The team full of blue-chip prospects had finally ended the blue-collared team's dream.

The Midwest Regional showdown came after an entertaining undercard matchup that saw Stanford knock off Kansas, and it lived up to every expectation.

Kentucky was successful early using its superior size, not only in the paint but also on the perimeter, where the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins dwarfed the 5-11 VanVleet. But after the Wildcats took a 19-15 lead midway through the half, Wichita State ramped up its trademark defense, forcing a series of turnovers and getting right back in the game.

VanVleet was the catalyst. On one sequence late in the half, he stripped Aaron Harrison and hit Early in transition, and he was fouled slamming over 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein. Early converted the free throw as the shockers built a 37-31 lead at the half.

Early hit a 3-pointer right out of the locker room, too, to match the Shockers' biggest lead at 40-31. But VanVleet picked up his third foul moments later, and Kentucky took advantage of the Shockers missing their floor general by gradually pulling ahead.

The game remained a back-and-forth prizefight the rest of the way, neither team leading by more than five, each answering the other with clutch 3-pointers and pressure-filled free throws.

It only made sense that the game would come down to the final possession.

Baylor shuts down McDermott and Creighton, 85-55: Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip each scored 17 points and Baylor shut down Creighton's Doug McDermott with suffocating defense, ending the career of one of college basketball's most prolific scorers with an 85-55 win Sunday night in the NCAA tournament West Regional.

Baylor's size and speed overwhelmed the third-seeded Bluejays (27-8) and their national scoring leader, earning a third trip to the Sweet 16 since 2010.

McDermott, who averaged 27 points this season, finished with 15 but had just three in the first half as Baylor built a 20-point lead. McDermott ranks fifth on the NCAA career scoring list.

Sixth-seeded Baylor (26-11) had five players score in double figures and shot 64 percent in one of the dominant performances of the NCAA tournament.

The rest of the West bracket may want to pay attention to this one. A team that looked like a wreck in January with a 2-8 start in the Big 12 is now heading to Anaheim, Calif., brimming with confidence to match all the muscle in the lineup.

In Baylor's two previous trips to the Sweet 16, it fell one game short of the Final Four.

McDermott, who carried the Bluejays back to the round of 32 for the third year in a row, had done it in spectacular style, leading the nation in scoring with a sublime shooting touch and uncanny knack to slither his way through defenders for layups and putback baskets.

McDermott spurned the chance to turn pro after last season, and this was the year the Bluejays and their senior-laden lineup were expected to drive Creighton farther into the NCAA tournament than any Bluejays team before them.

But Baylor's defense gave him nothing: neither space to shoot nor even chances for his teammates to pass him the ball.

And for all the talk about Creighton's maturity and bonding among longtime teammates, Baylor made the Bluejays look small and slow.

Baylor came out blazing from long range, knocking down five 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes. Kenny Chery made three and when Heslip, who was 0 for 6 in Friday's win over Nebraska, swished his first against Creighton, he mockingly shook the fingers on both hands as he loped back down the court.

McDermott, meanwhile, struggled to find any kind of space inside or out against Baylor's zone defense and badly misfired on his first attempt, a baseline shot that missed everything.

This rout was just beginning.

The Bears flexed their muscle early and often with a lineup built for the rigors of the Big 12. Austin is 7-foot-1 and he teamed with 6-10 forward Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt. When Creighton missed a shot, the typical result was three Bears under the basket with no Bluejays around.

Baylor's bench was just as intimidating.

When reserve forward Rico Gathers pushed his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame through the lane for a layup, two Creighton defenders were powerless to stop him. By the time Baylor had built a 20-point halftime lead, McDermott had taken only three shots, made one and had two fouls.

Even when Creighton got a spark — Ethan Wragge made two 3-pointers early in the second half — Baylor simply matched basket for basket, denying any hopes of a rally.

Soon it was showtime as Baylor's lead kept growing. Jefferson slammed down an alley-oop dunk as Baylor took a 58-34 with just more than 12 minutes to play. Gathers added another rim-rattler a few minutes later, his broad shoulders soaring to the basket to punctuate the night.

When McDermott left the game with 2:31 to play, he hugged his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, before retreating to the bench and burying his face in a towel.

UCLA beats Lumberjacks 77-60 to reach Sweet 16: Jordan Adams scored 19 points and UCLA beat Stephen F. Austin 77-60 on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

The fourth-seeded Bruins (28-8) will play Florida, the tournament's overall top seed, in the South Regional semifinals on Thursday in Memphis. First-year coach Steve Alford has won as many NCAA tournament games in three days as the Bruins had in the previous five seasons combined.

Alford replaced Ben Howland, who was fired a year ago after the Bruins lost to Minnesota in their NCAA tournament opener. This is UCLA's first trip to the regionals since Howland got the Bruins to their third straight Final Four in 2008.

Stephen F. Austin (32-3), the No. 12 seed, had its 29-game winning streak snapped. The Lumberjacks hadn't lost in exactly four months.

Florida beat UCLA in the national championship game in 2006 and again in the national semifinals the following season.

The Bruins have won five straight and seven of eight overall.

UCLA's Norman Powell, who played at San Diego's Lincoln High, scored 16 points and Kyle Anderson had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Thomas Walkup had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Lumberjacks while Desmond Haymon had 17 points and Nikola Gajic added 10. Haymon's four-point play sent the Lumberjacks into overtime against fifth-seeded VCU on Friday night and SFA won 77-75.

The Lumberjacks hadn't lost since Nov. 23, a 66-58 defeat at East Tennessee State. After Wichita State lost to Kentucky to have its 35-game winning streak snapped, SFA's 29-game streak became the nation's longest, for about 3 hours.

The Lumberjacks head back to Nacogdoches, Texas, having earned the first NCAA tournament victory in school history. They are 1-2 overall in the tournament.

The Lumberjacks stayed with the Bruins through much of the first half before the mismatch in talent and pedigree became obvious.

The Bruins, in the NCAA tournament for the 46th time and winners of 11 national titles, went on a 12-2 run in just less than 3 minutes, starting with a runner in the lane by Alford's son, Bryce. Alford also had a 3-pointer that helped UCLA take a 32-21 lead with 5:44 left.

Three-pointers by Deshaunt Walker and Haymon closed the gap to five points before the Bruins finished the half on a 10-5 run to lead 42-32. Tony Parker had two layups and Adams a 3-pointer to help keep the lead in double digits.

Powell opened the second half with two big plays, a slam dunk and then a coast-to-coast drive with a behind-the-back move followed by a layup for a 46-32 lead.

No. 3 seed Iowa State ousts North Carolina 85-83: DeAndre Kane drove for the game-winning layup with 1.6 seconds left and No. 3 seed Iowa State beat North Carolina 85-83 on Sunday, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.

The Cyclones (28-7) head to Madison Square Garden next week to face No. 7 seed Connecticut in the East Regional semifinals.

The Tar Heels (24-10) are gone in the NCAA tournament's opening weekend for the first time in consecutive seasons under coach Roy Williams.

North Carolina's Nate Britt raced the ball up court after Kane's basket, but time expired before he could reach midcourt and call a timeout. Officials huddled for several minutes reviewing clock replays before ruling the game was over.

Right away Williams — who collapsed his hands on his knees as Britt dribbled toward him and the buzzer sounded — shook Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg's hand as North Carolina began absorbing a last-second heartbreaker.

Kane finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. It was just the kind of big game the Cyclones needed without forward Georges Niang, who broke his foot in Friday's win against North Carolina Central. The 6-foot-7 sophomore sat on the bench wearing a bulky boot while the Cyclones tried their best without their third-leading scorer and tallest starter.

Marcus Paige led North Carolina with 19 points and Kennedy Meeks had 15 points and 13 rebounds. But North Carolina played nearly the entire game without forward Brice Johnson, who sprained ankle in the opening minutes.

The team said X-rays were negative, but the Tar Heels' third-leading scorer never returned.

Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejam had 19 points for the Cyclones and Monte Morris added 13.

The Tar Heels crave a fast pace, and — after dealing with the grind-it-out style of recent opponents — Williams and Paige had spoken of relishing the chance to finally hit the gas against the similarly up-tempo Cyclones.

But this was no track meet.

Undersized Iowa State bottled up the Tar Heels before they could run and bombarded them with 3-pointers (12 of 26) instead of quick baskets. The first dunk came from Kane, not the high-flying Tar Heels, and not until 12 minutes into the game after a handful of bungled North Carolina fast breaks.

Niang's injury left Hoiberg with a tough choice: go small with his best remaining five or a put a little-used big man in place of his star sophomore. He opted for size over another shooter, giving 6-foot-8 forward Daniel Edozie his first career start.

Edozie missed the only two shots he tried and grabbed four rebounds. But Johnson's bum ankle cut North Carolina down a size on its own.

Johnson, who came in averaging 10.6 points and is the Tar Heels' second-leading rebounder, tumbled to the floor with North Carolina up 12-7. He sat on the bench before hobbling to the locker room, and while the team said X-rays were negative, it announced just before the second half that he wouldn't return.

Coincidental or not, the Cyclones got hot the moment Johnson left the game.

They shook off a 1-for-10 start from the floor and erased a seven-point deficit in less than 1 ½ minutes. After that, neither team led by more than single digits.

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Stanford's Chasson Randle (5) gets between Kansas's Perry Ellis (34) and Tarik Black to shoot during the first half of a third-round game at the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis.

Stanford pulls off upset, knocks off No. 2 Kansas 60-57 : Dwight Powell had 15 points and seven rebounds and No. 10 seed Stanford wrapped up its second straight upset at the free throw line, knocking off No. 2 Kansas 60-57 in the South Regional on Sunday.

Chasson Randle added 13 points, six steals and four assists for the Cardinal (23-12), who advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 2008 — also their last NCAA appearance. They beat No. 7 seed New Mexico on Friday.

Freshman Andrew Wiggins had just four points on 1-for-6 shooting with four turnovers in his final college game for Kansas (25-10). Wiggins is a likely NBA lottery pick and had averaged 28 points the previous four games.

Tarik Black had 18 points and six rebounds for the Jayhawks, but he fouled out with 5:25 to go. Conner Frankamp had 12 points on four 3-pointers, the last two in the final 23 seconds to make it close after Stanford had pulled ahead by seven.

Stanford was 9 for 12 at the free throw line over the final 2:04 and needed all those points. Frankamp's second 3-pointer narrowed the gap to 59-57 with 14.9 seconds left.

Anthony Brown hit just one of two free throws with 12.9 seconds and Frankamp banged a third 3-point attempt off the glass near the buzzer in a bid to tie it.

Kansas went to a full-court press down five points with about 11 minutes to play and forced five turnovers the next 6 minutes to tie it

Kansas had been 0 for 10 from 3-point range for the tournament, seven of the misses against Eastern Kentucky, before Frankamp connected with 3:34 to go in the half.

Frankamp hit another one just before the halftime buzzer off a turnover to put the Jayhawks up 24-22, their first lead of the game with both teams shooting just 32 percent. They trailed most of the first half against Eastern Kentucky, too, before pulling away for an 80-69 victory.

Powell hit his first shot on a drive after going 0 for 8 against New Mexico on Friday. He had 10 points before drawing his fourth foul early in the second half.

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