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September 20, 2014

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March Madness roundup: Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin and Dayton advance

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John Bazemore / AP

Florida forward Casey Prather celebrates a 3-point shot against UCLA during the second half in a regional semifinal game at the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. Florida won 79-68.

Updated Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 10:32 p.m.

Gators win their 29th straight, down UCLA 79-68

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Florida Gators are back where their last three seasons have ended with yet another chance to go to the Final Four.

Michael Frazier II hit five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points as the Gators beat UCLA 79-68 Thursday night to reach its fourth consecutive NCAA regional final.

The Gators (35-2) also extended the best winning streak in school history to 29 straight in reaching the South Regional final.

"From a team aspect, I think we've done a great job of just staying in the moment and just trying to chase greatness," Frazier said. "When you do that, complacency isn't a factor so I think we've done a great job all year of just staying in the moment and chasing greatness."

The tournament's overall top seed will play 11th-seeded Dayton on Saturday night for a trip to the Final Four. Dayton beat Stanford 82-72 earlier Thursday night.

"Right now we got to put this game behind us and get focused on Dayton," Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin said. "They're a great team. Everybody is at this point in the season, and so we got to be locked in and ready because it's going to be a battle."

Wilbekin added 13 points for Florida. Casey Prather had 12 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith had 10. Kasey Hill had 10 assists. The Gators have not lost since Dec. 2.

The Gators lost to Michigan a year ago in a regional final.

"But it's a new team that we have, and we're playing a new team so it's a totally different situation," Wilbekin said. "We're just excited to get this win and move onto the next game. We're totally focused on that. The past has no impact."

UCLA (28-9) was back in a regional semifinal for the first time since 2008 under first-year coach Steve Alford. But the Bruins just couldn't match Florida's physical defense or outshoot the Gators.

"They played very well," Alford said of the Gators. "They are an outstanding basketball team."

Florida shot 50 percent for the game (29 of 58), including 59.3 percent in the second half. UCLA finished 42.2 percent (27 of 64) shooting in only their fifth game scoring under 70 points this season. The Bruins were a cold 1 of 12 beyond the arc in the second half.

Jordan Adams led the Bruins with 17 points, Kyle Anderson had 11 and five assists with nine rebounds. Travis Wear added 14.

Frazier showed off the Gators' shooting skills. He had hit only 3 of 13 beyond the arc through the Gators' first two tournament wins but hot five of his first six against UCLA.

The Gators led 36-30 at halftime and clicked on a different level in the second half. They hit their first six shots and eight of their first 10. Every time UCLA tried to make a run, Florida answered. First, it was Frazier hitting consecutive 3-pointers as UCLA pulled within 43-39.

When the Bruins pulled within 56-55 on a layup by Norman Powell midway through the half, Finney-Smith hit a jumper for the first of 10 straight points. The Gators had UCLA running up and down the court so much that Adams couldn't even hit the rim with a jumper despite having an open look at the basket.

Wilbekin finished off the run with a three-point play that had the Gators solidly in control, up 66-55 with 5:34 left.

"He hit two big shots down the stretch," Anderson said. "That's what you expect out of your senior point guard. He's been here in the Sweet 16 four years. He made big shots. Credit to him."

For all the talk of Florida's stingy defense, UCLA opened the game blocking the Gators' first two shots. The Bruins only blocked two more shots the rest of the game.

The Bruins came in as one of the nation's best scoring teams, averaging 81.5 points a game. Florida showed early it could shoot too, hitting 5 of 8 beyond the arc in spurt that turned a 14-11 deficit into a 20-16 lead. Back-to-back 3s from Frazier put the Gators ahead to stay.

Every time Anderson got the ball near the UCLA basket, he found himself with at least two Gators trying to smother him.

— Teresa M. Walker



Arizona holds off San Diego State 70-64

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Arizona forward Aaron Gordon (11) dunks as San Diego State forward Matt Shrigley (40) watches during the second half in a regional semifinal of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Nick Johnson scored all of his 15 points in the last 2:45, after missing his first 10 shots, and Arizona rallied to beat San Diego State 70-64 Thursday night and advance to the final eight of the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 15 points each for the top-seeded Wildcats (33-4). They next play Wisconsin in the West Regional final Saturday.

Xavier Thames scored 25 points and Dwayne Polee added 13 points for the Aztecs (31-5). Those two tried to bail out SDSU in the final minute, each hitting 3-pointers before Thames' basket cut the deficit to 65-61 with 38 seconds left.

The drama wasn't over yet in a game featuring tenacious defense and rabid intensity by both teams.

SDSU got called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats regained the ball. Johnson got fouled and made both for a 67-61 lead with 26 seconds to go. Thames got fouled on a 3-point attempt, and he sank all three shots to leave SDSU trailing 67-64.

The Aztecs had Johnson trapped near their bench, but he passed out of the double team and Gabe York got fouled at the other end. He missed the first and made the second, keeping Arizona ahead 68-64. Thames missed, and Johnson went to the line again where he ended the scoring with two free throws.

Hollis-Jefferson fouled out with 4:42 to play, but Johnson made his first basket a couple minutes later and carried the Wildcats across the finish line after they trailed much of the second half.

Arizona coach Sean Miller joined his brother Archie in the final eight. The younger Miller coached Dayton to an 82-72 victory over Stanford of the Pac-12 in the South Regional semifinals.

The Aztecs controlled the boards 37-29, with three of them often battling at once on the defensive end. Josh Davis had 14 rebounds for SDSU.

Johnson, the Pac-12 player of the year, finished 2 of 12 from the field, but made all 10 of his free throws.

T.J. McConnell's layup gave Arizona its first lead, 50-49, of the second half after the Wildcats got within one three times. SDSU answered with baskets the first two times, but couldn't stop McConnell, who finished with 11 points.

The Wildcats started getting some of the offensive rebounds that eluded them much of the game, and Kaleb Tarczewski scored after his teammates grabbed two on the same possession to keep Arizona ahead 54-51.

The Aztecs built their lead back to eight points early in the second half, with Thames scoring six of their first eight points. The Wildcats scored six in a row, capped by Gordon's one-handed dunk off York's alley-oop pass on a turnover by Davis, and Hollis-Jefferson added two free throws to leave them trailing 42-40.

Polee's defense helped keep Johnson scoreless in the first half, when he went 0 for 7 and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. He finally hit a jumper at the buzzer, but typical of Arizona's early luck, it was ruled no good. Tarczewski picked up his third foul with 5:13 to go, leaving the Wildcats without their 7-footer to protect the basket.

Neither team led by more than four points until the Aztecs closed the half on a 12-6 run to lead 32-28. Polee ignited the SDSU fans when he stepped in front of Johnson, swiped the ball and tore downcourt for a huge dunk. He and Skylar Shepard had four points each in the spurt.

— Beth Harris



Wisconsin routs Baylor 69-52 to reach West final

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Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson (12) competes against Baylor forward Cory Jefferson (34) for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal,Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ben Brust and his Wisconsin teammates got oodles of open shots while they sliced and diced Baylor's vaunted zone defense. When the Bears had the ball, 7-foot Frank Kaminsky always seemed to be right in their way.

Brust, Kaminsky and their Badgers realize they dominated Baylor in a 69-52 victory Thursday night because of a coach who always puts them in the right spots.

Bo Ryan has never been to college basketball's final weekend, but the Badgers are thrilled to put him on the brink.

"That would be a very special thing to do, but we also know that he's not going to let us look too far ahead," said Brust, who scored 14 points. "When that time comes, we'll handle it. I'd definitely like to do that for him."

Kaminsky scored 19 points and blocked six shots while Wisconsin romped into the West Regional final, reaching the final eight for the third time in school history.

Brust hit three of the six 3-pointers from the second-seeded Badgers (29-7), who jumped to a 14-point lead in the first half and never let up on the overmatched Bears (26-12).

Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin also methodically shut down Baylor's talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Ryan, who has seen just about everything except the Final Four in a 700-win coaching career.

"I'd be honored to be a part of that," Kaminsky said.

Wisconsin advanced to face the winner of top-seeded Arizona's meeting with San Diego State in the regional final Saturday at Honda Center. The Badgers haven't been to the Final Four since retired coach Dick Bennett got them there in 2000.

The Badgers advanced by countering everything the Bears do well. Wisconsin wrecked Baylor's zone, negated their 3-point shooting acumen with perimeter defense, kept the tempo at the Badgers' preferred speed and even held a 39-33 rebounding edge on Baylor, one of the nation's top rebounding teams.

Ryan put on a bit of a coaching clinic, but that's nothing new. The Wisconsin folk hero has led the Badgers to an NCAA tournament berths in each of his 13 seasons, but only got this close to the Final Four in 2005.

"We get 40 more minutes, and I'm awfully proud of them," Ryan said.

Kaminsky added another remarkable performance to his junior season with the Badgers, racking up 10 points and four blocked shots while Wisconsin took a 29-16 lead into halftime. Wisconsin held Baylor to a season-low in first-half points.

Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears in their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.

Isaiah Austin and Kenny Chery scored 12 points apiece for Baylor.

The Bears needed a late rally just to match their lowest-scoring performance of the season in the final seconds.

"Wisconsin really played a great game, and we did a very poor job in making things tough," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who still led his team to a strong finish after its 2-8 start to Big 12 play. "They're extremely hard to pressure and rattle. ... Once we got behind, we had to do some things we wished we didn't have to do."

Three lower-bowl sections of the Anaheim Ducks' home arena were packed with red-clad Badgers fans, who usually turn out in droves for their school's trips to Southern California, including three straight recent trips to the Rose Bowl.

They had plenty of time to celebrate while their Badgers quickly sapped all of the drama out of these schools' first meeting.

Baylor's flexible zone defense caused numerous problems for Nebraska and Creighton in the Bears' victories last week. With a few days to prepare, Ryan clearly figured out exactly how to attack it.

The Badgers got multiple open looks on nearly every possession in the first half, moving the ball around the perimeter for open 3-point attempts or getting it down low to Kaminsky, who scored eight of Wisconsin's first 10 points. Brust hit two 3-pointers in the first half, and only a few open misses prevented Wisconsin from blowing it open early.

On the other end, the Bears had little of the poise they showed in their first two games. Baylor missed 12 of its first 15 shots and fell behind by 14 late in the half.

Baylor finally abandoned the zone early in the second half, but Traevon Jackson hit a 3-pointer for Wisconsin on the next possession. The Bears showed their athleticism and skill with several one-man drives to the hoop in the second half, but the Badgers calmly stuck to their plan in a blowout win.

— Greg Beacham



Dayton tops Stanford 82-72 in Sweet 16

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Stanford center Stefan Nastic (4) and Dayton forward/center Matt Kavanaugh (35) vie for a loose ball during the first half in a regional semifinal game at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Like a red and blue blur, the Dayton Flyers were pressing and passing, shooting and scoring. The waves never seemed to stop coming, with 10, 11 and then 12 players giving them quality minutes.

An exhausted and foul-plagued Stanford simply couldn't keep up.

The underdog Flyers — an 11 seed in this South Region — are now in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984 after an emphatic 82-72 victory over Stanford on Thursday night.

"We had 11 guys score in the game and from top to bottom, we kept coming and coming," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "The way they shared the ball and moved the ball ... it was a true team effort. It's nice that on the biggest stage, we acted like ourselves."

Jordan Sibert scored 18 points and freshman Kendall Pollard added a season-high 12, as Dayton (26-10) made sure this one wasn't particularly close after slipping by in the first two rounds. The 6-foot-4 Sibert was spectacular, slashing to the basket and draining 3-pointers, to help the Flyers lead for almost the entire night.

Dayton showed its depth early, using a dozen players in the first half to wear down Stanford.

"They were relentless," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "That's the best way I can put it."

No. 10 Stanford (23-13) had the superior post play, but it wasn't enough. Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 21 points, but shot 5 of 21 from the field. Dwight Powell added 17 and Stefan Nastic — who fouled out with more than five minutes left — had 15.

Dayton, the last remaining of the six Atlantic 10 teams in the field of 68, plays the winner of UCLA-Florida on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four.

Sibert finished 7 of 12 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He had plenty of help, including from Pollard, a 6-foot-6 guard who continually got to the basket and helped the Flyers stretch their lead in the first half.

"People have been doubting us and not giving us a lot of credit," Sibert said. "I know these guys. I know what coach wants. We all want to win. At the end of the day we all want to be considered winners."

Pollard was averaging two points per game, but Miller didn't hesitate to give him big minutes once he got hot.

"This guy's a big-time winner," Miller said. "He's not afraid of anything."

Devin Oliver scored 12 points and Matt Kavanaugh added 10. Dayton's bench had a 34-2 scoring advantage over Stanford.

The Flyers were good in just about every facet, shooting 48.3 percent (28 of 58) and dishing 19 assists on 28 field goals.

They made just about everything they threw at the basket early. Scoochie Smith's corner 3-pointer put the Flyers ahead 15-13 early and Stanford's Powell — who averages nearly 14 points per game — was quickly banished to the bench with two fouls.

Foul trouble was an early theme, and a much bigger problem for Stanford.

The Cardinal rely on a six-man rotation. When the Flyers would lose a man to foul trouble, they simply replaced him with someone who was just as capable.

Things went from bad to worse for Stanford late in the first half. The Cardinal fell behind by double-digits and Dawkins was called for a technical foul. Dawkins said it was the right call.

"I was just more or less trying to get my team going," Dawkins said. "I thought we were losing momentum, we had already burned a timeout and it was a situation where I wanted to get our guys fired up."

It didn't work.

Sibert nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to give Dayton a 42-29 lead, though the Flyers had to settle for a 42-32 halftime advantage.

Stanford made a comeback early in the second half — as famous Cardinal supporters Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked on — thanks to strong post play.

But the Cardinal simply couldn't stay out of foul trouble. Nastic — who was leading Stanford with 13 points at the time — picked up his fourth foul with more than 13 minutes remaining and fouled out with more than five minutes left.

Stanford managed to pull within 64-58 after Powell made the bucket and free throw after being fouled, but the Cardinal couldn't get any closer. The Flyers simply kept sending waves at the Cardinal, scoring from inside and out in the final minutes.

Both teams had made impressive runs to make it to this point. Dayton had knocked off in-state rival Ohio State and Syracuse while Stanford has dispatched higher-seeds New Mexico and Kansas.

— David Brandt

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