Tuesday, April 13, 2021

N.C.A.A. Tournament Live: Gonzaga, U.C.L.A. Men Cruise Into Sweet 16

Marcus Zegarowski had 20 points for Creighton.
Credit…Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

More often than not over the last two decades, Creighton has surfaced in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament. But look in the record book and you will not see a Bluejays team in the Sweet 16 since Nixon’s era.

That changed Monday, when fifth-seeded Creighton plowed past No. 13 seed Ohio, 72-58, in Indianapolis. While not quite a display of start-to-finish dominance — Ohio held a narrow lead at the beginning of the game — the ultimate margin was a welcome change for the Bluejays, who beat U.C. Santa Barbara by only a point in the first round.

The scoring hardly came from just one man on the floor. Marcus Zegarowski, a junior guard, led Creighton with 20 points. But four other Bluejays — Mitch Ballock, Christian Bishop, Damien Jefferson and Denzel Mahoney — all scored 10 or more.

Ohio had advanced to Monday’s game after upsetting fourth-seeded Virginia, the 2019 national champion.

No. 5 seed Creighton stopped No 13 seed Ohio, 72-58.

Ohio had a late surge but never really threatened Creighton.

Mimi Collins scrambling for a loose ball during Maryland’s first round game against Mount St. Mary’s.
Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

Maryland is known for its offensive star power, from sophomore scorer Ashley Owusu to freshman Angel Reese.

Perhaps it’s easy to overlook how well Mimi Collins has played, but she’s the pace setter for the Terrapins offense. In Maryland’s 98-45 opening round win against Mount Saint Mary’s on Monday, she delivered another 12 points, shooting 3 for 6 and hitting all six of her free throws. She also had five rebounds in her 24 minutes.

Her all-around play makes it difficult to zero in on her, and with so many other elite shooters on the floor, Collins has somehow become the Terps’ secret weapon.

“She’s making her right plays at the right time of what is needed,” said Terps Coach Brenda Freese. “Just seeing her round in the form for that consistency factor that we needed on both ends of the floor — her toughness, her rebounding.”

Collins, who finished as an all-Big Ten honorable mention, transferred from Tennessee, where she averaged 5.5 points as a freshman. In her first year with the Terps, she’s fifth on the squad with 10.7 points, as a part of a group that has five players averaging at least 10 points each.

“As the future goes or anybody who is watching the tournament, don’t sleep on Maryland,” Collins told reporters this week.

Owusu led Maryland’s scoring with 20 points on Monday, adding eight rebounds and seven assists in the process. Chloe Bibby picked up 11 assists to lead the Terps in that department.

“I love the fact that everyone was able to get in and play,” said Freese. “All significant minutes, that just helps us to be able to advance and continue to have fresh legs.”

At one point in the first half, the Terps went on an 18-0 run, and the defense was the focal point of a game where they led for all but 20 seconds.

“We came in as a group and talked about defensive intensity,” said Owusu. “I thought we came out a little bit flat. We wanted to go on a run and play great defense.”

Hang on, Ohio is making a late charge. Down by 20, they’ve crawled within 65-56 with 2:26 left.

No. 2 seed Texas A&M is tied with No. 15 seed Troy, 73-73, midway through the fourth quarter. If the Trojans pull off the win, it will be the first victory for a No. 15 seed in the women’s tournament ever.

Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas just blew a shoe ala Zion Williamson. He’s lacing up a new right shoe that’s a different color.

U.C.L.A. was one of the last teams in the field of 68.
Credit…Sarah Stier/Getty Images

No. 11 seed U.C.L.A. was on the bubble before the men’s tournament. Now the Bruins are in the Sweet 16.

Coach Mick Cronin’s team won its third N.C.A.A. tournament game on Monday with a 67-47 domination of No. 14 Abilene Christian, which had toppled No. 3 seed Texas in the first round.

Behind 17 points from Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang, a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds from Cody Riley and 10 points and seven rebounds from Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Bruins advanced to face the Alabama-Maryland winner in the regional semifinal.

U.C.L.A., which has won 11 N.C.A.A. championships in its storied history, became the fifth program to advance from a play-in game to the regional semifinal and the first since Syracuse in 2018. Syracuse is back in the round of 16 again this year as a No. 11 seed under coach Jim Boeheim.

Athens, Ohio’s favorite son is at Hinkle supporting the Bobcats. Joe Burrow, an all-state basketball player himself at Athens High, is here with his father, Jimmy, and Ohio football coach Frank Solich. (Burrow’s other school, Louisiana State, is about to tip off against No. 1 seed Michigan.)

No. 11 U.C.L.A. trounced No. 14 Abilene Christian, 67-47.

The Bruins will play the Maryland-Alabama winner.

Belmont celebrated its first win in the N.C.A.A. women’s tournament.
Credit…Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The third upset of the 2021 women’s tournament, like the first two, came from a mid-major conference. The 12th-seeded Ohio Valley Conference champions Belmont took down No. 5 seed Gonzaga, 64-59, in the school’s first N.C.A.A. tournament victory. Destinee Wells, a 5-foot-6 freshman guard, had 25 points and seven assists and was the only Bruin to score in double digits.

Belmont and Gonzaga traded scoring runs in the first half, and Gonzaga led by as many as 11 points — but never in the fourth quarter. By then, Wells and the Bruins’ tireless veterans Jamilyn Kinney and Conley Chinn had claimed a lead that they showed no interest in ceding. The Bruins had 25 points off of Gonzaga’s 20 turnovers, capitalizing on every mistake that the higher-seeded school made.

“All those Power 5 conferences thought she was too small,” Belmont Coach Bart Brooks said after the game. “There’s nothing small about that young lady.”

When Gonzaga senior Abby O’Connor hit a 3-point shot that brought the Zags within 2 points with 3:58 left, Belmont clamped down on defense and just kept scoring, allowing Gonzaga just 2 more points in the entire game.

“We got our mojo going on defense, and found a way to make a couple of tough baskets,” said Brooks. “This is the moment of a lifetime.”

Kyler Edwards of Texas Tech missed a layup at the end of his game against Arkansas. The shot may look easy, but the stats say it’s not.
Credit…Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You’ve heard it many times: an exasperated cry from a basketball fan: “They missed the layup!”

Throwing the ball away, a bad foul, traveling: None of them cause quite as much anguish as the missed layup. Because layups go in every time, right?

It happened to Texas Tech in the second round of the men’s tournament on Sunday. Trailing by 2, and looking for an upset of third-seeded Arkansas, Kyler Edwards of Texas Tech drove to the basket and missed a layup with 3 seconds left.

It happened to Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the women’s tournament on Sunday. Down 2 in overtime, Avery Brittingham missed a layup and then a tip shot with one second on the clock, ending a bid to defeat fifth-seeded Georgia Tech.

The word “layup” has moved beyond basketball to be used as a term for anything that’s simple. “He really doesn’t have the ability or the willingness to unify us, because that would a layup,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in January about President Biden, while criticizing Biden’s approach toward Democrats considering whether to impeach his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

But truthfully, a layup isn’t always a gimme, whether for President Biden or a supremely talented basketball player. It’s more like a 6-foot putt than a tap-in.

Even in the N.B.A., the home of the world’s best players, shots in the “restricted area,” four feet from the basket or less, go in at a rate ranging from 70 percent for the Miami Heat to 60 percent for the Charlotte Hornets.

The best college team in the country in converting shots “at the rim” has been Gonzaga, at only 73 percent before its second-round win on Monday, according to Hoop-Math. Many teams are down in the 60s or even the 50s.

A “layup” is usually defined as a shot coming from the side and using the backboard. Statistics specifically for layups are hard to come by, in part because there is no codified definition; the N.B.A. and Hoop-Math stats include other kinds of close-in shots as well. But N.C.A.A. players have been missing those other kinds of shots at key moments too.

With U.C. Santa Barbara trailing Creighton by 1 with 2 seconds left, Amadou Sow missed a close-in shot. The box score listed it as a layup, and it did go off the glass, but he didn’t exactly “lay” it there. That didn’t make the miss hurt any less.

The misses are all the more painful because many of the legendary shots of the N.C.A.A. tournament were, depending on how closely you define it, layups. Danny Ainge went coast to coast and ended with a finger roll floater to beat Notre Dame in 1981. Tyus Edney’s run against Missouri in 1995 ended with a shot from a few feet away.

When we think of a layup, we may think of a player sailing in uncontested to gently drop the ball off the glass and into the rim. But most of the time, layups are vigorously contested by defenders, making them a lot harder to execute than their name suggests.

Edwards of Texas Tech was defended closely by Justin Smith of Arkansas, who jumped with arm extended to foil the so-called easy shot. Several players surrounded Brittingham of Stephen F. Austin, all with their arms up as she shot.

Even the players, who make, and miss, layups every game tend to think of short shots as virtual sure things. “Amadou was wide open,” said JaQuori McLaughlin of U.C.S.B. “So I made the right pass right there, and he’s money in the paint.”

But he wasn’t. And that shouldn’t be such a surprise.

No. 7 Northwestern got past No. 10 seed Central Florida, 62-51.

Lindsey Pulliam led Northwestern with 25 points.

No. 11 seed U.C.L.A. used an 18-0 run to take a 31-21 halftime lead over No. 14 seed Abilene Christian, which stunned No. 3 seed Texas in the first round. The Bruins are attempting to become the ninth play-in team to advance to the Sweet 16, and the first since Syracuse in 2018.

No. 12 seed Belmont upset No. 5 seed Gonzaga, 64-59.

Belmont locked down Gonzaga late to put the game away.

No. 2 seed Maryland easily beat No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s, 98-45.

Ashley Owusu finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Drew Timme says Gonzaga thinks the playing field is tight in the men’s tournament.
Credit…Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Drew Timme and No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga rolled into the Sweet 16 and now stand four victories shy of the first undefeated season since Indiana in 1976.

Timme, the 6-foot-10 sophomore from Richardson, Texas, went for a career-high 30 points with 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs eliminated No. 8 seed Oklahoma, 87-71, to advance to face the Creighton-Ohio winner. Oklahoma had recruited Timme while in high school, and it was easy to see why.

“It was just a great game plan and we just took what the defense gave us,” Timme said in a television interview. “It feels great to come out on top, especially against such a good team like Oklahoma.”

Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs each scored 16 points, and Joel Ayayi added 12. Gonzaga was also fortunate to avoid an injury to the freshman star Suggs when he was pushed by Elijah Harkless on a breakaway late in the game and went flying toward a stanchion. Suggs, a projected N.B.A. lottery pick, was angry but OK after the play.

The Bulldogs have noticed that No. 1 seed Illinois and No. 2 seeds Ohio State and Iowa are both out of the tournament. Ohio State lost to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the first round, while in the second round Illinois lost to No. 8 seed Loyola-Chicago and Iowa fell to No. 7 seed Oregon.

“The first round was crazy with all the upsets and stuff,” Timme said. “It’s a level playing field so we’ve got to bring it every single game.”

He said the team is not considering its undefeated record. “When you get to March, it’s 0-0, that’s your record. We’re treating every game like we’re a 16 seed,” he said.

No. 1 seed Gonzaga got past No. 8 seed Oklahoma, 87-71.

Gonzaga led by as many as 19 points in the second half.

No. 1 Gonzaga rolls into the Sweet 16 with an 87-71 win over No. 8 Oklahoma and is now four wins from the first unbeaten season since Indiana in 1976. The Bulldogs (28-0) have averaged 95 points this season in wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa and Oklahoma.

Wright State, led by Angel Baker, left, held on for an upset of Arkansas.
Credit…Stephen Spillman/Associated Press

Wright State junior Angel Baker led the Raiders to their first N.C.A.A. women’s tournament victory with 26 points, 12 rebounds and four steals in a 66-62 upset of Arkansas. The 5-foot-8 guard was steady throughout, scoring consistently from the beginning until she hit a clutch 3-point shot with 29 seconds left.

It was just the seventh time in the tournament’s history that a No. 13 seeded team has beaten a No. 4 seed; the last time was in 2012, when Marist beat Georgia. This was the Raiders’ third tournament appearance and the second upset of the day after No. 11 seed Brigham Young University defeated No. 6 seed Rutgers.

The Raiders led from the end of the first quarter until late in the fourth, surviving a late comeback from the Razorbacks fueled by senior Chelsea Dungee, who had 27 points.

Wright State averages just four made 3-pointers a game, but shot 50 percent from behind the arc. Arkansas, which designed its offense around its 3-point shooters, made just 7 of 21 3-point attempts.

Wright State held Arkansas to just 35 percent shooting. Earlier in the season, the Razorbacks had beaten both No. 1 seed UConn — UConn’s sole loss of the season so far — and No. 2 seed Baylor. It was the fourth-seeded team’s first trip to the tournament since 2015.

At the end of the closely fought game, though, it was the Horizon League champions who hit their free throws and wound up moving on to the second round.

No. 13 seed Wright State downed No. 4 seed Arkansas, 66-62.

Wright State will play the winner of Missouri State and U.C. Davis in the second round.

In a game where they led for all but 1:39, No. 13 seed Wright State upset No. 4 seed Arkansas, 66-62. Junior guard Angel Baker posted 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, and Wright State outrebounded the Razorbacks 43-28.

No. 3 seed Arizona romped past No. 14 seed Stony Brook, 79-44.

Stony Brook scored no more than 12 points in any quarter.

No. 4 seed Indiana routed No. 13 seed Virginia Commonwealth, 63-32.

Grace Berger had 20 points and eight rebounds. V.C.U. shot 22.8 percent.

Cade Cunningham, right, is expected by some analysts to be taken with the top seed in the N.B.A. draft.
Credit…Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Instead of preparing to play in the Sweet 16, Cade Cunningham is now getting ready for the next phase of his career.

Cunningham, the 6-foot-8 freshman point guard from Oklahoma State, is a favorite to be selected with the top pick in the N.B.A. draft, and the pros will likely be the next place he plays after his Cowboys lost to Oregon State in the second round of the men’s tournament on Sunday night.

“I’m going to miss it for sure,” Cunningham said after Sunday’s loss in which he scored 24 points with four rebounds and three assists. “This is a special group of guys. I feel bad for saying it. It’s just everything. I feel like we had something special going on.”

Cunningham had hoped to lead the Cowboys to a college title before heading to the N.B.A., much the same way Carmelo Anthony did at Syracuse in 2003, before he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the third pick over all.

“He’s a special dude,” Oklahoma State Coach Mike Boynton said of Cunningham. “He’s going to be a really good player at the next level, whoever gets him. I certainly look forward to cheering him on and watching him on TV a lot because I know he’s going to be a guy that has a long career.”

After Oklahoma State was given a postseason ban last June, Cunningham could have opted to leave for Kentucky, the NBA G League or overseas, but he stuck it out, in part because his brother, Cannen Cunningham, is an assistant coach under Boynton.

“Man, it’s been special,” said Cunningham, one of four finalists for the Naismith Award as the nation’s top college player. “I think that’s the best way to describe it. I think the biggest thing is I surrounded myself around great people more than anything.”

Paisley Harding scored 28 points for Brigham Young University in its upset win over Rutgers.
Credit…Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The women’s tournament finally has an upset.

No. 6 seed Rutgers led by as much as 12 points in the third quarter, but No. 11 seed Brigham Young University’s defense then shut down the Scarlet Knights to take a 69-66 victory — the first by any lower seeded team in this tournament.The Cougars, behind Paisley Harding and Lauren Gustin, went on a 12-point run early in the fourth quarter to flip the lead and put Rutgers on its heels.

The game stayed tight the rest of the way and Liz Martino hit a 3-pointer with five seconds to bring the Scarlet Knights within 2, but Harding made one more free throw and Rutgers was unable to tie the game on its last heave.

Jeff Judkins, the B.Y.U. coach, said he thinks parity has gotten better in the sport recently. “Every year it gets a little better for the women. There’s a lot of really good coaches in the women’s game,” Judkins said. “I’ve coached the men’s game, gone against some of the best, but some of the women I coach against, they’re better. Against a really good team like Rutgers, to perform at our best, it’s hopefully something we can use a long way for our program.”

B.Y.U. shot just 37 percent but made 87 percent of its free throws (20 of 23), which was key late to keeping its lead.

The Scarlet Knights held B.Y.U. to just 10 points in the first quarter, but the Cougars shot better after that and scored 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Harding had 28 points and Shaylee Gonzales added 17, most of it on free throws.

“We all came together as a team and said we’re not losing this game,” said Gonzales, who sank six free throws late in the fourth quarter to keep Rutgers from coming back. “We’re not letting them back, we had to fight. We said we had to pick up our defense. They weren’t doing well transitioning so we knew we had to push it.”

B.Y.U. also outscored Rutgers 22-13 in points off of turnovers, beating the Scarlet Knights at their specialty.

Franck Kepnang of Oregon celebrates his team’s 95-80 rout of Iowa.
Credit…Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Despite a 10-day layoff, there was no rust for the Oregon Ducks.

After advancing over Virginia Commonwealth through a no-contest in the first round when V.C.U. was disqualified because of coronavirus issues, the seventh-seeded Ducks ran Luka Garza and No. 2 seed Iowa out of the gym, 95-80, to advance to the Sweet 16.

In his fifth regional semifinal at Oregon (21-6), Coach Dana Altman will face the winner between Pac-12 rival Southern California and Big 12 power Kansas in the West region.

The Ducks had not played since losing to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals on March 12.

With the game tied at 46 on Monday, Oregon rattled off a 10-0 run to finish the first half, then extended their lead in the second.

Four of five starters for Oregon scored at least 10 points each, led by Chris Duarte with 23 and L.J. Figueroa with 21.

Garza, one of four finalists for the Naismith Award as the nation’s top college player and a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, finished with 36 points, his 13th career game with at least 30 points, and nine rebounds.

The game was a reflection of the trends for both the Big Ten and Pac-12 in this tournament.

The Big Ten began with nine teams and is now down to two in Michigan and Maryland, with both teams playing later Monday. The conference is now 6-7 in the tournament.

The Pac-12 remained unbeaten at 7-0 with five teams still alive: Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado, U.S.C. and U.C.L.A.

No. 7 seed Oregon routs No. 2 seed Iowa, 95-80.

Oregon advanced after not playing in the first round because its opponent, Virginia Commonwealth, was disqualified because of the coronavirus.

No. 11 seed Brigham Young University topples No. 6 seed Rutgers, 69-66.

The upset was the first in this tournament after all 16 higher seeds won on Sunday.

With that 95-80 rout of Iowa by Oregon, the Pac-12 improved to 7-0, while the Big Ten dropped to 6-7, with only Michigan and Maryland remaining.

No. 7 seed Alabama beat No. 10 seed North Carolina, 80-71.

Jordan Lewis had 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

No. 11 seed Brigham Young is on the brink of an upset of No. 6 seed Rutgers in a tight game, yet ESPN2 interrupted its broadcast and directed viewers to ESPNU for the finish so the start of a different women’s game could be shown.

No. 3 seed Georgia defeated No. 14 seed Drexel, 67-53.

Jenna Staiti scored 19 points for Georgia.

Drexel, in its second N.C.A.A. Division I tournament appearance, started strong. But Georgia, a No. 3 seed, pulled away the in the second half, continuing the tradition of higher seeds advancing to the second round. Drexel’s Hannah Nihill was the game’s highest scorer with 22 points but the Bulldogs were too far away. 67-53, Georgia.

In a high-scoring affair, No. 7 Oregon leads No. 2 Iowa, 56-46, at the half. Luka Garza has 22 points already. Long way to go but if Garza and Iowa lose, the Big Ten will be down to Michigan and Maryland after starting the tournament with nine teams.

Apart from a dozen 3-foot-by-5-foot signs and a floor-length banner on one side of the court, it would be hard to tell that you are at an N.C.A.A. women’s tournament game in Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary’s University, where No. 14 seed Drexel is playing No. 3 seed Georgia in the first round. But neither team is undeterred by the setup, flip-flopping for the lead throughout the first half and tied going into the third quarter.

Arella Guirantes of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a game against Iowa in the Big Ten tournament.
Credit…Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Rutgers might be able to steal its way to the next round.

Sixth-seeded Rutgers averages 12.6 steals per game, 19.9 forced turnovers, and 12 points off of steals. The Scarlet Knights’ opponent, No. 11 seed Brigham Young University, averages 14.4 turnovers per contest.

It’s a recipe for a potential steal-heavy contest.

“They pressure like no one else,” B.Y.U. Coach Jeff Judkins told reporters last week. “Their athletes are unbelievable. But we played against San Diego, which led the nation in turnovers. A couple of years ago we played Auburn and they’re similar. The size Rutgers has with their pressure, that’s a big challenge.”

Rutgers redshirt senior Arella Guirantes leads the Knights with 20.8 points per game but also 2.8 steals. Just six players average over 10 minutes per game, so if anything downs the Knights, it could be a lack of depth.

Their aggression on the turnovers has kept them from getting gassed, though, even with a shorter bench. Even if B.Y.U. believes its faced aggressive squads already, Rutgers lives and dies by the steal.

Oregon advanced to the second round through a no-contest when Virginia Commonwealth returned multiple positive tests.
Credit…Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The matchup between No. 7 Oregon and No. 2 Iowa will be interesting in part because Oregon advanced directly to the second round after its opponent, Virginia Commonwealth, had to withdraw from the tournament because of multiple positive coronavirus tests.

The Ducks have not played in 10 days and of course, that leaves some questions as to how ready they will be. On the flip side, they should be well rested since their last game, a Pac-12 tournament semifinal loss to Oregon State. In the mean time, Iowa warmed up in the first round as it coasted past No. 15 Grand Canyon.

The Hawkeyes are led by one of the best players in the country, Luka Garza, who had 24 points and 6 rebounds against Grand Canyon. He is the anchor of Iowa’s offensive success and will be crucial against Oregon. The Ducks are a well-rounded team, with five players averaging at least 10 points per game.

Iowa and Oregon are both offense heavy teams, so expect this one to be a shootout.

UConn easily won its first round game against High Point, and is heavily favored to reach the Final Four.
Credit…Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

When the dust had settled on Day 1 of the N.C.A.A. women’s tournament on Sunday, all 16 better seeds had advanced. That should hardly be surprising. Unlike the men’s tournament, which has a reputation for shocks, the women’s tournament almost always runs true to form.

Most basketball fans know that a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed just once in both the men’s and women’s tournaments: the Harvard women over Stanford in 1998 and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County men over Virginia in 2018.

The discrepancy becomes stark after that. In the men’s tournament, No. 15 seeds win about 5 percent of their opening round games, and No. 14 seeds win at 15 percent. (This year No. 15 Oral Roberts beat Ohio State and then made the Sweet 16, and 14th-seeded Abilene Christian beat Texas.)

On the women’s side, no 14 or 15 seed has ever won a game, more than 200 total losses without a win.

The discrepancy continues up the seed ladder: For No. 13s, the men lead in upsets, 20 percent to 6 percent for the women. For No. 12 seeds, it’s 33 percent to 20 percent.

One reason for the increased edge for the many better-seed victories on the women’s side is the home field advantage that is usually bestowed on the top four seeds (the men’s games are played at neutral sites). Because all of this year’s women’s tournament is being held in and around San Antonio, there was hope that the first round might be a bit more, well, mad. There’s one day left for the women’s underdogs in the first round to buck history.

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