Saturday, March 16, 2013

New Mexico State: 2012-13 WAC Champions



The New Mexico State Aggies topped the Texas-Arlington Mavericks, 64-55, to win the WAC tournament title and clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
For the most part, the game went back-and-forth. The Aggies appear to have put this game away early when they went up 51-38 with 11:55 left in the second half, but the Mavericks came storming back to make things interesting. A 13-4 run by Texas-Arlington cut the Aggies' lead down to 55-51 with 4:30 to go in the game, but that was as close as the Mavericks got. New Mexico State would make enough free throws at the end to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
The undisputed star of the show was freshman Sim Bhullar. The 7'5 355 center proved that he's more than just a big body, leading the Aggies with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five vicious blocks. He was a true man among boys, and it will be a blast to watch him in the tournament.
This will be the Aggies' 17th trip to the dance and their second in a row. Last season, they fell to Indiana in the first round as a No. 13 seed. Look for them to get another double-digit seed, although they should avoid the dreaded trip to Dayton.

Oregon: 2012-13 Pac-12 Champions


LAS VEGAS — The Ducks are dancing once again.
Johnathan Loyd and Carlos Emory sparked Oregon off the bench, and the third-seeded Ducks held on to beat top-seeded UCLA 78-69 to claim the Pac-12 Conference tournament championship and earn the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament late Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Oregon (26-8) has its first NCAA berth since 2008 and its first conference tournament title since 2007.
Emory had a game-high 20 points and Loyd finished with a season-high 19 points for the Ducks.
It was a sloppy start for both teams. Oregon had seven turnovers in the first 5-1/2 minutes and trailed 12-4 before getting a big spark from Loyd off the bench.
Carlos Emory sank a three and Loyd added another on the next possession as part of a 19-6 run to give the Ducks a 23-18 lead.
UCLA coach Ben Howland was issued a technical foul when he tossed his jacket like a discus into the stands after Emory took charge on Muhammad. Dotson made both free throws to push Oregon's lead to 27-19.
Dotson his third three-pointer of the half two minutes later, and Emory added another in the final minute of the half to help the Ducks to a 41-32 halftime lead.
The Ducks were 7 of 9 on three-point attempts in the first half and matched their season high of 41 first-half points against a Pac-12 opponent. Oregon ranked No. 11 in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting at 31.8 percent during the regular season.
Emory and Loyd each had 12 first-half points and Dotson had 11.
UCLA's standout freshman, Shabazz Muhammad, sat for an extended stretch in the first half with two fouls. But he finally got going early in the second to pull the Bruins within 49-46 with 15:36 remaining.
Larry Drew II hit a three to cut the Bruins' defict to 54-52 at the 12:04 mark.
E.J. Singler capped a quick 8-0 run for the Ducks with a floater in the lane and Loyd added a 15-foot jumper to push the Ducks' lead to 66-58.
Dotson swished a three-pointer with 2:32 left to push the lead to 71-62, and Loyd added an up-and-under layup to make it 76-66 with 1:02 left.
UCLA played without one of its standout freshman, Jordan Adams, who broke his foot during the final play of the Bruins' semifinal victory over Arizona on Friday.


Pacific: 2012-13 Big West Champions


The Pacific Tigers defeated the UC Irvine Anteaters, 64-55, to win the Big West championship and clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Pacific started out dominating the game, allowing the Anteaters to score just 25.9 percent of their field goals in the first half. They went into halftime up 30-21, but UC Irvine tried to mount a comeback. They used a 7-2 run early in the second half to cut the deficit down to four points, but that's the closest they ever got. The Anteaters only held the lead once in this game, way back at the 16:29 mark in the first half.
Tony Gill came off the bench to score 19 points, and Lorenzo McCloud added 16. The Tigers had their own issues finding the bucket, shooting 39.6 percent from the field. Daman Starring and Chris McNealy led UCI with 19 and 12 points, respectively.
This is Pacific's eighth appearance in the NCAA tournament, and their first since 2006. In their last tourney appearance, they lost to Boston College in the first round.


Chicago State: 2012-13 Great West Champions


Jeremy Robinson scored 17 points off the bench and Nate Duhon had 15 to go along with six steals as Chicago State earned its first-ever conference championship as a Division I program, downing Houston Baptist, 75-60, on Saturday in the Great West Conference title game.

Clarke Rosenberg and Matt Ross each netted 10 points for the Cougars (11-21), who have won three straight en route to earning the GWC's automatic bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Chicago State will face UIC in the opening round on Wednesday.

Art Bernardi scored 17 points and Marcel Smith followed with 16 for the Huskies (14-17), who lost all three matchups versus the Cougars this season.

Chicago State led comfortably at the break, 44-25, and never looked back in the second half.

Game notes: Chicago State shot 41.3 percent for the game and converted 19 Houston Baptist turnovers into 21 points ... The Huskies shot 21-for-27 from the free throw line.


Montana: 2012-13 Big Sky Champions


It was only fitting that the Big Sky Tournament would come down to by far the best two teams in the conference. Saturday, it was Montana who came away with the 67-64 win, earning a conference championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Though Montana finished the regular season just one game in front of Weber St., there was a six-game separation between Weber St. and third-place North Dakota, which lost eight conference games.
This is the Grizzlies' second trip in a row to the Big Dance and they will find out Sunday night when and where they will be playing next week.
In a close game throughout, Montana took the lead for good when Will Cherry made a layup with 7:30 left. That was part of an 8-0 run that put the home team in control.
The Wildcats did manage to cut the Montana lead back to two with ten seconds left, butJordan Gregory made two free throws to seal the game.
Kareem Jamar shot an impressive 9-13 for a team-high 20 points for Montana. He was one of three Grizzlies in double figures. Cherry pitched in with 18 of his own.
Weber State was led by a trio of players with 12 points each as Davion BerryScott Bamforth and Joel Bolomoboy combined for more than half of the Wildcats' scoring.


Louisville: 2012-13 Big East Champions


NEW YORK -- The Big East tournament comes to a close Saturday, in just about every possible sense, and two programs that won't be in any form of a Big East next season are vying to take home the title.

Such is the state of college basketball, but for a night the future itineraries of Syracuse and Louisville ran second to the potential for electricity one last time at Madison Square Garden.

"For this to be the last tournament of the Big East as it really is, as the power basketball conference that it is, it's pretty special," Louisville sharpshooter Luke Hancock said.

And that was before the Cardinals concocted a finish to remember, in an event that no one will ever forget. Louisville is the Big East tournament champion for the second year in a row, this time using smothering, kinetic defense to erase a 16-point deficit and post a 78-61 win over the Orange.

After back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half, the Cardinals were down 45-29. They were listless, disjointed on offense. Syracuse appeared to be riding rediscovered mojo to the last Big East tournament title -- in th eleague's current incarnation anyway.

Then the Louisville defense descended like a suffocating wool blanket thrown on Syracuse, followed by repeated stabbings. The Cardinals went nuclear, starting with a 27-3 blast and eventually outscoring Syracuse 44-10 over a little less than 14 minutes.

They forced Syracuse into 13 second-half turnovers and held the Orange without a single field goal for a stretch of 11-plus minutes.

The end of the massive run put Louisville ahead eight, and Syracuse never straightened itself out, and a Wayne Blackshear 3-point goal put the icing on it with two minutes left, making it an 18-point game.

Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to lead the Cardinals with 20 points, with Peyton Siva adding 11. C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 21.

The Carrier Dome actually once hosted the Big East tournament, when the event was in its infancy. It felt like 1981 all over again at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, the place saturated in orange, and the roof rattling with every Syracuse thrust and parry.

Matters reached full roar quickly, after C.J. Fair and James Southerland 3-pointers opened the night and fueled an 8-0 Orange run out of the gate. Louisville's offense was slapdash from the start, with misses on 11 of the first 14 attempts, but Syracuse's regression to the mean meant the Cardinals hung close.

The Orange were at less than 40 percent shooting themselves when a Kevin Ware 3-pointer drew Louisville within four. Then Carter-Williams created some space.

The lanky sophomore point guard scored nine straight points to spur a percussive 13-2 run by Syracuse, starting with a runner and featuring a banked 3-point shot. Fair capped the burst with a corner 3-pointer and what was a sluggish, tight affair blew up into a 35-20 Orange lead late in the first half.

bchamilton@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton

Northwestern State: 2012-13 Southland Champions



The No. 2 Northwestern St. Demons have clinched an automatic invitation to the NCAA tournament, defeating the No. 1 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 68-66 in the Southland Conference tournament.
Northwestern State led for most of the game, as they held a seven-point lead in the first half and a nine-point lead in the second half. The Demons could not bury the the Lumberjacks, as Stephen F. Austin answered every Northwestern State run with a run of their own.
Neither team shot particularly well, as the two Southland opponents went a combined 7 for 31 from behind the three-point line. Both teams also struggled from the free-throw line, as they shot a combined 63 percent at the charity stripe.
DeQuan Hicks played inspired basketball down the stretch, scoring two baskets in the final two minutes and grabbing an offensive rebound with 50 seconds left to help the Demons kill clock. Jalan West missed a two-point basket for Northwestern State, giving Stephen F. Austin a chance to tie or win with six seconds left.
The Lumberjacks had to bring the ball up the full length of the court, and turned it over at the mid-line with two seconds left. Hicks intercepted the pass and attempted a half court basket, missing the shot but killing the final two seconds off the game.
Hicks finished with 13 points for the Demons, while Shamir Davis led the team with 19.Desmond Haymon led all scorers with 23 points, while Taylor Smith scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Lumberjacks.

New Mexico: 2012-13 Mountain West Champions

The New Mexico Lobos defeated the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, 63-56, to win the 2013 Mountain West Conference Tournament.
The Rebels started the game off hot thanks to Anthony Bennett. Bennett scored the team's first 11 points and finished the first half with 13. Other than Bennett, though, UNLV had trouble finding the bucket, shooting 36.7 percent from the field in the first half. The Lobos went into halftime up 34-32.
In the second half, UNLV went completely ice-cold. Save for an eight point run by Bryce Dejean-Jones, the Rebels couldn't buy a basket. A 12-3 New Mexico run at the 3:48 mark effectively sealed the game. Dejean-Jones had a valiant effort late in the game, sinking two straight three-pointers to get the Rebels within three points with two minutes left, but it was too little, too late. The Lobos made 46 percent of their field goals and sank 9 of 19 of three pointers, while UNLV managed just 33.9 percent.
Tony Snell led the Lobos with 21 points and Hugh Greenwood grabbed seven rebounds. After Bennett's hot start, he only got two points in the second half and finished with 15 to go with 11 rebounds. Dejean-Jones led the Rebels with 19 points.
New Mexico was already a lock for the NCAA tournament, but with the automatic bid they can rest easy on Selection Sunday. They're in good position for a No. 2 seed. UNLV will also be dancing next week, and this loss shouldn't hurt their prospects.


Kansas: 2012-13 Big 12 Champions



KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas wasn't about to share this title with Kansas State.
Jeff Withey had 17 points and nine rebounds, Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe added 12 points each, and the seventh-ranked Jayhawks pounded the No. 11 Wildcats 70-54 on Saturday night to win their ninth Big 12 tournament championship.
The top-seeded Jayhawks (29-5), who shared the regular-season title with their in-state rival, took a 24-16 lead at halftime and then slowly stretched it in the second half.
Rodney McGruder scored 18 points despite a poor first half, and Angel Rodriguez had 10 for Kansas State, which still has not won a conference tournament in more than 30 years.The Wildcats (27-7) struggled to match Withey and Ellis in the paint, losing for the third time this season to the Jayhawks and for the 47th time in their last 50 meetings.
The Jayhawks, who may have earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with the win, sure have had Kansas State's number. They've won their last 11 match-ups in league tournaments, and have won 39 of the 42 games they have played overall since the inception of the Big 12.
That includes all three games this season.
The interest in Round 3, the first meeting between the schools in a league tournament title game since 1980 -- back in the days of the old Big Eight -- resulted in a record crowd of 19,256.
The ticket was so hot that Eric and Faith DeVault, who were married Saturday morning in suburban Kansas City, were given a pair as a gift and turned out for the game still in their tuxedo and wedding dress -- though Faith ditched her heels for a pair of flats.
They were treated to a first half that would have made Bill Snyder and Charlie Weis proud.
Two of the best defensive teams in the country, Kansas and Kansas State made more blocks and tackles than layups and jump shots over the first 20 minutes. Both teams committed nine turnovers, and the Wildcats had just three assists while going 6 of 27 from the field.
Kansas State actually struck first, pulling ahead 11-8 on a 3-pointer by Martavious Irving with 11:44 remaining in the half. But the Jayhawks buckled down on defense and the Wildcats didn't make another field goal until Rodriguez rattled in a deep 3 with 1:25 left on the clock.
Meanwhile, Elijah Johnson and Tharpe each hit 3-pointers during a 14-2 run by the Jayhawks, and a bucket by Kevin Young in the closing seconds made it 24-16 at the break.
It was Kansas State's lowest-scoring half this season, and the second-lowest by Kansas.
McGruder, who scored 24 points in a quarterfinal win over Texas and 24 in the semifinals against Oklahoma State, had four points on 2-of-9 shooting in the first half.
Ben McLemore, the Jayhawks' star freshman, was scoreless after missing three 3-pointers.
The Wildcats finally got into a rhythm early in the second half, and a put-back off McGruder's miss by big Thomas Gipson got them to 28-25. But that's when Kansas once against clamped down on defense, and the result was another 12-3 to seize control.
Young started it with a bucket around the rim, Tharpe hit an open 3-pointer and then made a nice feed to Travis Releford for a dunk. A few minutes later, Tharpe hit another 3-pointer to give the Jayhawks a 43-31 and force an incensed Kansas State coach Bruce Weber to call timeout.
Kansas stretched its lead to 60-46 on a 3-pointer by Ellis, who scored a career-high 23 points in a semifinal win over Iowa State, and 65-48 on a three-point play by Withey.
The Wildcats never could get the lead under 10 the rest of the way as Kansas improved to 9-1 in Big 12 tournament title games. The Jayhawks also improved to 6-0 this season at Sprint Center, which just so happens to be a host site for the NCAA tournament next weekend.

Akron: 2012-13 Mid-American Champions


The top-seeded Akron Zips have clinched an automatic invitation to the NCAA tournament, beating the No. 2 Ohio Bobcats, 65-46, in the MAC tournament championship game.
The Zips struggled on offense in the first half, trailing by as many as nine points, and were losing to the Bobcats, 29-26, at the break. Akron stepped up on both sides of the floor in the final 20 minutes, outscoring Ohio by 22. The Zips' defense was particularly impressive, as the Bobcats only shot 33 percent from the field and five percent from behind the arc for the game. Akron did a great job limiting possessions, as they only allowed four Ohio offensive rebounds.
Demetrius Treadwell and Chauncey Gilliam led the Bobcats with 13 points apiece, whileNick Harney added 11. Senior center Zeke Marshall finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Reggie Keely finished with 19 points for the Bobcats, while D.J Cooper struggled, finishing with three points after shooting 0-of-8 from the field.
This game was a rematch of last season's MAC tournament championship, with Ohio emerging as the winner in 2012. The Bobcats went on to make a run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed last year.

Memphis: 2012-13 Conference USA Champions



The Memphis Tigers are officially heading to the NCAA tournament after defeating the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles in double overtime, 91-79, on Saturday to win the Conference USA tournament.
Bubble teams around the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the Tigers squeaked out a victory in double overtime over a very resilient Southern Mississippi squad. The final score wasn't indicative of how close the game was, as Memphis didn't blow it open until the second overtime.

Conference USA is projected to be a one-bid conference, and if history said anything, it was always Memphis' to lose. The Tigers have defeated the Golden Eagles in 20 of their last 21 meetings and was riding yet another of their many hot-streaks as of late, going undefeated in conference play for the fourth time in seven years.

But the Golden Eagles played with the fire of a team that has nothing to lose. They harried the Tigers into a poor shooting night for much of the game, and made sure few things fell from behind the arc. The Tigers were 9 for 25 from the three-point line, with most of those falling as clutch shots towards the end of the game. The Tigers only led by two points going into halftime. It would generally be a one-possession difference for much of the entirety of the game.

Golden Eagles guard Neil Watson charged down the court after Memphis missed the front end of a one-in-one, making a lay-up with 0.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, poor free throw shooting doomed the Golden Eagles. They missed many free throws in the waning minutes of the game, shooting just 15 of 28 from the line.

Sophomore Adonis Thomas scored and 19 points and had eight rebounds and senior D.J. Stephens added 12 points and five blocks in the win. Chris Crawford was electric in the second half and overtimes, scoring 19 of his 23 points in the second half of the game. It is the seventh-straight trip to the NCAAs for the Tigers.

North Carolina A&T: 2012-13 MEAC Champions



Adrian Powell made two free throws with 16 seconds to go, and the North Carolina A&T Aggies beat the Morgan State Bears, 57-54, on Saturday to earn the MEAC's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The win qualified the Aggies, which were 19-16 and the No. 7 seed in the MEAC tournament, for their first NCAA Tournament since back-to-back appearances in 1994 and 1995. The team also qualified for seven NCAA Tournaments in a row from 1982-87. In nine NCAA Tournament appearances, they have never won a game.
Neither team ever pulled away in Saturday's title game. Morgan State led, 13-6, with more than 13 minutes to play in the first half, and that was its largest lead of the game. North Carolina A&T's lead never swelled beyond six, which came at 53-47 with about five minutes to play.
Morgan State quickly erased that deficit and got to within one point, at 55-54 with 1:31 to play, after a Blake Bozeman three-pointer. But the Bears, the tournament's No. 5 seed, couldn't get over the hump.

Southern: 2012-13 SWAC Champions




Record: 23-9
RPI: 187
BPI: 167
Conference: Southwestern Athletic Conference
How They Qualified: SWAC Tournament Champions

The Southern University Jaguars do not hold a long or storied history of success in the world of college basketball. In fact, this will only be their eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a postseason even in which they have only won a single game in.
The season started off poorly for Southern, as they lost five of their first six games. The course was then corrected in a 14 game winning streak. Southern played in a one-bid league — so making the big dance required they earned the automatic qualifier.
The team is coached by Roman Banks, who is in his second year on the job.

What You Need to Know:
Leading Scorer: Malcolm Miller (16.1 ppg)
Leading Rebounder: Brandon Moore (7.1 rpg)
Leading Passer: Jameel Grace (3.7 apg)
Bad Losses: TCU, Alcorn State
Good Wins: Texas A&M, Texas Southern

Southern boasts two players who score over 16 points per game, Malcolm Miller and Derick Beltran. Both guards, those two will have to do all the heavy lifting offensively if the Jaguars have dreams of advancing in the dance.

The Jaguars played in a weak league and still managed to lose to some pretty poor teams along the way. Their outlook in the NCAA Tournament isn’t as bright as some other mid-majors out there. But who knows, stranger things have happened this time of the year.

The Southern University Jaguars are dancing!

Albany: 2012-13 America East Champions



The Albany Great Danes defeated the Vermont Catamounts, 53-49, on Saturday at Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vt., to win the America East Conference Tournament and earn the league's automatic bid into the Big Dance.
Jacob Iati, who did not attempt a shot during the first 38 minutes of the game, made a pair of three-pointers in the final two minutes to give Albany a four-point advantage after Vermont took its first lead of the game since the first half on Sandro Carissimo's layup with 3:04 remaining.
Vermont hung around for a while longer, cutting Albany's lead to two after the Great Danes missed several free throws in the final minute. However, Iati and John Puk, who failed to make the earlier free shots, made four free throws inside 20 seconds to seal the victory.
Albany fell into an early 10-0 hole after Clancy Rugg's layup 2:42 into the game. However, the Great Danes rallied with an 11-0 run to take a one-point lead on Peter Hooley's layup six minutes later to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Mike Black scored 14 points and Luke Devlin added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench for the Great Danes, who will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, when they lost to Virginia in the first round.