Thursday, March 31, 2016

George Washington Colonials: 2016 National Invitation Tournament Champions


NEW YORK -- George Washington coach Mike Lonergan held his young daughter in his arms near center court at Madison Square Garden, waiting to climb a ladder and cut down the net.

Now he can replace that one his buddy sent him weeks ago for good luck.

"It was in the locker room tonight," Lonergan said after the Colonials beat Valparaiso 76-60 on Thursday for the school's first National Invitation Tournament championship. "I'm not a big motivation guy, but I'll tell you, I felt that net before every game. And I told those guys, `We win, I'm wearing one of those nets. I don't care what we do with the other one."

Kevin Larsen scored 18 points, Patricio Garino added 14 and fourth-seeded George Washington (28-10) set a school record for wins in a season with a dominant performance in the second half.

The Colonials won their fourth straight game against a higher-seeded team and sent three senior starters out with a tournament trophy, softening the sting of being rebuffed by the NCAA selection committee.

"It makes it feel a whole lot better," Larsen said. "Like we said, we'd rather win the NIT than get bounced one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament. That's been the mindset."

Larsen, Garino and point guard Joe McDonald, part of Lonergan's first full recruiting class at George Washington, walked off winners in their final college game. They arrived with the Colonials coming off a 10-21 season, but made the NCAA Tournament as sophomores.

"These guys, I wanted (them) to leave a legacy. We didn't make the NCAAs (this year) and we were all heartbroken and it's hard to bounce back, but they bounced back," Lonergan said. "We played our best basketball end of March. I told them I wanted, instead of senior night, I wanted it to be senior month. And that's what it was."

Junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scored 12. He averaged 19.4 points and nine rebounds in five NIT games.

McDonald had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists with no turnovers for George Washington, which extended a one-point halftime lead to 19 late in the game. The Colonials went 22 for 26 at the foul line, compared to 6 of 6 for Valpo.

"We're not there yet. I want to get to NCAAs and make a run, but this is a great stepping stone," Lonergan said, with one of the two nets his team cut down draped around his neck.

"We're an up-and-coming program that has great history," he added. "So this is a big deal for our university, our players and our program, and I'm proud of these guys that helped put our program back on the map. But we are not where we want to be yet. We want to keep this thing growing."

George Washington, which started players from Argentina, Denmark and Japan, used its 1-3-1 zone to hold Valparaiso star Alec Peters to two points in the second half. Peters finished with 15 and was the only double-figure scorer for the top-seeded Crusaders (30-7), who went 8 for 28 from 3-point range.

"It's going to stick with us throughout the offseason," Peters said.

The second unit helped GW rip off a 16-4 run early in the second half that pushed the advantage to 13. Valparaiso never got within single digits again.

"We made them look bad, so I give our guys credit, but that's a heck of a team," Lonergan said.

It was the first title in a national postseason tournament for the Colonials, who enjoyed much of the fan support among the crowd of 7,016. The school is located four blocks from the White House in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and New York City is about a 225-mile trip up I-95. Some trains take less than three hours.

"NCAAs is always the goal, but we proved this year that you can make a lot of memories in this great tournament," Cavanaugh said.

Neither team had reached the semifinals of the NIT before, and this was the first meeting between the schools.

"I told our guys, one game doesn't define your season," Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. "We just seemed like we couldn't really get a rhythm going."

ON POINT

Both senior point guards played through injuries in their final college game. McDonald was able to start after twisting his ankle during Tuesday night's semifinal rout of San Diego State. Crusaders sparkplug Keith Carter sprained his right foot with about 6 minutes to go in the first half, hitting the floor after jostling with Cavanaugh underneath. Carter initially stayed in the game, keying an 8-0 run with five points and an assist on Peters' fast-break 3 that tied it at 24. But at the 5:21 mark, Carter came out and missed the rest of the first half. He returned to start the second.

TIP-INS

George Washington: Larsen, Garino and McDonald joined Cavanaugh on the all-tournament team. ... It was GW's sixth trip to the NIT. ... Besides the Colonials, lower-seeded teams struggled in the NIT. They finished 6-25, including the four wins by GW. ... Cavanaugh, a Wake Forest transfer who reached double figures in every game this season, didn't score until converting a three-point play with 7:34 left in the first half.

Valparaiso: The Crusaders, who shot 39 percent from the floor, fell to 10-15 against teams from the Atlantic 10. ... Before this week, Valpo had not played at Madison Square Garden since the 1940s. ... Peters, who made the all-tournament team, had at least 20 points in seven consecutive games before scoring 15 in the semifinals.

UP NEXT

George Washington: The Colonials lose their three senior starters, but Cavanaugh is back.

Valparaiso: Peters, who shot 6 for 14 and grabbed 10 rebounds, returns next season.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Augustana Vikings: 2015-16 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Champions



FRISCO, Texas  A 14-point lead with 14 minutes left put Augustana on the road to its first NCAA Division II men’s basketball championship. Lincoln Memorial, though, made sure the ride had a few rough spots.

But every time the game got close Saturday afternoon at the Dr. Pepper Arena, Augustana made a clutch play that paved the way for its 90-81 victory in front of an energetic crowd.

“I don’t know if there is one word to do it justice, to be honest,” said Augustana senior Alex Richter, “but I am just so happy to be a part of this team and a part of the coaching staff.

“We thank the fans for coming out. Whether it was Tarleton, Western Oregon or today, we felt we were at home. We are extremely happy to be in this situation.”

Augustana, which led the entire second half, finished the season 34-2.

“It really helps when you have three seniors like this,” said Augustana coach Tom Billeter as he looked at Richter, Daniel Jansen and Casey Schilling at the postgame press conference. “To be honest, nothing works if you don’t have the players. I have such a special group. I am so proud of them.”

Richter led the Vikings with 26 points, Jansen scored 25 and Schilling added 20.

Lincoln Memorial also has a special group of players, who carried a 24-game winning streak into the championship game and finished the season 34-3. Four players scored in double figures for the Railsplitters, led by 21 from senior Gerel Simmons and 15 apiece from sophomore Emanuel Terry and senior Jalen Steele.

“We knew we had to play our best game of the season to have a chance,” Lincoln Memorial coach Josh Schertz said. “We missed free throws like we did and shot the ball poorly from the three-point line. Give credit to Augustana because they continued to make shots and plays down the stretch.”

Twice in the opening minute of the second half, Lincoln Memorial closed to two. The last time was at 45-43 on two free throws by Simmons.

“We tried to come out of the half with more energy, and we tried to make a run,” said Simmons, who finished with 21 points. “We made a little run, but they made a run back and that was how it was throughout the whole time.”

Back-to-back baskets by Schilling gave the Vikings a 49-43 lead. Sophomore Jordan Spencer followed with a basket, increasing the lead to 51-43, prompting Schertz to call timeout with 17:20 remaining in the game.

Over the next three minutes, Augustana built its lead to 62-48. It was a position Lincoln Memorial had not been in over the last two months. But the Railsplitters kept battling and got to within six at 69-63 with nearly 9 minutes left.

At this point, the Vikings showed their clutch gene, making plays to maintain a lead of seven to 10 points.

Lincoln Memorial didn’t go away and with under 5 minutes left, the Railsplitters closed to five at 82-77 on field goal by junior Luquon Choice.

Perhaps the biggest basket of the second half came next when Richter drilled a three-pointer, giving Augustana an 85-77 lead.

“We were right in business, a five-point game and 3 minutes to go for a national title,” Schertz said. “That was the biggest shot of the game, Richter’s three-pointer from the corner. They just stepped up and made big shots.”

If it wasn’t for a shoulder injury that forced Richter to sit out the 2013-14 season, he wouldn’t have been on the team this season. He definitely came up big in the championship game. His last three-pointer in a Vikings uniform will be one Richter and many followers of Augustana basketball will remember for a long time.

“That shot is up there,” Billeter said of some of the big baskets made in his 13 years at Augustana. “If he doesn’t hit it and all of a sudden it gets down to two, you don’t know what would happen. That was a huge basket.”

The dagger came with 2:12 left and the Vikings leading 85-78. The shot clock was near zero, when junior Adam Beyer had the ball. He was off-balanced on the baseline, but he managed to put up a fall-away shot that went in, making it 87-78.

“Beyer hits one later with the shot clock expiring and at the same token, we miss a couple of good looks,” Schertz said. “It is simplified, but sometimes it is a game of makes and misses.”

Every point in the championship game is important, so when Schilling knocked down a mid-range jumper at the halftime buzzer to give Augustana a 43-38 lead, the Vikings received a late boost.

It was a nice way for the Vikings to end a half that had several momentum swings. Augustana controlled the early portion of the game, building a 15-6 lead.

“We needed to set the tone because we had such great respect for them defensively,” Billeter said. “They are so long and they really attack. You got three guys coming at you as fast we have ever seen.”

After Jansen’s basket, shots stopped falling for Augustana and the Railsplitters took advantage. They went ahead 18-17 on a basket by Dorian Pinson. Augustana went right back in front on a field goal by Richter.

Pinson tied the game at 23-23 on a three-point play and then Lincoln Memorial went ahead with a basket by Simmons.

Over the next several minutes, the lead changed a few times. At 36-36, Augustana had the last little offensive swing in its advantage, starting with a three-point play from Jansen and a basket by Richter, giving the Vikings a 41-36 lead.

“The difference between last year’s team and this year is last when we were up and a team went on a run, we kind of cracked a little bit,” Jansen said. “I think this year, we showed our maturity as a team as a whole. If a team goes on a run and we have a lead of eight and they cut it to two or one, we are going to stay a tight knit group, and say, they threw their punch, now it is our time to throw our punch.”

The Vikings showed that mentality in all three of their Elite Eight games and that is why they stood Saturday afternoon in Texas as the 2016 NCAA Division II men’s basketball national champions.

St. Thomas Tommies: 2015-16 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Champions


Taylor Montero and Ryan Saarela made sure their final college basketball games were memorable ones.

The St. Thomas senior forward and center combined for 53 points and 21 boards and propelled No. 8-ranked Tommies to an NCAA Division III championship with Saturday's 82-76 win over previously-unbeaten Benedictine (Ill.) in Salem, Va.

The Tommies (30-3) won their second national crown in six years but first under fifth-year head coach John Tauer.

UST built a double-digit lead in each of their contests during a 6-0 run through the Division III playoffs. St. Thomas eliminated the Nos. 18, 11, 1, 4 and 2 ranked teams over the last 15 days.

In Saturday's victory, St. Thomas sank 50 percent from the floor, had only seven turnovers, knocked down 27 of 36 free throws and had a 36-32 rebunding edge. That offset Benedictine's 24-3 advantage in 3-point scoring.

Taylor Montero scored a season-high 27 points -- one off his career high -- and added 11 rebounds while logging 37 minutes.

Ryan Saarela's 26 points were his career high, and he added 10 rebounds for his 13th double double of the season. UST went 23-0 in games this season when Saarela scored in double figures.

Junior guard Grant Shaeffer added 14 points and played all 40 minutes.

The Tommies led 37-32 at halftime and built the advantage to 12 points during the second half. Benedictine (31-1) pulled as close as 73-71 with 1:33 to go on Lucas Johnson's dunk.

Montero answered at the other end with a layup, then rebounded a missed BU shot. UST sank 7-of-10 free throws in the final 42 seconds to secure the NCAA title.

St. Thomas made only three field goals in the last 8:30 but held off Benedictine with nine points at the foul line.

Johnson led Benedictine with 21 points and 11 boatds. BU, playing in its first Final Four, shot 48 percent from the floor and had only 10 turnovers.

The victory is St. Thomas' 16th national team championship, including two in men's hoops. In the 2000s alone (last 17 seasons), St. Thomas has two NCAA crowns each in the sports of men's basketball, baseball and softball, plus one in volleyball.

Columbia Lions: 2016 College Insider Tournament Champions



NEW YORK -- Columbia coach Kyle Smith showed his team a photo of the empty trophy case in front of his office before the game.

He told them it was about time they put something in there.

The Lions responded.

Grant Mullins scored 20 points and Columbia rallied to beat UC Irvine 73-67 on Tuesday night to win the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament.

The Lions became the first New York City school to win a postseason title since St. John's won the NIT in 2003. The Red Storm later vacated that championship.

"It's great," said senior Maodo Lo, who was the tournament MVP. "We were talking about that earlier. Only a handful of teams that play at this time of year. ... It's a good moment right now."

Columbia also became only the second Ivy League school to win a postseason crown.

Trailing 53-48 with 7:20 left, Columbia (25-10) scored 17 of the next 21 points. Mullins hit a 3-pointer and then on the next possession made an incredible shot, flipping the ball over his head as he was fouled on the drive. That three-point play gave Columbia a 54-53 advantage. Lo's 3-pointer made it 63-57.

The Anteaters (28-10), who had won 18 of their past 22, could only get within four the rest of the way.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions celebrated the school's first postseason title. Confetti came down on them and the team cut down the nets in their home gym.

"It's really special, only four or five teams that get to cut down nets every year and we were one of those," senior Alex Rosenberg said. "It's something I'll always remember. It's been a tough road, we came from a 12-16 team to 25-10. If that's not changing the culture, I don't know what is."

Jeff Coby finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions, who had the most wins in school history, including 15 non-conference victories.

Lo added 13 points and finished third on the school's all-time scoring list, 12 short of breaking the school record.

Trailing 20-14 with 8:52 left in the first half, Columbia used a 17-6 run to close the half and take a 31-26 lead at the break. Lo hit a 3-pointer to get the run started and Luke Petrasek's 3-pointer made it 29-22.

Mamadou Ndiaye, the Anteaters 7-foot-6 center, then had consecutive dunks where he barely had to leave the ground to make it a five-point game at the half.

Mike Best scored 17 points to lead the Anteaters. Ndiaye finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

TIP-INS:

UC Irvine: The Anteaters set a school record with 15 non-conference wins and 13 road victories. ... Alex Young became the first player in school history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in his career.

Columbia: The CIT could stand for the Columbia Invitational Tournament as the Lions hosted all four of their games in the tournament. ... Buck Jenkins is the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,767 points. Jim McMillian is second with (1,758). Lo has 1756. ... The only other Ivy League team to win a postseason tournament was Princeton, which won the 1975 NIT. ... Smith has won 101 games in five seasons at Columbia. It's the most wins in a five-year span for Columbia since the team won 106 games from 1950-55.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

3.27.2016


Happy Easter
From the Bedlam on Baltic Avenue.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Finally, I Have Captured The Chicken!



Though this wasn't among my priority wants among Memorial Gacha, I ended up capturing the elemental mascot Ember on a random Memorial Premium Coin off Scratchy Cards after going 1/15 on another Premium batch (the rare won was Kooh's Fairy Tale set). Ember resembles a floating chicken so it is fair to say that I have captured the chicken in Pangya, and I love fried chicken. Ember is essentially a cross of WT-PEP/Sporty Pippin plus the default Mascot Bonus plus Cadie SC. Throw in the Cadie SR card equipped on Classic Hana's bonus caddie slot to go with the animal ring, and hitting Pangya becomes more straightforward. That's the power of the chicken.




I ended up ranking up a few clubs, unlocked about 10 more achievements over a week across both my accounts and on my main, I am now sitting at 9430 Achievement Points. Oh yes, and on two Premium batches prior to the 1/15 I went 7/20. So there is some game balance among the Premium Coins, but the fact that the Super Rares I wanted didn't drop and Black Papel didn't drop after 5,000 spinning cubes opened leaves me wondering.

I also got to work on clearing some club recovery point achievements, which I didn't get to work on for months. When my next paycheck from Azteca Soccer arrives, I expect that it will go towards my next move to rank up another club set to S-rank. Spika's Voice Club set has been in A-5 limbo for months and I believe it's about time I got her signature clubs to S-rank, or Spika rank, if you will. This way I can focus my next S-rank efforts to my Ruby Air Knight Set, which is on 11,000 club mastery but may go down to accomodate getting the Spika clubs to S-rank.

I am completely mystified by two things this weekend: going 1/15 on Premium Memorial Coins and Jurgen Klinsmann's handling of the game plan for the USMNT against Guatemala away. The premium rates should not be nerfed, period. That's the Normal/Special Coins' responsibility. It is astounding how for a high batch of Premium Coins, the drop rate is abysmal. Complaints regarding this game are warranted, but for me, I have to accept it because on my Dolfini's Locker, I have 67 pages of rares. I have to sell items from my locker only if I am in desperate need of pang to upgrade my clubs or otherwise improve stats. I am also short of Abbot Crystals. I had to spam Abbot Mine a few times just to get the 25 I need to secure a Card Remover that would allow the impact zone of Madoka (a.k.a. Classic Hana) to be bigger.

Secondly, we haven't lost to Guatemala in decades, so if this result is repeated, Jurgen Klinsmann should be sacked immediately. It's not easy being a manager of a team representing a sports-proud nation like the United States. The ramifications of being eliminated early in World Cup Qualification can have long-term effects regarding the game's future. I don't miss coaches who don't do a good job managing the teams I care about. That's my schtick.

In any case, I have captured the chicken.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Call Me.


Call me when you’re down
Call me when you need someone
Call me when it’s rough
And you think that there’s no one…
Call me when you’re down.


Love just for the understanding
Things that love carries, what we’re demanding
Listen to the heart that’s beating
Forget about lust and all misleading


Love, talk about me and you
My love just makes everything come true
Questions lies in the heavens and ground
It’s up to me and I’ll call you when I’m down


I will be true, too many ups and downs with you
I know what to say to you, so here’s what I tell you


Call me when you’re down
Call me when you need someone
Call me when it’s rough
And you think that there’s no one

But ‘till you need someone to love
I will be searching for my love
I will, but I will be there for you.


Sitting at a park, holding hands at the dark
With a love so strong to break my heart
This is your heart that’s beating
Forget about fuss and all misleading


Love, summer, winter, spring or fall
Love is wishing that we had it all
Questions lies in the skies and ground
It’s up to me and I’ll call you when I’m down


I will be true, too many ups and downs with you
I know what to say to you, so here’s what I tell you


Call me when you’re down
Call me when you need someone
Call me when it’s rough
And you think that there’s no one



But 'till you need someone to love
I will be searching for my love
I will, but I will be there for you
I will be there for you
I will be there for you
I will be there for you


If you need someone
Call me when you’re down
If you need someone
Call me when you’re down…

Call me when you’re down.


Call me when you’re down
Call me when you need someone
Call me when it’s rough
And you think that there’s no one

But 'till you need someone to love
I will be searching for my love
I will, but I will be there for you…

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

3.17.2016.


Happy St. Patrick's Day
From The Bedlam On Baltic Avenue.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Connecticut Huskies: 2015-16 American Athletic Men's Basketball Champions



The Connecticut Huskies entered the American Athletic tournament squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They leave the tournament as champions, knocking off Memphis 72-58 to claim the conference's automatic bid.

The Tigers were hoping to crash the NCAA Tournament party by grabbing the American's automatic bid, but UConn snuffed out the dream early, jumping out to a quick start and heading into halftime with the 32-19 lead. Memphis' big problem in the first half was the poor shooting -- the Tigers made just 6 of 26 field goal attempts, while the Huskies shot 12-of-25.

Memphis threatened to make things interesting, pulling within four points halfway through the second half, However, the Huskies reasserted their dominance once again, quickly getting a double-digit lead back that they wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the game.

It was a fine shooting day for UConn, with five players reaching double-digit points. Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs led the way with 13 points each, while Daniel Hamilton added 12 points and dominated the glass with 11 rebounds. As a team, UConn shot 45.8 percent from the field, while Memphis finished with a 37.5 percentage.

After winning the national title in 2014, UConn missed the NCAA Tournament entirely last season. The Huskies will be hoping to make magic happen once again, and they'll likely have to do it from the No. 6-8 seed range. UConn's bracket placement will be unveiled shortly after their game.

Michigan State Spartans: Big Ten Men's Basketball Champions



INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State has won its warm-up tournament thanks to a critical late shot by its national player of the year candidate, and can now at last prepare to take its shot at the title that means the most.

The Spartans beat Purdue on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 66-62, to claim their second Big Ten conference tournament championship in three years.

Michigan State will now immediately find out its draw in the NCAA Tournament, when the field is announced starting at 5:30 p.m. on CBS.

The Spartans entered the day projected as a No. 1 seed in the tournament, and is expected to hold on to that seeding after winning three games in three days to take the Big Ten title.

The Spartans head into that tournament overflowing with momentum. They've lost just once since Jan. 20, having won 13 of their last 14 games. They picked up plenty of recognition along the way as a national title favorite.

Michigan State led for the entire second half Sunday, but Purdue pulled within one point with 2:48 left.

Denzel Valentine then hit a contested, double-pump midrange jumper with 1:47 left to send Spartans fans into a frenzy. Michigan State held on through the finish, as Matt Costello missed a key free throw but then atoned for the miss with a block on the other end.

While Valentine hit the key late shot, Michigan State relied on its depth as much as it has all season, especially early in the game.

After Purdue led for most of the first 13 minutes, Michigan State retook the lead with a nine-point run primarily with an unlikely lineup on the floor: Tum Tum Nairn, Alvin Ellis, Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling and Colby Wollenman.

After Harris hit two free throws, Nairn found Schilling for a transition alley-oop, then Wolleman scored a layup over Swanigan to force a Purdue timeout. Ellis made consecutive baskets later in the half to send the Spartans into the break with a 36-26 lead.

In all, eight Michigan State players scored in the first half.

Purdue fought back to within one point in the second half, at 52-51 with 7:47 left, after a seven-point run capped off by an A.J. Hammons dunk.

From there, Michigan State went on a tournament-clinching run, started by its key players but finished off by a reserve.

Michigan State scored on four straight possessions to retake a seven-point lead. Valentine assisted the first two baskets, a Bryn Forbes 3-pointer and a Matt Costello running layup.

Wollenman recorded an assist on an Eron Harris 3-pointer, then notched perhaps the most improbable basket of Michigan State's season: a putback dunk off of a missed Costello 3-pointer that put the Spartans up 62-55 with 5:08 left. And the Spartans held on to the lead.

Valentine finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He was the only Michigan State player in double figures.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Purdue came into the game having shot 50 percent or better from the floor in its last six games, a stat that had helped the Boilermakers win five straight games. A night after the Spartans held Maryland without a field goal for a 10-minute straight late in the game, it held Purdue to 38.2 percent shooting with another stretch of tough defense.

• An afterthought for most of the season, Alvin Ellis capped off a strong Big Ten tournament with his best outing yet. He scored six points against Maryland in the tournament semifinals, and followed that up with five points Sunday in extended minutes. His two late first-half buckets helped the Spartans head into halftime with momentum.

• The tournament final pitted the top two rebounding teams in the Big Ten, and Michigan State came away with a decisive victory in the category. The Spartans won that battle, 41-31, and had 14 second-chance points compared to four for Purdue.

LOWLIGHTS
• Bryn Forbes capped off a quiet Big Ten tournament with a 1-for-6 effort from 3-point range, and had nine points. He was guarded largely by Rapheal Davis, one of the conference's premiere defenders, but also turned down shots he typically takes. He opened the second half by missing a wide open 3-pointer on a set play for him.

• Michigan State started the game 4-for-15 from the field and allowed Purdue to jump ahead to a four-point lead on multiple occasions. As was the case in the two teams' regular season matchup, Michigan State struggled to finish underneath against Purdue's frontcourt, which features a pair of 7-foot centers plus 6-foot-9 Caleb Swanigan.

• Michigan State's heavy reliance on its reserve frontcourt players in the first half was in large part due to Deyonta Davis picking up two fouls before the midway point of the first half. He had to sit the rest of the half.

NOTES
• Michigan State has now won five Big Ten tournaments championships, including three since 2012. Its total is now one more than Ohio State, which also entered the tournament with four Big Ten tournament titles.

Arkansas Little-Rock: 2015-16 Sun Belt Men's Basketball Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- Roger Woods scored 19 points and Arkansas-Little Rock punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a dominant second half, beating Louisiana-Monroe 70-50 on Sunday in the Sun Belt Tournament final.

Trailing 33-28 at halftime, the Trojans raised their defensive intensity several notches and went on an 18-4 run to take control. Woods gave Arkansas-Little Rock the lead for good at 37-35, faking an outside shot and driving for an emphatic dunk with 15:01 left.

Marcus Johnson Jr. hit an open 3-pointer as the Trojans took their first double-digit lead, 53-42, at the 8:06 mark.

Woods, the tournament MVP, hit eight of 10 shots and added nine rebounds. Johnson scored 14 points for top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock (29-4), which tied a Sun Belt conference record for wins in a season.

Justin Roberson had 17 points for second-seeded Louisiana-Monroe (20-13), which entered the final on a 10-game winning streak and having won 14 of its last 15 after a 6-11 start.

Getting little room to operate, the flustered Warhawks never recovered after committing four quick turnovers and missing their first six shots of the second half. They hit 6 of 25 after going 14 of 24 in the first half.

The closest they came in the last 8 minutes was nine points, and they could not capitalize on Arkansas-Little Rock's rare mistakes.

When Josh Hagins' pass on the perimeter was intercepted, Louisiana-Monroe gave the ball right back when an outlet pass was tipped off a player's leg and out of bounds.

The Trojans began celebrating after Kemy Osse's 3-pointer from the corner made it 64-50. They entered the tournament with an outside shot at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament thanks to road victories over San Diego State and Tulsa, but they erased any doubt about their destination.

ALL-TOURNAMENT

Johnson Jr., Roberson and Majok Deng of Louisiana-Monroe joined Woods on the all-tournament team along with Louisiana-Lafayette's Shawn Long, the Sun Belt regular season player of the year.

TIP-INS

Arkansas-Little Rock: Hagins, the Trojans' leading scorer for the year, had five points and went 2 for 7 from the field. ... Arkansas-Little Rock is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and the second time since 1990.

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks had five chances to finish three-point plays in the first half but missed the free throw on the first four before Roberson finally made one. . Roberson and guard Nick Coppola played all 40 minutes, and coach Keith Richard used only seven players, but he said fatigue was not a factor in the Warhawks' second game in less than 24 hours.

UP NEXT

Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans will play in the NCAA T.

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks will be in a postseason tournament, probably the CIT or CBI.

Saint. Joseph's Hawks: 2015-16 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- DeAndre' Bembry scored 30 points and Isaiah Miles had 26 points and 12 rebounds as Saint Joseph's beat VCU 87-74 on Sunday to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship for the second time in three seasons.

The fourth-seeded Hawks (27-7) locked up an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, though they were likely getting in anyway. The second-seeded and defending champion Rams (24-10) will likely be in the field of 68, too.

JeQuan Lewis and Korey Billbury each scored 19 points for the Rams, who lost in the title game for the third time in four seasons.

Bembry, the conference player of the year, and Miles, the A-10's most improved player, sliced up the Rams' half-court defense with sharp passes, hard drives to the basket and mid-range jumpers. Miles converted a three-point play with 8:45 left in the second half that made it 70-49.

Moments later, two technical fouls on Saint Joe's reserve Papa Ndao for arguing a call gave VCU six free throws that sparked a run for the Rams. They made five and had the lead down to 75-68 when Jordan Burgess hit a 3 with 4:15 left.

That was as close as the Rams would get.

Bembry put an exclamation point on the victory, drawing a foul on a fadeaway that had the Saint Joe's fans chanting "M-V-P!" and with a dunk that made it 85-70 with 1:47 left.

TIP-INS:

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks shot 64.5 percent in the first half and took a 43-34 lead, with Miles (15) and Bembry (13) combining for 28 points. ... The Hawks were making their seventh appearance in the A-10 title game and fifth under coach Phil Martelli. ... Ndao, who scored a career-high 14 points in Saturday's win against top-seeded Dayton, got an animated lecture from assistant coach Mark Bass, who led the senior off the court and into the tunnel to the locker rooms.

VCU: Lewis was shaken up after running into a solid and legal screen by Miles at midcourt late in the second half. Lewis stayed down a while and the Rams had to guard four on five until Bembry scored on a layup. Lewis went to the bench for a couple of possessions and then re-entered the game. ... The Rams won the lone regular-season meeting with the Hawks, 85-82, in Philadelphia. ... VCU has played in all the A-10 championship games since the Rams joined the league and the tournament moved to Brooklyn. ... VCU was making its sixth straight appearance in a conference tournament final, including its last two seasons as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

UP NEXT

Saint Joseph's: The Hawks are back in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season. The Hawks are in for the 21st time overall.

VCU: If the Rams get an at-large bid, it will be six straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Kentucky Wildcats: 2015-16 SEC Men's Basketball Champions



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derek Willis's 3-pointer with 1:01 left in overtime put Kentucky ahead to stay, and the 16th-ranked Wildcats beat No. 17 Texas A&M 82-77 in overtime on Sunday for their second straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and 29th overall.

These teams split the regular season title after the Aggies edged Kentucky in College Station in overtime on Feb. 20. But SEC Tournament titles are treasured by Kentucky faithful, and the Wildcats (26-8) gave fans yet another to celebrate in a game they have lost only 10 times in the program's storied history.

Tyler Ulis scored a career-high 30 points, including Kentucky's final point on a free throw with 8.7 seconds left. Jamal Murray added 17 points, and Willis, Alex Poythress and Isaiah Briscoe all finished with 10.

Danuel House scored a career-high 32 points for Texas A&M (26-8). Jalen Jones had 15 points, and Alex Caruso added 11.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors: 2015-16 Big West Men's Basketball Champions



ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Hawaii had a very limited window to make the NCAA Tournament.

With NCAA sanctions about to take effect that ban them from the 2016-17 postseason, the Rainbow Warriors' last chance at March Madness for the foreseeable future was Saturday night. Hawaii made the most of its opportunity.

Aaron Valdes scored 14 points, Stefan Jankovic scored all 10 of his points in the second half, and the top-seeded Rainbow Warriors hung on late to beat No. 3-seed Long Beach State 64-60 in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game.

The Rainbow Warriors (27-5) earned an automatic bid to their fifth NCAA Tournament and first since 2002.

"This is huge for us. Honestly, we deserve this," Jankovic said. "With all the infractions and everything we've been through, we told ourselves this year we were going to go all the way. We're a tough group."

Hawaii was sanctioned for infractions committed under former coach Gib Arnold. Its penalties include a 2016-17 postseason ban, scholarship reductions, and players allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year.

Despite those sanctions and a third coach in three years at the helm, the Rainbow Warriors rolled to a conference co-championship in the regular season before claiming the conference tournament title.

"We all could've quit, gone to other places, but we stuck together and stuck it out," said Valdes, who was named tournament MVP. "It means a lot after all we've been through together."

Their resilience showed in the title game.

Hawaii blew a 12-point, second-half lead and was tied at 58, but Jankovic hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:45 to go and the Rainbow Warriors made it stand up.

Justin Bibbins missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer for the 49ers (20-14) with 5 seconds to go, and Noah Blackwell and A.J. Spencer missed potential go-ahead 3s in the final 90 seconds as well.

"I liked our opportunities," Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. "I have no regrets from Bibbins' look at all. He's our best 3-point shooter and I would take him for a shot to go to the tournament every time."

The 49ers finished 5 for 22 from 3-point range.

Nick Faust scored 17 points before fouling out and Bibbins and Travis Hammonds each scored 12 to lead Long Beach State.

Hawaii held its largest lead, 44-32, with 13:25, but Long Beach State erased it and tied the score at 56 on Faust's 3-pointer with 3:54 to go.

Faust fouled out with 3:27 left, though, and the 49ers were without their leading scorer down the stretch.

Jankovic took advantage and swung the momentum back Hawaii's way with his 3-pointer to make it 61-58, and that was enough to keep the Rainbow Warriors in front in the final breathless minutes.

It was Hawaii's first win in three games against Long Beach State this season.

"The difference this time was our composure," Rainbow Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. "When we needed people to step up, they did."

DAILY DOUBLE

Hawaii's championship win followed a victory by its women's team in its final earlier in the day.

This year will mark the second time both the Hawaii men's and women's teams made it to the NCAA Tournament in the same season. It previously occurred in 1994.

It also marked only the fourth time in Big West history the same school produced the men's and women's tournament champion in the same year.

ALL-TOURNAMENT

Bibbins and Faust were named to the all-tournament team for Long Beach State. Jankovic joined MVP Valdes on the first team for Hawaii, and UC Irvine guard Luke Nelson and UC Santa Barbara guard Michael Bryson rounded out the team.

TIP-INS

Long Beach State: Hammonds also fouled out with 1:06 remaining. ... The 49ers only led for 6:49 of the game and never led in the second half. ... They dropped to 5-6 all-time in Big West Tournament championship games.

Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors won the rebounding battle 35-30. They are 23-0 when winning the rebounding battle this season. ... Jankovic, the conference Player of the Year, played only seven minutes of the first half because of foul trouble. ... They tied the school record for wins in a season.

UP NEXT

Long Beach State: Awaits a possible postseason bid.

Hawaii: Finds out its NCAA Tournament seed Sunday.

Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners: 2015-16 WAC Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Dedrick Basile's clutch shot sent Cal State Bakersfield to its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Basile hit a 3-pointer with two-tenths of a second remaining, lifting Cal State Bakersfield to a 57-54 victory over No. 1 seed New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title game.

"It was our night, our turn, our time," coach Rod Barnes said. "It's been a fantastic year."

Basile led the second-seeded Roadrunners (24-8) with 18 points, and Damiyne Durham added 15. Cal State Bakersfield had never beaten New Mexico State, losing their first 11 meetings, including twice during the regular season.

Pascal Siakam and Braxton Huggins each had 11 points for the Aggies (23-10), and Ian Baker added 10.

The Aggies, who never led, trailed by as many as 12 points but came back in the second half. They tied it at 54 when Tanveer Bhullar made one of two free throws with 14 seconds left, but that set the stage for Basile's buzzer-beating long shot won the game for the Roadrunners.

"The great thing about this team, they never panicked," Barnes said. "As I was talking to them, they never seemed to be in a situation where they were nervous or afraid that we were going to lose."

Teammates piled on Basile near mid-court, believing the game was over, but officials determined that two-tenths of a second were still left.

"That's something I always dreamed about," Basile said, "and it just happened."

A long inbounds pass, however, was deflected by Bakersfield, ending the game and giving the Roadrunners a second celebration.

The Aggies, who won the WAC regular-season title, lost in the tournament title game after four consecutive wins.

"When they needed big shots, they got them every time, usually from one of their upper classmen," New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. "They just produced when they needed to. It was kind of heart-wrenching to say the least."

Bakersfield led for just about the entire first half, combining exceptional shooting with a turnover-prone offense by New Mexico State to take a 32-22 lead.

The game was tied at 10 before the Roadrunners went on a 20-9 run over the next 10 minutes. The Aggies committed eight turnovers in the opening half and compounded their troubles by shooting just 36 percent.

TIP-INS

Bakersfield: The Roadrunners had never played in a WAC tournament final until Saturday's game. They struggled with their shooting in the second half, making just 10 of 28 shots.

New Mexico State: Pascal Siakam, the conference player of the year, never got going. He scored two points in the game and finished with 11. Braxton Huggins also had 11, while Bhullar came off the bench to score a team-high 13.

UP NEXT

Cal State Bakersfield: makes its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico State: hopes for an invitation to the NIT.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks: 2015-16 Southland Men's Basketball Champions



KATY, Texas -- Stephen F. Austin had been dominant throughout the Southland Conference regular season. The Lumberjacks were even better while claiming their third straight conference tournament crown.

Thomas Walkup had 19 points and six rebounds to lead Stephen F. Austin to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance with an 82-60 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi -- its 20th consecutive victory -- in the Southland Conference Tournament championship Saturday night.

"There's nothing greater than Selection Sunday," Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood said. "I am an old-school guy, and when they call your name, the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and I get goosebumps. It is something we will never ever take for granted, and for these guys to be able to do it three times is so special."

Clide Geffrard had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Lumberjacks (27-5), who shot 47 percent from the floor. Ty Charles added 12 points.

Walkup earned the conference tournament MVP for the third straight year.

"That's not something you take for granted," Walkup said of the award. "I think in like 10 or 15 years, I will look back and realize how special it is, but right now, it's all about us making the tournament as a team."

Stephen F. Austin has the longest active win streak in the NCAAs. The Lumberjacks have won 26 straight against conference opponents over the last two years, also the NCAA's longest active streak. Stephen F. Austin, the only NCAA team to go an undefeated 18-0 in conference play this season, advanced to the championship game with a 104-68 win over Houston Baptist on Friday night.

"We are a better team than we were a year ago," Underwood said when asked about the NCAA Tournament. "I'm not sure if that will show in our seeding. ... This team is very good. We are going to go in there and not be afraid of the moment."

Joe Kilgore had 14 points for the Islanders (25-7). Rashawn Thomas added 11 points and nine rebounds and Ehab Amin had 10 points and six rebounds as to lead Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which shot 42 percent.

"Tough night, absolutely," Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Willis Wilson said. "It boiled down to little things that they did and little things we didn't do. ... I thought we did a lot of good things to start the game the way we needed to, but we got a little overextended there and had a hard time regrouping."

After Corpus Christi jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first 2:04, the Lumberjacks responded with a 35-6 run over the next 12 minutes -- led by nine points apiece from Walkup and Geffrard. The Lumberjacks finished the run with 16 straight points.

The Islanders started 3-of-4 shooting, but connected on just three of the next 14 shots and committed seven turnovers during SFA's run.

"We wanted to make them score through our defense in the half-court," Underwood said. "We really felt like we could exploit them in transition. All of that combined -- sitting down and guarding, limiting them to one shot and getting out into transition and running -- was really what broke that stretch open."

SFA went into halftime up 48-29 behind Walkup's 14 points, and pushed its lead to as many as 26 in the second half.

TIP INS

Islanders: Corpus Christi's lone NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2007. The Islanders have never been to the NIT Tournament. ... The Islanders finished 13 of 19 from the free-throw line. ... Hameed Ali earned All-Tournament honors.

Lumberjacks: SFA will be making its fourth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Lumberjacks are 1/3 in their previous three tournament appearances. ... Demetrious Floyd had nine points. ... SFA forced 20 turnovers and converted them into 26 points. ... The Lumberjacks were 22 of 30 from the free-throw line. ... Geffrard and Floyd earned All-Tournament honors.

GETTING TECHNICAL

Thomas and T.J. Holyfield were each issued technical fouls with 9:46 left in the first half after a verbal exchange. Ali was issued a technical foul with 1:17 left in the first half for throwing an elbow.

UP NEXT

Islanders: Await possible postseason bid in a tournament other than the NCAA Tournament.

Lumberjacks: Headed to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.

Oregon Ducks: 2015-16 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- The Pac-12 championship got its marquee matchup, pitting the top two teams from the regular season against each other in the electric atmosphere of MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Oregon turned it into a Duck dynasty.

Tyler Dorsey scored 23 points, Dillon Brooks added 18 and No. 8 Oregon made it an early rout, rolling over No. 12 Utah 88-57 on Saturday night.

"It was just our night," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "Not the game we anticipated, but we just got on a roll and that happens."

Oregon (28-6) won the regular-season title and Utah (26-8) was right behind. They held up through the conference tournament, setting up a matchup worthy of a neon marquee on the Strip.

The Ducks turned it into a flyaway, putting on a defensive show to sweep conference regular-season and tournament titles for the first time.

Harassing the Utes across the court and jumping into passing lanes, the Ducks had 13 steals and scored 28 points off the Utes' 20 turnovers.

Oregon was just as good on offense, shooting 52 percent while making 11 of 22 from 3-point range in its eighth straight win. Chris Boucher had 15 points and tournament MVP Elgin Cook added 11 with six assists.

The Ducks also scored 23 points off 17 offensive rebounds and had 16 assists with seven turnovers to win their fourth Pac-12 title in the second-most lopsided game in tournament history.

The dominating performance gave Oregon its best record after 34 games since 1938-39 and put it in position for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I wouldn't want to play them. I know that," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

After a surprising run to last year's title game, the Ducks have become the Pac-12's dominant force, their flock of beat-you-off-the-dribble high-flyers causing matchup problems for anyone who tries to stop them.

The Utes are the conference's rising stars, led by one of the nation's most unstoppable forces, 7-footer Jakob Poeltl.

To become kings of the Pac-12 Tournament, Utah would have to find a way to solve Oregon.

The Ducks won the two regular-season meetings easily, including a 10-point victory in Salt Lake City. Brooks was the orchestrator for Oregon, scoring 51 combined points, while Poeltl was kept quiet, scoring 20 combined points on just nine shots.

Oregon was at its passing-lane-jumping disruptive best in the first half of the title game, flustering the Utes into a string of mistakes.

The Ducks scored 19 points of Utah's 13 turnovers and converted nine offensive rebounds into 11 more points. Oregon had nine steals in the half -- several of those on weak passes by the Utes -- and took 20 more shots (35-15) to lead 38-21 at halftime.

"We lost this game basically in the first half," said Poeltl, who had 13 points. "We just didn't have the energy or the focus to come back from those easy baskets that we gave them."

Little changed in the second half.

Oregon kept jumping in passing lanes for steals and hounding the Utes into mistakes, stretching the lead to 21 in the first 2 minutes to continue the rout.

"We picked up our intensity in the second half and never let them get going," Dorsey said.

LIMITING POELTL

Poeltl has been a tough matchup for every team, but Oregon has found a way to limit his effectiveness.

The Ducks made it difficult for the Utes to even find him in the post and swarmed him pretty much every time he touched the ball.

Poeltl hit 4 of 6 shots, but was limited to four rebounds and had five turnovers.

"If we were going to throw the ball into the post, it was open for a split second," Utah guard Brandon Taylor said. "If we held the ball too long, they covered him and got back in front of him."

TIP INS

Utah: Poeltl had 11 points at halftime. ... The Utes had won nine straight. ... The most lopsided game in tournament history was Arizona's 32-point win over Utah in 2014 and UCLA over Oregon State by the same margin in 2006.

Oregon: The Ducks played in consecutive tournament championship games for the first time in program history. .... Oregon also won Pac-12 titles in 2003, 2007 and 2013.

WHAT'S NEXT

Utah will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon will be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament next week.

Weber State Wildcats: 2015-16 Big Sky Men's Basketball Champions



RENO, Nev. -- Weber State knew it would be far from easy. Montana made sure of it.

Jeremy Senglin scored 20 points and top-seeded Weber State beat second-seeded Montana 62-59 in the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game Saturday night and earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

Montana's Walter Wright missed a 3-point attempt in the final second that would have sent the game to overtime.

"It settled into a slugfest, which is what we expected all along," Weber State coach Ryan Rahe said. "It was a great back-and-forth game."

Senglin, who scored 31 points in an 83-78 overtime semifinals win Friday against North Dakota, shot 8 of 16 from the floor for Weber State (26-8). Joel Bolomboy, the Big Sky Conference MVP and finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award, was held to four points.

"We were prepared," said Senglin, a junior guard. "Coach Rahe got us prepared in shootaround. Considering it was Montana in the championship game, if you can't get up for that game, then something is wrong with you."

Weber State last made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. It's the Wildcats' 10th Big Sky championship.

Martin Breunig led the Grizzlies (21-11) with 20 points, while Wright had 18.

"It's a tough one," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. "We knew it would be a bloodbath going in. We knew it would be a physical game."

Montana held Weber State to four offensive rebounds and outscored Weber State 38-20 in the paint and 14-4 on second-chance points.

The Grizzlies only got to the line for three free-throw attempts in the game. They converted on one.

With the win, Weber State ended its three-game Big Sky Conference Tournament losing streak against Montana (2012, 2013 and 2015).

"It's about time (we beat Montana)," Rahe said. "To be honest, they've been a little bit of a thorn in our side. But it's also because they're very good."

Sophomore guard Ryan Richardson added 15 points on 4 of 6 shooting for Weber State.

UP NEXT

Montana: The Grizzlies have to wait to see if they're selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Weber St.: Headed to the NCAA tourney.

Buffalo Bulls: 2015-16 Mid-American Basketball Champions



CLEVELAND -- Order another round and more chicken wings, Buffalo.

You've got two championships to celebrate.

Blake Hamilton made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left as Buffalo defended its Mid-American Conference title -- and pulled off a rare double for the school -- with a 64-61 win over Akron in the title game on Saturday night.

Hamilton's shot from the right wing sent the third-seeded Bulls (20-14) back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season after Buffalo lost its coach and two of its top players. But the Bulls are stampeding into the NCAAs again and so are Buffalo's women, who beat Central Michigan in overtime for their first MAC championship earlier.

"Man, it's a great feeling," Hamilton said. "Both teams going dancing, it's going to be crazy in Buffalo."

It's a remarkable run for these Bulls, who won their first MAC championship last year under coach Bobby Hurley. The future looked bright, but took a major hit when Hurley accepted the job at Arizona State and took guard Shannon Evans with him. If that wasn't tough enough, Justin Moss, the conference's player of the year in 2015, was kicked out of school after he was involved in an on-campus robbery.

But first-year coach Nate Oats, an assistant under Hurley, got his players to believe and the Bulls put it together at the right time. They beat second-second-seeded Ohio and then took down the top-seeded Zips, who were appearing in their eighth final in 10 years.

"Nobody was predicting this back in October, November," Oats said. "So I can't say enough about the character of these guys. We had returners, new guys. We had the changeover in the program. What they were able to pull off in Year 1, I can't say enough about them. It's the best basketball we played all year. And we picked the right time to do it for sure."

After Hamilton's shot, the Zips (26-8) had one last chance, but a long inbounds pass was picked off by Hamilton, a junior college transfer. When the clock showed zeroes, the Bulls poured onto the floor and mobbed each other around the center circle. Moments later, they were joined by their schoolmates and fellow champions, who set the tone for the greatest day in Buffalo basketball history.

Two titles. Dou-Bulls.

Freshman CJ Massinburg scored 18 for Buffalo and Hamilton had 14 and 11 rebounds. Nick Perkins scored only 5, but he did a nice job defending Akron's big center Isaiah Johnson in the second half, holding the beefy center to 2 points.

Antino Jackson had 14 points for Akron, which may have to sit home and watch the NCAA tourney for the third straight year.

Akron now must hope its resume is strong enough to get an at-large bid, but coach Keith Dambrot isn't confident his team will be selected Sunday.

"We've got a 28 RPI," he said. "The numbers don't lie, do they? It's all skewed for the big boys. So if Cincinnati or Tulsa or UConn had a 28 RPI, I think they would be in the tournament, but we're not going to get in the tournament."

Lamonte Bearden added 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Buffalo. Willie Conner scored just 7 in the finale, but was named the tournament's MVP.

Johnson, perhaps worn out playing his third game in three days, wasn't effective in the second half and the Zips, who relied on 3-pointers all season, went 13 of 33 behind the arc.

TOUGH OUT

The Bulls lost by six to West Virginia in their NCAA opener last year, but Hamilton believes Buffalo is deeper this time around.

"Don't let us all get going," Hamilton warned. "We're going to make some noise in the tournament if we all get going."

TIP-INS

Buffalo: Became the first school to win both the men's and women's titles in the same year since Kent State (2001-02). ... The eighth-seeded women's team captured its title when Stephanie Reid banked in a runner at the buzzer in overtime to beat Central Michigan 73-71. Reid, who is from Melbourne, Australia, was named the tournament's MVP. ... Former Connecticut star Donyell Marshall is in his first season on Buffalo's coaching staff. Marshall played 18 seasons in the NBA, including three with Cleveland.

Akron: The Zips are one of just four teams to win at least 21 games in each of the past 11 seasons, joining Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas. ... Akron has won at least one MAC tournament game in each of its 12 years under Dambrot. ... The Zips went 15-0 at home this season, 3-1 at neutral sites. ... Dambrot's teams made seven straight MAC finals from 2007-13.

UP NEXT

Buffalo: On to the NCAA tourney.

Akron: Fingers crossed, the Zips hope not to settle for the NIT.

Kansas Jayhawks: 2015-16 Big 12 Men's Basketball Champions



KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bill Self still remembers the day Devonte Graham stepped foot on the Kansas campus, back when the point guard was trying to decide where he was going to play college basketball.

"I told him when he visited, `You're going to own this place if you just come in and try hard," Self recalled with a smile. "His attitude is just a 10 and I think it's rubbed off on others."

His game has turned into a 10, too.

Graham matched a career-high with 27 points Saturday night, Wayne Selden Jr. added 21, and the top-ranked Jayhawks overcame a remarkable performance by West Virginia's Devin Williams for an 81-71 victory over the No. 9 Mountaineers in the Big 12 Tournament title game.

Perry Ellis added 17 points for the Jayhawks (30-4), who almost certainly locked up the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament by winning their 10th Big 12 Tournament championship.

"I felt like we played well," said Graham, the game net hanging around his neck. "We just have to keep playing the way we've been playing. Play better. Keep the confidence we have. Keep this momentum going."

Kansas trailed the Mountaineers (26-8) at the break before seizing control, and it was Graham who made the difference. He hit five 3-pointers, was 10 of 10 from the foul line and had a four steals while helping his teammates through the Mountaineers' trademark pressure.

"I can't put it into words," Graham said. "It's a good feeling."

Williams finished with a career-best 31 points and 10 rebounds, but the junior forward was forced to carry the load by himself. Jevon Carter was held to four points after scoring 26 in a semifinal win over No. 6 Oklahoma, and leading scorer Jaysean Paige managed just six points while committing four turnovers.

"We came here to win a championship and we fell short," Paige still. "Time to go back to work."

With supporters and protesters of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump trading barbs just down the street, two teams intimately familiar with each other spent the first 20 minutes trading baskets.

Trading turnovers, too. They combined for 24 of those in the first half.

Williams was the difference-maker, scoring 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting. That helped the Mountaineers cover a 0-for-7 performance from beyond the arc and forge a 33-32 halftime advantage.

It didn't stay that way for long.

With his infectious aura and devil-may-care attitude, Graham began to take over for the Jayhawks in the second half. He knocked down a 3-pointer immediately out of the locker room, then curled in two more in quick succession to give Kansas a 51-39 lead with just under 15 minutes to go.

West Virginia's vaunted press, so effective early in the game, had been reduced to shreds.

Attrition and foul trouble also began to play a role. Williams appeared gassed in the closing minutes, and Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. had to play with four fouls apiece down the stretch.

The remarkable depth of the Jayhawks became apparent as Self kept sending wave after wave of long, talented players onto the floor. And no matter what combination he used, Kansas never seemed to get too far out of rhythm, holding the Mountaineers at bay in the closing minutes.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Jayhawks celebrated in a businesslike manner -- as if they had known all along the outcome was inevitable. They shook hands with West Virginia, gathered together in front of the bench and patiently awaited their coronation as the league's best one more time.

"It probably was not the most artistic game, but both teams competed hard," Self said. "They had a guy that played unreal and we had a couple of guys that did as well, but it was a good game, and a game that was tough, and I'm certainly very proud of our team."

ALL-TOURNAMENT

Graham was joined on the all-tournament team by Ellis and Williams, while Iowa State forward Georges Niang and Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield rounded out the five-man squad.

TIP-INS

West Virginia: Williams was 9 of 12 from the field and 13 of 15 from the foul line. ... The Mountaineers finished 2 of 15 from beyond the arc. ... West Virginia did not block a shot in the game.

Kansas: Frank Mason III appeared to hurt his hip, though he never left the game. The starting guard had four points and seven assists. ... Kansas has won 30 games in six of the past eight seasons.

UP NEXT

West Virginia heads home for Selection Sunday.

Kansas awaits a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Southern Jaguars: 2015-16 SWAC Men's Basketball Champions



HOUSTON -- Southern University coach Roman Banks didn't want to say that his team wasn't motivated in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game last season when the Jaguars were ineligible to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

He did acknowledge, however, that his team had a little something extra in this year's game knowing what the prize for winning would be.

Adrian Rodgers made a jump shot with 17 seconds left to lift Southern to a 54-53 victory over Jackson State on Saturday night, clinching the Jaguars' first NCAA appearance since 2013.

Southern reached the title game by knocking off top-seeded Texas Southern in the semifinal game Friday night. The Jaguars lost to Texas Southern in the title game last season in a year in which they were ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because of Academic Progress Rates restrictions.

"I could see the difference in our practice and our mindset," Banks said. "They were a little bit more focused. You could see the extra energy and the extra push through."

Trelun Banks, who was named tournament MVP, scored 19 points for Southern (22-12), which is making its ninth trip to the NCAA tourney. He was asked what it means to get to play in the tournament with his father coaching him.

"I didn't want to do it for me," he said. "I really wanted to get it done for my dad. For the hard work and things he's been through."

It was a wild back-and-forth game that featured several lead changes in the final minutes. Raeford Worsham put Jackson State (19-15) on top with a layup with 33 seconds left before the shot by Rodgers put Southern ahead -- to stay.

The Tigers had a chance to win it, but missed two shots in the final seconds.

They were very emotional after the game, with coach Wayne Brent unable to finish his opening statement because he was fighting back tears and Paris Collins resting his head on the table and sobbing for long stretches during postgame interviews.

Collins said he was responsible for Rodgers when he made the winning shot.

"It just hurts when you play that hard on somebody and one slip-up just takes the dream away," he said.

Worsham led Jackson State with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Rodgers finished with seven points and 11 rebounds, and Shawn Prudhomme added 10 points.

The game was tied when Collins made a 3-pointer with less than two minutes left to make it 51-48.

Banks made a pair of free throws after that to cut the lead to 1 and Christopher Hyder added two more free throws to put Southern up by 1 before the layup by Worsham.

Hyder stole the ball on the ensuing possession and was fouled. He made both free throws with 43 seconds left to give Southern a 52-51 lead.

Southern hadn't scored in more than four minutes when Javeres Brent made one of two free throws with 4 1/2 minutes left to cut the lead to 48-43. It was the first of six straight points for the Jaguars, capped by a 3-pointer by Banks, that tied it at 48 with 2:18 remaining.

Jackson State trailed by 3 after a pair of free throws by Rodgers with about 8 1/2 minutes remaining. The Tigers scored the next nine points, with the first four from Worsham to take a 48-42 lead with just under five minutes remaining.

The Jaguars missed six shots during that time to help Jackson State build the lead.

Southern led by as many as eight in the first half, but Jackson State had cut the lead to 24-22 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Jackson State: Collins finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. ... Specks had eight points. ... Chace Franklin scored nine points and had a block.

Southern: Scored 16 points off 12 turnovers by Jackson State. ... Southern's bench outscored Jackson State's 15-4. ... Made four of 14 3-pointers.

CELEBRITY GUEST

Jacoby Jones, who made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2012, attended many of the tournament's games this week and was in the front row for Saturday's contest. Jones is from New Orleans, but didn't go to Southern, instead attending tiny Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, before he was drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round of the 2007 draft.

UP NEXT

Jackson State: Expects an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Southern: Prepares for the NCAA Tournament.

Fresno State Bulldogs: 2015-16 Mountain West Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Back in October, during the Mountain West media days, Fresno State's Marvelle Harris said he wasn't thinking much about being voted as the preseason player of the year.

Honored, yes. But he had one goal in mind: to lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament.

Harris came through, scoring 18 points to lead his team to a 68-63 victory over San Diego State to win the Mountain West Tournament title and earn its first NCAA berth since 2001.

"It was incredible. Greatest feeling I've had in my whole basketball career," Harris said. "It's a big win for the program, community, fans, everyone. And it's just a great feeling. You're overwhelmed and you just kind of -- unbelievable."

San Diego State had a chance to tie the game with 28 seconds left, but Dakarai Allen missed the second of two free throws, and Bulldogs guard Julien Lewis drained four straight foul shots to put the game out of reach.

Karachi Edo scored nine points, while Lewis had eight points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs.

No. 2-seed Fresno State (25-9) beat the top-seeded Aztecs for the second time in three meetings this season.

"We outplayed them twice, so we knew they knew us," Harris said. "We knew their scouting report, so it was going to come down to players making plays. And I think in the final few minutes that's what happened."

And Edo made one of the biggest, when he blocked Jeremy Hemsley's shot with eight seconds left. Lewis grabbed the rebound, was fouled immediately and sealed the win.

"You can coach all you want, you better have some guys that can make some plays and get some things done," Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said.

San Diego State (25-9) will likely settle for the league's automatic bid to the NIT by virtue of winning the regular-season title.

The Aztecs were led by Malik Pope, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Winston Shepard, who added 15.

Though the Aztecs outscored Fresno State 38-18 in the paint, they suffered from poor shooting in the second half, hitting just 11 of 30 (36 percent), after hitting 48 percent in the first half.

"As disappointed as we are and I am, I'm 10 times more proud of who we are and what we've done and how we've done it," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "We had chances. We didn't lose, we got beat. We fought. Fresno won the game."

Fresno State took advantage of 15 Aztecs miscues, scoring 18 points off turnovers, while its bench outscored San Diego State's, 18-13.

"We just didn't take care of the ball like we should have (at the end of the game)," Shepard said. "We should have been better with it."

Though Harris only scored four in the second half, they were big points, as he nailed a huge putback while falling down to start a 6-0 run that eventually tied the game at 52-all.

Moments later, with the Bulldogs down two, his layup sparked a game-closing 16-9 run that provided the final margin.

Harris, who was also the league's regular-season MVP, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

TWO FOR THE MONEY:

With Fresno State's win, the Mountain West's No. 2 seed improved to 8-1 in championship games, and 32-8 overall. The last No. 2 seed to win the title was in 2014, when New Mexico defeated San Diego State, 64-58.

TIP-INS

Fresno State: Harris, who averaged 22.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.6 steals during the regular season, finished the Mountain West tournament averaging 17.7 points in three games.

San Diego State: Pope averaged just 6.3 points per game during the regular season, but had his coming out party in the tournament, in which he averaged 14 points and 7.3 rebounds. His double-double was just his second of the season.

UP NEXT:

Fresno State receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

San Diego State receives the league's automatic bid to the NIT.

Seton Hall Pirates: 2015-16 Big East Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- Kevin Willard was being interviewed on live television when Isaiah Whitehead and a couple of his Seton Hall teammates ran up and started rubbing the coach's shaved head.

You can do that when you just led your team to its first Big East Tournament title in 23 years.

"Awesome. It's absolutely awesome. It's beyond words," Willard said. "I'm so happy for these kids. ... They worked so hard, I'm just so happy for them."

Even the ones who interrupted the interview.

Whitehead earned tournament MVP honors after scoring 26 points, including the deciding three-point play with 18 seconds left, as the Pirates beat No. 3 Villanova 69-67 on Saturday night.

Whitehead drove hard on the right side, flipped the ball in softly off the glass and was fouled. His free throw gave the Pirates a 68-67 lead.

Villanova had two more chances sandwiched around a free throw by Angel Delgado, but the Pirates held on to beat the defending champions in front of a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden.

"This whole year Coach has been raving about just making winning plays and making winning plays," Whitehead said. "I really just attacked the basket. I felt I had an opportunity to score the ball. I mean, I saw Kris Jenkins coming over and I knew that he wouldn't be able to get in position fast enough for me to draw a charge. I just tried to lay it in on him."

It was Seton Hall's third Big East Tournament title, the others coming in 1991 and 1993. The third-seeded Pirates (25-8) earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, their first berth in 10 years.

And they did it by beating No. 5 Xavier in the semifinals and then Villanova for the title.

"Whoever we play just better watch out," Whitehead said. "We really defend at a high level. When we get on the break, it's hard to stop us. It really doesn't matter who we play; we're up for the challenge."

Seton Hall led for almost the entire game, going ahead by 14 points in the first half and 11 at halftime. The top-seeded Wildcats (29-5) finally started hitting from 3-point range in the second half. They tied it four times before finally taking their first lead since 3 minutes into the game when Jenkins' 3-pointer gave them a 67-64 lead with 50 seconds to play.

A free throw by Whitehead 8 seconds later made it a two-point game and Villanova didn't score again, turning the ball over once and missing three shots, including one that fell short at the buzzer from Ryan Arcidiacono.

"We wanted Villanova, we got `em and we beat `em," Whitehead said.

Whitehead wasn't perfect -- the sophomore guard had eight of the Pirates' 13 turnovers. But he was still giving his coach some grief well after the game.

Willard was asked why he didn't go up the ladder and cut down the nets with the team, and Whitehead jumped in.

"He was scared he was going to fall," Whitehead said.

Desi Rodriguez added 12 points for the Pirates, and Derrick Gordon had 10.

Jenkins led the Wildcats with 23 points, and Josh Hart had 17. Arcidiacono scored five and was 2 for 10 from the field, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range.

"Great college basketball game. Just awesome to be a part of it. The Garden was rocking," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We just got beat by a team that played better than us tonight. They played a great first half. We played a great second half, and then down the stretch, they made the plays and we didn't. Some of the reasons we didn't is because they made some great defensive plays."

Seton Hall built its 40-29 halftime lead by taking advantage of eight Villanova turnovers, three off the team's average for a game. The Pirates shot 56.7 percent in the half (17 for 30) while the Wildcats shot 44.4 percent (12 for 27), including 2 of 9 from 3-point range.

"We definitely dug ourselves in the hole in the first half," Arcidiacono said. "They played really well. We didn't execute our game plan. You have to give them credit for the way they played. We grinded. We had a shot to win. We were up two. They called it a block, and one."

ALL-TOURNEY

In addition to Whitehead, the all-tournament team included Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo of Seton Hall, Hart and Jenkins from Villanova, and Trevon Bluiett of Xavier.

CITY LIGHTS

The Empire State Building was lit in red and blue in honor of the Big East Tournament. It was the fourth time in the last five years the building has been lit in the conference's colors on the night of the championship game.

TIP-INS

Seton Hall: Whitehead has scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games. ... Gordon is the only player on the roster who was born the last time Seton Hall won the Big East championship. ... The Pirates entered this season with five wins total over Top 5 teams. They have three this season.

Villanova: The Wildcats were 20 of 38 from beyond the arc in the first two tournament games (52.6 percent). They were 8 of 23 on Saturday (34.8 percent). ... The Wildcats' only Big East Tournament titles came in 1995 and last season.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: NCAA Tournament.

Villanova: NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina Tar Heels: 2015-16 ACC Men's Basketball Champions



WASHINGTON -- Thanks to the sort of defensive dominance coach Roy Williams has been seeking, North Carolina's longer-than-usual wait for its latest ACC tournament championship is over.

Now the Tar Heels can turn their focus to returning to their customary results in the NCAAs too.

No. 7 North Carolina held No. 4 Virginia without a field goal for more than 8 minutes in the second half to break open a back-and-forth Atlantic Coast Conference final, and tournament MVP Joel Berry II scored 19 points Saturday night, giving the Tar Heels a 61-57 victory for their first league title since 2008.

Since then, Williams had led the Tar Heels to four ACC finals -- in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 -- and lost each one. Even Virginia owned a more recent ACC trophy, from 2014.

Marcus Paige added 13 points to help North Carolina (28-6) win its 18th league championship.

Malcolm Brogdon led Virginia (26-7) with 15 points, but the conference player of the year was limited to 6 of 22 on field-goal attempts, 2 of 9 on 3s. In all, Carolina held the Cavs to 37 percent shooting.

Now comes the NCAA tournament and an all-but-certain No. 1 seeding that often feels like a birthright for the kids who wear Carolina blue. UNC hasn't been to the Final Four since winning its second national title under Williams in 2009 -- which would not seem all that long ago for most schools but feels like a lifetime to the folks from Chapel Hill.

Virginia would have been a No. 1 with a victory Saturday, it seems clear, but now who knows where the Cavaliers will end up when the brackets come out Sunday?

Paige only scored four in the first half but he took over at the beginning of the second for UNC, continuing the resurgence he began in Friday's semifinal. So much for his supposed slump. The lithe guard scored nine of 10 points for the Tar Heels in one stretch, including a steal and end-to-end drive for a layup, a jumper as he curled around a screen and a pull-up floater.

Then Berry got going on offense, while the entire Tar Heels squad displayed the sort of defensive toughness and will that Williams has been begging to see consistently.

After Anthony Gill put Virginia ahead 44-40 with a little under 10 minutes left in regulation, the Cavaliers missed their next 12 shots, part of a larger 2-for-20 rut. That allowed UNC to go on a 15-2 run capped by Brice Johnson's putback layup for a 55-46 lead with under 2 minutes to go -- the largest margin for either team.

Virginia would cut it to two in the closing moments, but UNC held on.

It was a similar defensive shutdown to the one North Carolina used to fuel a 24-point run that put away Notre Dame in the semifinals Friday.

These were the top two seeds in the conference tourney -- UNC finished atop the standings, UVA was No. 2 -- and both teams are capable of playing shutdown defense.

Virginia, best known for that aspect of its game, ranks second nationally in opponents' scoring average at a hair under 60 points, while UNC only allowed one foe to shoot better than 50 percent all season and held semifinal opponent Notre Dame scoreless for 9 1/2 minutes.

So not surprisingly, they were quite good at forcing the other into problems on offense right from the outset Saturday.

North Carolina turned the ball over eight times in the first 12 1/2 minutes. Virginia missed its first four shots and started 4 for 13 on field-goal attempts.

All in all, it was evenly matched, high-level basketball. For a half-plus, anyway.

The teams were tied at 28 at halftime, and were each other's equal in various other ways to that point. Each had 14 rebounds. Each had 16 points in the paint. Each held the other under 30 percent on 3-point tries.

Very clean, too: Only six combined fouls were whistled in the opening half, providing the sort of continuity that's a rarity these days in college basketball.

BEEN A WHILE

The previous four ACC titles had been won by a school from outside of the North Carolina center of power: FSU in 2012, Miami in 2013, Virginia in 2014, Notre Dame in 2015. That drought was the longest for that state in league history.

TIP-INS

North Carolina: Now only one behind Duke's ACC record of 19 titles. ... This was the Tar Heels' 34th appearance in an ACC final, most in conference history. ... Over the past 13 years, UNC has appeared in seven ACC finals -- against seven different schools.

Virginia: This was the Cavaliers' eighth ACC final; they beat UNC in 1976 and Duke in 2014. ... Beat North Carolina 79-74 on Feb. 27.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: NCAA tournament.

Virginia: NCAA tournament.