Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Gonzaga Bulldogs: 2015-16: West Coast Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Eric McClellan scored 20 points, Kyle Wiltjer added 17 and Gonzaga took the guesswork out of its 18th straight NCAA tournament appearance by beating Saint Mary's 85-75 Tuesday night in the West Coast Conference championship game.

Despite sharing the WCC regular-season crown, Gonzaga (26-7) was not a lock to make the NCAA tournament. The Zags had a few smudges on their resume, so winning the WCC would make for a much easier Selection Sunday.

They took the suspense out of it with a balanced attack and by shooting 61 percent in the latest installment of this rivalry. Josh Perkins scored 16 points and Domantas Sabonis added 15 for Gonzaga.

Saint Mary's (27-5) tried to keep up with the Bulldogs' shooting, making 12 of 25 from 3-point range, but will have to hope its resume is good enough for an NCAA tournament berth.

Emmett Naar had 25 points and Joe Rahon added 16 for the Gaels.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary's are no strangers to the WCC title game, meeting in the final for the eighth time since 2004.

The difference this time was the favorite.

In the past, it was always Gonzaga. The Zags have been the dominant force in the WCC and beat Saint Mary's five times in seven games with the tournament title on the line.

This season, the Gaels had the edge heading into Las Vegas. They swept Gonzaga during the regular season for the first time since 1995 and entered the WCC tournament as the No. 1 seed.

The third leg of this season's rivalry was an offensive showcase, the teams combining to hit 13 of their first 14 shots, revving up the already-amped atmosphere inside Orleans Arena even more.

The Zags gained some separation with a bit of defense.

Gonzaga didn't exactly keep the Gaels from making shots -- they went 13 of 26 in the first half -- but did harass them into turnovers that set up shots in transition.

The Zags outscored Saint Mary's 15-4 on points off turnovers and hit 18 of 26 shots to lead 43-35 at halftime.

The torrid shooting continued in the second half and the Gaels cut down on the turnovers, allowing them to keep up with the Zags in an entertaining second half.

Gonzaga used a mini spurt capped by McClellan's straightaway 3-pointer to push the lead to 75-67 with just over 2 minutes left and kept its cushion from there.

TIP INS

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs lead the all-time series against Saint Mary's (63-29) ... Gonzaga has not missed the NCAAs since 1998.

St. Mary's: The Gaels had eight total turnovers, leading to 20 points for Gonzaga. ... Evan Fitzner had 11 points.

WHAT'S NEXT

Gonzaga will play in the NCAA tournament.

St. Mary's must wait to see if it gets an NCAA at-large bid on Sunday.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits: 2015-16 Summit League Men's Basketball Champions



SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Freshman forward Mike Daum scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds Tuesday night to lead South Dakota State to a 67-59 win over North Dakota State to capture the Summit League championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Deondre Parks added 14 points for the Jackrabbits (26-7), who advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past five years.

Carlin Dupree led North Dakota State (20-13) with 19 points, and Khy Kabellis added 17 for the Bison.

Much of the early matchups inside the paint centered on a couple of freshman forwards -- the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Daum for the Jackrabbits and the Bison's big guy, 6-foot-6, 240 pound Dexter Werner. Werner scored nine points for the Bison.

TIP-INS

Tuesday night's Summit League title game highlighted two of the best defensive teams in the conference. North Dakota State has been holding opponents to an average of 64.4 points per game this season, best in the Summit League. South Dakota State has held its foes to a 41.5 shooting rate this season, best in the conference.

UP NEXT

The Jackrabbits will learn their NCAA Tournament opponent on Sunday.

The Bison will have to wait and see if they'll get an invitation to a postseason tournament.

Green Bay Phoenix: 2015-16 Horizon League Men's Basketball Champions



DETROIT -- Linc Darner is speeding into the NCAA tournament in his first season as Green Bay's coach.

Jordan Fouse scored 16 points, and the Phoenix wrapped up a spot in the NCAAs for the first time since 1996 by beating Wright State 78-69 on Tuesday night in the Horizon League title game. Darner took over at Green Bay after leading Florida Southern to the Division II national championship last year, and his up-tempo style worked wonders as his team won four games in four days in the Horizon tournament.

"These guys have believed in our system all year," Darner said. "I think a lot of people probably thought, 'Well, you can't win the big ones playing the way you guys play.' I think they proved everybody wrong with that."

Charles Cooper added 15 points for the Phoenix, who jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half. Green Bay (23-12) and Wright State (22-13) were in the championship game after beating top-seeded Valparaiso and second-seeded Oakland the previous night.

Michael Karena scored 14 points for Wright State. The Raiders were able to control the tempo against high-scoring Oakland in the semifinals, winning that game 59-55, but they were playing catch-up throughout against Green Bay.

"All year we kept hearing, 'They aren't going to be able to win. That style isn't going to be able to win in a tournament setting,'" Fouse said. "That's just not right. Coach said it from the beginning -- nobody wants to see us when we have to play four games in four days -- and he was right."

Jamar Hurdle's basket capped a 13-0 run that gave the Phoenix an early 17-6 lead, and Green Bay led by as many as 15 points in the first half. Wright State missed 14 of 15 shots during one stretch, and although the Raiders recovered a bit from their slow start, they were down 42-30 at halftime.

"We kept thinking, 'They're going to fall. There's going to be a time that (the shots are) going to fall,'" Wright State guard Grant Benzinger said. "I guess right now it starts to set in that, yeah, we didn't shoot the ball like we could."

Wright State could never cut into its deficit all that much in the second half. Cooper's one-handed dunk on a fast break made it 60-41 with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Wright State was playing in the title game for the third time in four years, but hasn't made it to the NCAA tournament since 2007.

Green Bay beat Valpo 99-92 in overtime Monday, and the Phoenix came into Tuesday averaging 84 points a game. They were held below that figure, but not by much. According to kenpom.com, Green Bay is the most fast-paced offensive team in the country.

Both teams were playing their fourth game in four days, after Valpo and Oakland were given byes to the semifinals. Wright State shot 37.5 percent from the field Tuesday, a far cry from the patient execution that enabled the Raiders to beat Oakland.

Wright State's JT Yoho, who played a big role in the semis, scored eight points in the final on 2-of-17 shooting.

FAMOUS FAN

The Phoenix apparently caught the attention of another Green Bay star. A message on Aaron Rodgers' Twitter account that said "Let's go UWGB" showed up Tuesday night.

RUN WITH THEM

Wright State coach Billy Donlon said he felt his team needed to slow the game down against Oakland, but he was comfortable with a more up-tempo approach against Green Bay.

"Green Bay and Oakland are different animals for us," Donlon said. "We don't have a problem trying to score with Green Bay. ... The way I talked about it with our players was, 'We have to attack this game.'"

TIP-INS

Green Bay: The Phoenix improved to 12-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. ... Green Bay lost to Valpo 54-44 in last year's Horizon final.

Wright State: The Raiders led only once, at 6-4.

UP NEXT

Green Bay will hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Donlon said he thinks Wright State is an NIT-caliber team, but he is not really expecting to receive a bid to that tournament.

Fairleigh Dickinson: 2015-16 Northeast Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda gave a timeline on how his team was thinking of winning the Northeast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"In July it would have been a stretch," he said of a team that was coming off a losing season that saw them drop 15 straight at one point. "In November, December it wasn't a shock to think that anymore. We put Dayton on the board in July."

Dayton and the First Four is where the Knights are most likely headed after beating Wagner 87-79 on Tuesday night to win the NEC Tournament.

"Hey, it's a night in the lights of America and an opportunity to win," he said. "If we win a First Four game, a No. 1 seed has to go down sometime. It's going to happen. I'm not predicting it, but if you come out and guard us we'll drive by you and if you don't we'll shoot over you. I don't care who we play."

That was the formula for success against Wagner.

Darian Anderson scored 28 points and Earl Potts Jr. had 27 to lead FDU to its fifth NCAA Tournament bid and first since 2005.

Anderson had 18 points in the second half and Potts had 16 when the Knights took control on the way to their first NCAA bid since 2005, and the first under Herenda, who is in his third season.

Potts has the same idea as his coach in terms of the NCAA Tournament.

"Whoever we play is going to have a hard time," he said. "We can go and win a couple of games. We're just not going to show up."

Potts scored FDU's first nine points of the second half as it took the lead for good on his 3-pointer that gave the second-seeded Knights (18-14) the lead at 51-47.

They were ahead by as many as 10 points, the first time on a 3 by Marques Townes with 4:15 to play.

Anderson was 8 of 16 from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range, while Potts was 11 of 19, including 4 of 8 from long range. The Knights were 9 of 19 from 3-point range.

"We didn't play good defense in the first half but we got it right in the second half," Potts said.

Corey Henson led the top-seeded Seahawks (23-9) with 24 points, while Michael Carey had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Wagner finished 4 of 24 from 3-point range and 21 of 33 from the free throw line.

"We just didn't make shots and their effort kicked up a notch and ours didn't," Carey said. "I think it was effort."

The win was the fifth straight for the Knights and it ended Wagner's seven-game winning streak. The teams split the season series with Potts hitting a 3 at the buzzer to give the Knights an overtime win at Wagner.

The game was played before a packed, sellout crowd of about 2,100 at Wagner's Spiro Sports Center and the FDU fans in attendance rushed the court at the final buzzer.

"I knew our crowd would storm the floor," Anderson said. "We knew we had to make a lot of adjustments from last year to make this happen and we ended up doing so."

The first half started and ended about as different as possible.

The Seahawks opened the game on a 13-2 run, getting the ball inside the Knights' 2/3 zone for shots down low. FDU got as close as four points before the Seahawks again scored inside often to take a 31-20 lead with 3:35 left in the half.

The Knights, taking advantage of Wagner turnovers, closed the half on a 13-4 run to cut Wagner's lead to 35-33. Potts closed it with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left.

Both teams struggled from 3-point range in the first half, Wagner making 3 of 11 and the Knights just slightly better at 3 for 10.

"They made a couple of tough 3s and a couple of bombs," Wagner coach Bashir Mason said. "There's no way I'm going to let our season be defined by one game."

TIP-INS:

FDU: The Knights are the third-youngest roster in Division I with two redshirt juniors and all sophomores and freshmen. ... FDU last played in the NEC title game in 2006. ... FDU's NCAA appearances were 1985, 1988, 1998 and 2005. ... The Knights reached the title game with wins over St. Francis, Pa. and Mount St. Mary's. ... FDU's Director of Basketball Operations is Pete Lappas, the son of former Villanova and Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas.

Wagner: This was the first time Wagner hosted the championship game since 2003. ... The Seahawks reached the title game with wins over Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn. ... The 87 points were the most allowed by Wagner this season.

UP NEXT:

FDU: NCAA Tournament.

Wagner: NIT.