Saturday, April 14, 2018

Live Blog: Paris Saint-Germain vs. AS Monaco



Unai Emery's Paris Saint-Germain are closing in on winning their seventh Ligue 1 title but they must once again take care of business against Leonardo Jardim's AS Monaco, the defending league champions, whose last stand could very much be at Le Parc des Princes. This is part of a triple-header on The Bedlam on Baltic Avenue in this, the first-ever live blog of a sports event after several months of not posting a live blog on 24liveblog. Our other two matches include Montpellier-Bordeaux and Troyes-Marseille. The live blog starts at 0000 UTC-8 on April 15.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cosmo



Où sont les filles, les femmes au tempérament de guerrière
Oui qui savent comment faire la fête qu'elles soient mères ou célibataires?
Où sont les hommes, les gangstas, les pauvres ou les millionnaires
Les bobos, les mecs en survets, les intellos les mecs en fumette?
Où sont les quartiers, les blocs, les HLM mis de côtés
Les résidences, les quartiers UP, les 205, les Audi TT?
Où sont les blacks, les blancs, les jaunes, les verts, les rouges et les gris?
Loin des amalgames politiques, bienvenue en Cosmopolitanie, oui!
Montre moi comme tu es, ce soir est un jour de paix! (Aha)
Montre toi comme tu es, ce soir pas de tenue exigée! (Aha)
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala...



Ce soir c'est rap, c'est funk, R'n'B ou bien électro
Variété, reggae, rock'n roll, coupé décalé zouk et dancehall
Ce soir c'est boxe, c'est foot, c'est Messi et Ronaldo,
Lebron James et automoto, c'est Sangoku et les Naruto
Ce soir c'est Kalash posées, ce soir c'est mariage métissé
Les chauves, les crêtes, les cheveux frisées
Les blondes, les brunes, les cheveux tissés
Ce soir c'est love, and peace!
Unis grâce à la musique,
Loin des amalgames politiques, ce soir plus personne ne nous divise, oui!
Montre moi comme tu es, ce soir est un jour de paix! (Aha)
Montre toi comme tu es, ce soir pas de tenue exigée! (Aha)
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala...



Eh, eh, fais moi rêver
Eh, eh, les bras levés
Eh, eh, unis on va très haut, très haut
Eh, eh, fais moi rêver
Eh, eh, tous mélangés
Eh, eh, unis on est trop beau (Trop beau)!



Eh, eh, fais moi rêver
Eh, eh, les bras levés
Eh, eh, unis on va très haut, très haut
Eh, eh, fais moi rêver
Eh, eh, tous mélangés
Eh, eh, unis on est trop beau (Trop beau)!

Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala
Lalalala...


Monday, April 09, 2018

ISML 2018: The Bedlam's Nomination List

Crutch Karsten (Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu))
Felix Argyle (Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu))
Glenn Radars (Rokudenashi Majutsu koushi To Akashic Record)
Rumia Tingel (Rokudenashi Majutsu koushi To Akashic Record)
Beatrice (Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu)
Sistine Fibel (Rokudenashi Majutsu koushi To Akashic Record)
Suzukaze Aoba (NEW GAME!)
Takimoto Hifumi (NEW GAME!)
Ayano Keiko (Sword Art Online)
Sakura Nene (NEW GAME!)
Tedeza Rize (Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka?)
Kafuu Chino (Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka?)
Hoto Cocoa (Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka?)
Willem Kmetsch (SukaSuka)
Hashima Izumi (Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata)
Makise Kurisu (Steins;Gate)
Kaname Madoka (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)
Akemi Homura (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)
Tomoe Mami (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)
Yukihira Soma (Shougeki No Soma)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Villanova: 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Champions



SAN ANTONIO -- When he wasn't dribbling behind his back, winking to the TV announcers, stuffing shots or dishing out assists, Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo was making it rain.

First, 3-pointers.

Later on, confetti.

The redhead kid with the nickname Big Ragu came off the bench to make five 3s and score 31 points Monday to lift `Nova to another blowout victory in the NCAA Tournament -- this time 79-62 over Michigan for its second national title in three seasons.

The sophomore guard had 12 points and an assist during a first-half run to help the Wildcats (36-4) pull ahead, then scored nine straight for Villanova midway through the second to snuff out the Wolverines. He capped the second shooting skein with a 3-pointer from a step behind the arc. He punctuated it with a knowing wink over to the sideline, where TV announcers Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery were sitting.

Yep, he knew he could do it. And his teammates were more than willing to let him steal the show.

"If someone's hot, feed `em," said Jalen Brunson, the national Player of the Year, who finished with nine points and was perfectly fine with playing a supporting role on this night.

In taking the program's third overall title, Villanova won all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that rare air.

The last team to win its two Final Four games by 16 or more: UCLA in 1968. During the dynasty.

One key question: Does Jay Wright's team belong on the list of the best of all-time?

Maybe so, considering the way Villanova dismantled everyone in front of it in a tournament that was dripping with upsets, underdogs and at least the appearance of parity.

Maybe so, considering the Wildcats won in seemingly every way imaginable. This victory came two nights after they set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers (they had 10 in this one), and one week after they relied more on defense in a win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight.

"We don't really look at it that way," Wright said. "We don't look at it as, did we just dominate that team? No. We played well."

And really, that debate's for later.

DiVincenzo squashed any questions about this game with a 10-for-15 shooting night -- 5 for 7 from 3 -that was, frankly, better than that. He was a no-doubt winner of the Final Four's most-outstanding-player award.

With Michigan trying to stay in striking range early in the second half, he opened his game-sealing run with an around-the-back dribble to get to the hoop and get fouled. On the other end, he delivered a two-handed rejection of Michigan's Charles Matthews -- his second block of the game, to go with five rebounds and three assists -- when Matthews tried to bring it into the paint.

The 3 that capped things off came from a big step behind the arc and gave Villanova a 62-44 lead with 7:58 left.

"Honestly, I didn't look at the score at all," DiVincenzo said. "I didn't know how many points I had. I didn't know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me getting me open. And I was just feeling it."

About the only drama at the end was whether DiVincenzo could unwrap himself from his teammates' mob hug to hurl the ball underhanded toward the rafters after the buzzer. He succeeded there, too.

"Sometimes I think about whether I'm a good defender, because in practice, he makes me look bad," said junior Mikal Bridges, who likely made this his final audition for the NBA with a 19-point night on 7-for-12 shooting.

What a couple of months it's been for Philly. First the Eagles. Now this. The Super Bowl, though, was a classic. This one was only beautiful to one team.

Michigan (33-8) came out playing tough-nosed defense it relied on over a 14-game winning streak that got the Wolverines to their second final in six years.

Moe Wagner scored 11 early points to pick up where he left off in a dominating performance in the semifinal. Villanova started 1 for 9 from 3-point range. And yet, after DiVincenzo banged down a 3 from a step behind the arc for Villanova's second of the night, coach John Beilein looked at the scoreboard and saw his team behind, 23-21.

"The way DiVincenzo shot the ball, it was just incredible for us to try to win that game with the roll he went on," the coach said.

If his first 3 wasn't demoralizing enough, DiVincenzo made another, then took a bounce pass from Brunson for a dunk, then paid it forward with an assist to Spellman. It was part of a 23-7 run that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead at halftime; they never looked back.

DiVincenzo competed hard for a starting spot this year, but didn't win it. He made the best of it as a sixth man. Wright waited all of 52 seconds in the second half to get him back on the floor.

"It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don't care who gets the credit," Brunson said.


Though he didn't play in the 2016 Final Four, DiVincenzo got his fair share of credit for that title, too.

His season cut short because of a knee injury, he was healthy enough to run the scout squad for Villanova. Some on the team said he was better at doing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield than Hield himself.

But maybe a more apt comparison is to ... Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

DiVincenzo joins them in the rare club of players to crack 30 points while also shooting better than 66 percent from the floor in a Final Four game.

Northern Colorado: 2018 College Insider Tournament Champions



The University of Northern Colorado will have to make some extra room in its trophy case at Bank of Colorado Arena.

The trophy that the Bears' men's basketball team earned from winning Friday afternoon's CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament is bigger than usual.

In fact, it's made out of solid wood.

The Bears let 6-foot-9 redshirt senior Tanner Morgan hoist the trophy above the fans who stormed the floor after the victory.

"He's the tallest," said senior Andre Spight, whose career ended with a 23-point performance.

UNC's title comes two years after being hit with NCAA infractions for violations committed by the former coaching staff, and included not participating in postseason play last season.

"It doesn't make any difference," redshirt sophomore guard Jonah Radebaugh said. "We just kept working and kept winning."

The Bears needed a strong defensive effort in the final two minutes to secure the victory over the Flames, who traveled for all three of their CIT games.

"Nobody complained, not once," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "We went on the road for the first one, and the second one when it was announced we'd have to come here, we got ready."

McClain is close friends with UNC golf coach Roger Prenzlow, who called him to inform him that a sellout crowd was expected.

"I said 'great,' McClain said. "We've gone on the road and played in front of huge crowds and won in Oakland and we've been on television in front of big crowds before."

UIC senior forward Tai Odiase said UNC's overflow crowd was as much of an inspiration to the Flames as it was the Bears.

"It was great," Odiase said.

The Flames were set to retrace their travel path to get home, including a four-hour flight to Washington, D.C., followed by a three-hour bus ride to Chicago.

North Texas: 2018 College Basketball Invitational Champions




DENTON, Texas -- Roosevelt Smart has led North Texas all season, so it was no surprise that he was the most valuable player in the deciding Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational finals.

Smart, a sophomore who set UNT records for points and 3-point field goals this season, scored 25 points and made all 14 of his free throws in an 88-77 win over San Francisco on Friday night. The Mean Green were 32 for 43 from the line.

Smart said the free-throw success was no accident.

"Practice, really," he said. "After practice, we do this free-throw drill and got to make free throws."

The Mean Green trailed only once in the first half. They didn't panic when USF pulled within a point at 52-51 with 9:33 to play.

"We calmed down," UNT's A.J. Lawson said. "The season showed that we matured over time. In that situation, we could close a game just by calming down, passing the ball and hitting the open guy. Nobody tried to do anything spectacular and be a superhero."

First-year North Texas coach Grant McCasland called a timeout and set up a play for an unlikely player, Michael Miller.

"Mike was playing limited to no minutes at times, and all of sudden he steps in and makes some of the biggest shots," McCasland said. "I drew up a play for Mike. He went and caught it and got the basket."

Four of Smart's points came during an 8-1 run in the second half after USF rallied within 52-51. Smart made two free throws and then added two more when San Francisco coach Kyle Smith drew a technical foul.

"He loves to play, and he's a fantastic teammate," McCasland said.

The Mean Green lost the opener in the best-of-three matchup but won 69-55 Wednesday to set up the championship game.

They had lost seven of eight games before receiving their CBI bid.

The players, who had been planning for their spring break, won five of six in the tournament.

Frankie Ferrari led the Dons (22-17) with 19 points. Nate Renfro added 18 and Chase Foster had 12.

North Texas led 45-31 before USF began its comeback. Ferrari started the 20-7 run with two of his five 3-pointers in 11 attempts.

Jorden Duffy scored 14 points and Lawson and Miller each had 12 for UNT.

San Francisco played without center Matt McCarthy, who was injured in Game 2. In his place, Nick Loew and Jimbo Lull totaled eight points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

San Francisco: The Dons won their home game in the finals but lost both games at UNT. They stayed in the final game by making 12 3-pointers, bringing their season total to 333.


North Texas: The Mean Green had their first winning season since 2011-12. Their 20 wins were 12 more than a year ago. UNT had six 3-pointers for a season total of 302.

COULD RUSSELL BLOCK GREENE?

North Texas fans channeled the most famous athlete in each school's history with a sign that read, "Mean Joe Greene would have dunked on Bill Russell."

20-20 VISION

San Francisco has won 20-plus games in each of Smith's two seasons, and North Texas won 20 in McCasland's first season.

UP NEXT

San Francisco has had consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 1982. A third wouldn't be a stretch. Foster is one of only two Dons seniors.

North Texas also has only two seniors. "All the guys that played in this tournament, we return everybody," McCasland said. The CBI title could portend bigger things. The 2015 and 2016 champions, Loyola-Chicago and Nevada, reached at least the Sweet 16 in this season's NCAA tournament, with Loyola getting to the Final Four.

Penn State: 2018 National Invitation Tournament Champions



NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal 1980s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, filled the Garden for a decided crowd advantage.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

BIG PICTURE:

Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.


Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

BIG CROWD

The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Western Bulldogs: 2018 AFL Women's Premiers



FROM ladder stragglers to triumphant champions. The Western Bulldogs are the NAB AFL Women's premiers.

The Bulldogs completed their remarkable transformation with a fighting six-point win over Brisbane on a wet Ikon Park on Saturday.

The 4.3 (27) to 3.3 (21) triumph came with a spirited second half revival after the Dogs were held goalless in a scrappy first half played in steady rain.

After fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the final round last season, the Bulldogs rose to emulate the feats of the club's men's team two years ago.

Fittingly, brave midfielder Emma Kearney sealed the victory with a tackle on Lion Kaitlyn Ashmore late in the last quarter and she goalled from the free kick from 30m.



Lion Jess Wuetschner fought valiantly to keep her team within reach of the flag with two goals in the final term, the second cutting the margin to five points.

But Brisbane was fated to another heartbreaking Grand Final loss after falling to Adelaide by the same margin in the inaugural AFLW season's decider.

The Bulldogs' ball movement improved after half-time and a midfield dominance led by Kearney applied heat to the Lions backline.

"It was just adjusting to wet weather footy. At half-time the girls were calm and focused," Bulldogs coach Paul Groves said.

Their persistence finally paid off when Deanna Berry booted their first goal with a long shot on the run early in the third quarter. And when Aisling Utri hit the post with a hurried snap, the home team had edged ahead for the first time.

The Bulldogs controlled the critical third quarter and finally got the scoreboard ticking over. Kirsten McLeod, the replacement for suspended skipper Katie Brennan, kicked a goal with a hurried left foot shot from 20m.

"Clearly after half-time, they upped the ante in the middle and we didn't respond," Lions coach Craig Starcevich said.

"Their quality mids started to get their hands on it. They were clean when going forward and got the ball out the back and managed to score."



Monique Conti was a major contributor in the Bulldogs' third term comeback and the basketball point guard extended the lead to 13 points when a long shot on the run bounced through the unguarded goal just 15 seconds before the siren.

Conti, who won the medal for best on the ground, reflected the Dogs' turnaround after being lost in wet weather mode in the first half.

"I had to lift my game, get the ball on the ground. I just wanted to win, get it into our (forward) 50 and keep it in there," she said.

Brisbane dominated possession in a dour first half on what was a greasy surface after heavy pre-match rain. But they couldn't make the Bulldogs pay on the scoreboard.

"Last year was disappointing, this was frustrating because we thought we were all over them early and didn't hurt them," Starcevich said.

It took a precision centred pass from Wuetschner to find unmarked Sophie Conway virtually right in front midway through the opening quarter for what would be the only goal of the slogging first half.

But clean marks, particularly contested ones, were difficult in the tough conditions when players often worked the ball forward by simply soccering off the wet turf. And the slippery ball was hard to gather, even when a player wasn't under direct pressure from an opponent.

Lions defender Kate Lutkins is such a great reader of the play and she had a picnic sitting loose inside the defensive 50 to continually repel the frustrated Dogs. But, the defensive toil of Lutkins and Ally Anderson wasn't enough to lift their team over the line.




WESTERN BULLDOGS   0.1   0.1   3.2   4.3 (27)                 
BRISBANE LIONS         1.1   1.1   1.1   3.3 (21)         

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Berry, McLeod, Conti, Kearney
Brisbane Lions: Wuetschner 2, Conway

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Conti, Blackburn, Kearney, Birch, Spark, Bruton
Brisbane Lions: Lutkins, Stanton, Wuetschner, Zielke, Ashmore

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Brisbane Lions: Campbell (head knock)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Mirable, Howorth, Adair

Crowd: 7,083 at Ikon Park

AFLW Grand Final Best Player Voting
9 – Monique Conti, Western Bulldogs
8 – Kate Lutkins, Brisbane
5 – Ellie Blackburn, Western Bulldogs
1 – Emma Kearney, Western Bulldogs
1 – Ally Anderson, Brisbane

Monday, March 19, 2018

UCL: A Monologue To PSG Manager Unai Emery

This was originally meant to be published by The Stoppage Time. Since this was not published, I am posting it here and also on Tumblr. 

The fans depart, the teams depart, and the only ones in the stadium are the janitors cleaning the stands and the lights still being on. I enter the Parc des Princes pitch, still strewn with debris from the rage of the home fans, and in my hands is a bottle of Normandy cider. No wine or champagne tonight, the outcome dictates none of those drinks. Just cider. And a young local, a PSG youth academy product of 14 years, accompanies me on the field like youngsters accompany the heroes on the pitch during classic battles.

I tell the young lad, hold my cider, and he does. With this, I begin addressing the audience of a few grounds staff in practice but in reality, a certain fallen individual.



So the full time score reads, to my right: Paris 4, Real Madrid 2. Aggregate scoreline 5-5, Real Madrid advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on away goals 2-1. Based on this result, Unai Emery Etxegoien of Hondarribia, Spain, I, Jo-Ryan Salazar of Los Angeles, California and The Stoppage Time, welcome you with open arms, open hearts and open minds...to the beginning of the end of your managerial career with the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club of the 16th Arrondissement of Paris, France, with its administrative center based in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines.

I know, I know, you only saw me once, and that was at a prematch press conference for the International Champions Cup at StubHub Center in Carson, ahead of a 4-0 hammering of the Cinderellas of the Premier League, Leicester City Football Club, who are still hanging around (thankfully) in England's top flight. But that was two years ago. Ages ago. An eternity ago. Times have changed. And so I shall slowly walk the perimeter of this recovering pitch in my own pseudo-lap of honor to continue this spiel.



So why do I cover this team? Why do I follow, as my main European club, Paris Saint-Germain, a club that has never been relegated from Ligue 1 for nearly a half century and has won more trophies than any other club in French club football? I could be scrutinizing other clubs, like Chelsea (my main team in the Premier League), Juventus (the gold standard of Serie A), Bayern Munich (my main team in the Bundesliga)...heck, I could be ripping apart Brendan Rogers's tenure at Celtic in what is a similarly future European exercise. Celtic are my main team in Scotland.

First off, as mentioned, they have more silverware across all competitions than any other team in French club football. Secondly, PSG are meant to be an extension of one of the most influential cities in the world, Paris, a beacon of hope for the world's finest people, the French. PSG is the Finest People's Ally and it is up to the Rouge et Bleu to win not just for Paris but for all of France. A defeat of this magnitude to Paris Saint-Germain is a defeat for Ligue 1 and the entire French Republic. It is not meant to be trivialized.

Finally, Paris is a city built by skilled workers who honestly mastered their craft and leave an indelible impression. Like any self-respecting city, Paris demands that it hires reputable established employees. There are no fakers or fake news meant to be milling about in a genuine metropole like Paris, at least one would imagine.

Unai, I have been monitoring your body of work these past two seasons. You came into the 2016-17 campaign as a passenger and a hack with an unproven reputation, and you will exit the 2017-18 campaign the same way you came. A passenger. A hack. One who misused and mismanaged the big money signings, the talent, the names, and have actually allowed PSG to regress from their quarterfinal exits in the UEFA Champions League under Laurent Blanc. The French have a term for this: honteaux. Disgrace. In Spanish, that's verguenza or fracaso.

The handling of Kylian Mbappe's injury against Toulouse FC was scandalous in its own right, but nothing can compare to the way you treated Hatem Ben Arfa. Here was a player that could only do training and was ready to be called up but never got to play a minute in this last year of his contract because you did not let him. Hatem is Parisian through and through, like Lassana Diarra and Kylian Mbappe and others on PSG's first team. To only allow Hatem to take part in training and nothing else is damaging to his career. You forced him to be a passenger and by not allowing everyone to play this season, it has added to the case that you are not qualified to manage this group of playes.



As an aside, Neymar Santos Jr. realized that the pitch of Le Parc des Princes has a soul, and it chose to keep him in line as it was tired of the Brazilian king not respecting French club football. And so he is out for the remainder of the season, recovering from a broken foot after landing awkwardly on one of his ankles in a Ligue 1 duel against Marseille, who PSG dismissed on back-to-back 3-0 scorelines. That was not your fault, Unai, but just so you know, this stadium does have a soul, vibes, an aura, and it must be respected and paid hommage to.

That leads us to the next point, where does Paris Saint-Germain go from here as the endgame is now in full swing in the City of Light? Nasser Al-Khelaifi will undoubtedly allow you to finish the season, granted that no future cup ties end in defeat and very few draws or losses are incurred in Ligue 1. The only other opposition that stands a chance of defeating you is AS Monaco and they're already been out of European competition since Christmas. But even if Paris run the tables the rest of the way and win out, it does not change a single thing.



Unai Emery, Paris Saint-Germain is not to be managed by passengers or hacks. It needs proven names to keep the vein of silverwear going while getting over the Champions League hump that is the knockout rounds. Perhaps a future job awaits you in the lower leagues of Spain, or maybe a job analyzing or commenting on the game fits your fancy. But I cannot vouch for you anymore as the Parisians have regressed in European competition and you have wasted your oppotunity to harness the power of Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. This club is a  straightforward club to play for as a player, but a documented challenge as a manager, and you failed in this challenge.

I now complete my pseudo-lap of honor. This is where we have to say goodbye, Unai Emery, even though you will still undoubtedly be the gaffer, at least in name only, for the rest of the season. Your only legacy will have been the domestic trophies won at Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. But the true legacy are your eliminations to La Liga's power duo of FC Barcelona and the masters, the European and World Champions, the gold standard of the Real Madrid Club de Futbol of Madrid, Spain.

Adieu, addio, adios amigo. And make sure the door smacks you hard in the derriere on the way out. You will not be missed. Because even through these darkest of days, this is Paris, and Paris will always be magical. And with that, I retrieve my cider and make my exit from Le Parc des Princes into the cold, dark Parisian night.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cincinnati: 2017-18 American Men's Basketball Champions



ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gary Clark put Cincinnati ahead for good with a free throw with 4.3 seconds remaining and the eight-ranked Bearcats held on Sunday for a 56-55 victory over No. 21 Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship.

Clark finished with 20 points and the league regular-season champions rescued themselves for the second straight day with a stellar second-half performance, limiting Houston to 20 percent shooting and 18 points after halftime.

Cincinnati (30-4) earned the AAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with its first conference tournament championship since the Bearcats won Conference USA in 2004.

Houston (26-7), which split a pair of games against Cincinnati during the regular season, lost for just the third time in its last 15 games and is headed to the NCAA Tournament, too.

Rob Gray led the Cougars with 17 points but missed a long 3-pointer in the closing seconds, then had a turnover that cost Houston a chance to try to win the game after Clark made one of two free throws after rebounding Gray's miss.

Corey Davis Jr., who had 15 points for Houston, went scoreless after helping the Cougars to a 37-35 halftime lead. Devin Davis added 13, including a jumper and layup that turned a one-point deficit into a 55-52 lead with 1:34 remaining.

Kyle Washington's 3-pointer tied the game for the final time, setting the stage for a suspenseful finish.

Houston made just 6 of 30 shots in the second half. Gray finished six of 22 from the field after scoring 33 in the Cougars' victory over Wichita State in the semifinals. His unforced error, a wild pass behind teammate Galen Robinson Jr., sailed out of bounds with 1 second left.

Cincinnati didn't shoot the ball much better after halftime, going six for 18. That didn't stop the Bearcats from getting it done on the other end, though.

The Bearcats rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Memphis 70-60 in Saturday's semifinals, outscoring the Tigers 41-18 in the final 20 minutes.

Houston becomes the fourth team coach Kelvin Sampson has led to the NCAA Tournament, joining Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana. The Cougars appeared in the NIT the past two seasons.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, will receive its eighth straight NCAA berth under coach Mick Cronin, who is in his 12th season with the Bearcats.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The Cougars, who have won 12 of 15 following a 2-2 start to January, are one of the hottest teams in the country. That could make them dangerous entering the NCAA Tournament.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have been projected to be as high as a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That would be a first for the AAC, which has never had a team seeded higher than fourth (Louisville, 2014).

UP NEXT

Houston: Cougars await NCAA Tournament bid.

Cincinnati: Bearcats also await word on who they'll face in their opening game.

Kentucky: 2017-18 Southeastern Men's Basketball Champions



ST. LOUIS -- John Calipari kept telling anyone who would listen that this group of Kentucky freshmen just needed a little more time than most to figure things out.

That faith was shaken when the Wildcats lost four straight games last month. But they delivered on their coach's optimism on Sunday.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 29 points, and Kentucky beat No. 13 Tennessee 77-72 for its fourth straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.

It's the 31st title in tournament history for the Wildcats, whose No. 4 seed in the event was the lowest in Calipari's nine seasons at the school. The Wildcats (24-10) were one defeat away last month from what would have been the longest losing streak in the Calipari era, but they have won seven of eight since -- including their first in three tries this season against the No. 2 seed Volunteers.

All in all, it's a Kentucky group that appears primed for next week's NCAA Tournament.

"A month ago, I wasn't sure we'd be in the tournament," Calipari said. "And then I had to ask ... `Does everybody get to go to the SEC tournament?' I wasn't even sure we'd get here. But I come back to this: We needed to lose those games. We needed to lose four in a row."

Despite racing to a 17-point lead in the first half Sunday, the Wildcats' seemingly annual SEC Tournament coronation was delayed by a Tennessee team trying to win its first title in almost 40 years.

But Gilgeous-Alexander capped his tournament Most Valuable Player performance by hitting the clinching free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining, sending the overwhelmingly Kentucky crowd of 18,974 into a wild celebration. The freshman guard finished 10 of 16 from the field with seven rebounds and a pair of steals.

Kevin Knox had 18 points for the Wildcats, and Quade Green finished with 10.

"Shai has the ball in his hands a lot during the game, and he's really grown over the year and be able to get his points and get other people involved," Knox said. "I think right now he's playing his best basketball because he's one of our leaders."

Admiral Schofield had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee (25-8), which was attempting to win its first tournament championship since 1979. Grant Williams added 15 points, while Jordan Bone scored 12 and Lamonte Turner had 10.

COLD-SHOOTING VOLS

A night after hitting 11 of their first 12 shots and 76 percent (19 of 25) in the first half of a semifinal win over Arkansas , the Volunteers didn't fare nearly as well early on Sunday. They made only five of their first 25 shots and fell behind 33-16 midway through the first half. Schofield, however, responded by scoring Tennessee's final 13 points of the half, capping a 15-3 run that pulled the Volunteers within 36-31 at halftime.

"We started the game and dug ourselves a hole and, obviously, they were making some shots," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "We weren't playing the way we were capable of; we just weren't locked in."

BIG PICTURE



Kentucky: The championship game appearance was the fifth straight for the Wildcats and their eighth in nine seasons under Calipari. Kentucky is 22-3 in the SEC Tournament under Calipari.

Tennessee: The Volunteers were picked to finish 13th in the SEC during the preseason, but they finished as the co-regular-season champions with No. 16 Auburn. Regardless of Sunday's result, Tennessee already had a spot in next week's NCAA Tournament. The trip will make Tennessee the fourth school Barnes has taken to the tournament, joining Providence, Clemson and Texas.

UP NEXT

Both teams wait on their NCAA Tournament opponents.

Georgia State: 2017-18 Sun Bel Men's Basketball Champions



NEW ORLEANS -- D'Marcus Simonds didn't play like the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in Georgia State's semifinal victory against Georgia Southern.

He had six points and five turnovers in 28 minutes before fouling out of the Panthers victory Saturday. But he was back in form Sunday, scoring 27 points as GSU defeated Texas Arlington 74-61 to win the Sun Belt Tournament championship.

The second-seeded Panthers (24-10) will be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2015. Fourth-seeded UT Arlington, which upset Sun Belt regular-season champion Louisiana-Lafayette in the semifinals, fell to 21-13.

"He played probably the worst game of his life yesterday," GSU coach Ron Hunter said of Simonds. "I didn't say anything to him. I knew he would come back and dominate."

Simonds, who set the Panthers' single-season scoring record in the otherwise poor performance Saturday, was chosen the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Devin Mitchell added 13 points before fouling out, and Malik Benlevi scored 11 for GSU.

"I was kind of lackadaisical (in the semifinals)," Simonds said. "I could have done better. I put the weight on my shoulders to play better and I did."

The Panthers, who set school records for 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made this season, connected on 8 of 17 from beyond the arc. The Mavericks made 4 of 25 3-pointers and shot 29.8 percent (17 of 57) from the floor.

"We said before the game that if they shot 25 to 30 3-pointers we would win," Hunter said. "That would play into our hands by making it a perimeter game."

The Panthers held Troy to 31.1 percent (14 of 45) in the quarterfinals and Georgia Southern to 39.6 percent (21 of 53).

"We set a goal of holding every team that we played in the tournament to under 40 percent shooting, and we did that," Hunter said. "We said if we did that we'd be able to win."

Johnny Hamilton led the Mavericks with 23 points and 14 rebounds, Erick Neal scored 12, Kevin Hervey had 11 and Kaelon Williams 10. Neal, who had averaged a tournament-best 27.5 points in the previous two games, made 2 of 15 shots, including 1 of 9 3-pointers.

"We needed to be aggressive and get the ball to the basket and we weren't able to do that the way we needed to," UTA coach Scott Cross said. "We didn't have the type of energy that we needed. If you are not bouncing around or flying around defensively, it is going to be hard to win any basketball game. We forced shots and that led to easy baskets for them."

GSU led by three at halftime, but UTA twice cut the lead to one early in the second half. Simonds scored four points during an 11-1 run that gave the Panthers a 46-35 lead.

After Hamilton made a free throw, Benlevi scored five points to start an 11-2 run that put the Panthers in command.

"Basketball is a game of runs," Neal said, "and we didn't have enough runs today."



Simonds scored 10 points as GSU opened a 22-15 lead midway through the first half. Hevery made a 3-pointer for UTA before the Panthers scored eight consecutive points to take a 30-18 lead. Wilson's three-point play ended the run and Hervey and Neal each made a 3-pointer to get the Mavericks within 33-30 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

UTA: In its first appearance in the Sun Belt title game since joining the league in 2013-14, UTA fell short of what would have been its second trip to the NCAA Tournament.

GSU: After winning its second Sun Belt tournament title in four years, GSU takes a four-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT

UTA: Its season is over.

GSU: Waits to hear its destination in the NCAA Tournament.

Davidson: 2017-18 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Champions



WASHINGTON -- Bubble teams across the land were keeping an eye on the Atlantic 10 tournament final and Davidson, a school still waiting for its first victory in the NCAA tournament since Stephen Curry was leading the way.

The Wildcats were all too happy to disappoint those folks whose hopes hinged on their result Sunday.

Freshman Kellan Grady's go-ahead baseline floater with 74 seconds left ended a nearly 13-minute drought without a field goal for Davidson and lifted Curry's alma mater to a 58-57 victory over No. 25 Rhode Island for the A-10 title.

"I would say, 'I'm sorry,' but I'm not," said smiling senior Rusty Reigel, who was a freshman the last time Davidson participated in March Madness.

"We won, and we're going dancing, and I couldn't be happier for my guys and for everybody," added Reigel, fiddling with a piece of the net he had just helped cut down. "I just can't wait to get there next week."

Davidson (21-11) would not have gotten to join in the tournament fun with a loss Sunday.

Top-seeded Rhode Island (25-7), though, will be in the bracket despite coming up short in its try for a second conference tournament title in a row.

That means the Rams will take a bid from someone.

"I know some of the teams on the bubble probably aren't that happy with us right now, but we're playing for something," said A-10 rookie of the year Grady, who led Davidson with 17 points. "Our goal is to be playing our best in March, and we're really confident. Not only did we get there, but we think we can win in the tournament."

The Wildcats haven't done that since two-time NBA MVP Curry took the 2008 squad to victories over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before bowing out against Kansas in the Elite Eight.

This time, Davidson beat Rhode Island despite an 0-for-11 stretch that was closed by Grady's winning basket.

After he made that, Rhode Island had its chances to retake the lead. Among them: A baseline jumper by Stanford Robinson missed, but Grady stepped out with 10.8 seconds remaining while grabbing the rebound.

"Your heart kind of drops for a second," Grady said. "You realize you've got to guard for 10 more seconds. But we did another unbelievable job."

Reigel, whose brother is an assistant to coach Bob McKillop, saw the final opportunity for the Rams this way: "Pretty stressful. I was freaking out a little bit."

But with Grady forcing E.C. Matthews, who led Rhode Island with 20 points and eight rebounds, to his left, the Rams senior gave up the ball. Jeff Dowtin wound up trying a 3-pointer that missed.

It was Matthews' 3 with a little more than 3½ minutes left that capped an 11-point run and put Rhode Island ahead 56-52 before Davidson came back.

"Disappointing result there," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "Having that four-point lead makes it just hurt."


Peyton Aldridge, the A-10 co-player of the year, added 13 points and seven rebounds for third-seeded Davidson, which was playing in its first conference final since joining the league in 2014 from the Southern Conference.

"Whoever is going to draw them," Hurley said, looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, "is not going to want to see their name next to them."

BIG PICTURE

Davidson: Needed this victory for an NCAA bid, given that it entered the A-10 tourney with an RPI of 74, a 108th ranking in strength of schedule and a 3-6 record against Quadrant 1 teams. Now the Wildcats get to play on, taking away an at-large berth from someone.

Rhode Island: A conference championship would have been nice, but a trip to the NCAA tournament is going to happen, anyway. The bad news for the Rams is that they have lost four of their past eight games.

Pennsylvania: 2018: Ivy Men's Basketball Champions



PHILADELPHIA -- Sitting on top of the rim, clutching the net that was just cut down, Darnell Foreman couldn't help but think of all of the great Penn players who won championships before him.

After a long wait and an unlikely turnaround, the senior guard can add his name to that list.

Foreman scored 19 points, AJ Brodeur had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Penn earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 with a 68-65 win over Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament title game Sunday.

Ryan Betley added 17 points for the Quakers (24-8), who will be making their 24th appearance in the NCAAs.

"I wanted to be like Mike Jordan," Foreman said of the star Penn guard who led the Quakers to Ivy titles in 1999 and 2000. "Especially being a guard, you look at the past history of guards. The Ibby Jaabers, the Jerome Allens, even going back to Booney Salters. You want to be those guys. You want to be on the wall. You want that history. Now this team has it. This team is going to be remembered as the team that stopped the drought."

Senior Caleb Wood, a junior college transfer, drilled two straight 3-pointers, getting fouled on the second, to put Penn ahead 63-60 with 3:42 remaining. Betley followed with a 3-point play, before Harvard's Christian Juzang pulled the Crimson to 66-63 with a 3-pointer with 47.6 seconds to go.

Harvard trimmed Penn's lead to 66-65 on two Justin Bassey foul shots with 14.6 seconds left. But after Betley hit two free throws, Bassey and Juzang both missed potentially game-tying threes in the final seconds, and Penn fans rushed the court for a celebration a decade in the making.

"I didn't think it was possible for us to get to the NCAA Tournament until that horn went off," said third-year Penn coach Steve Donahue, who spearheaded the speedy turnaround after the Quakers sputtered through nine losing seasons in 10 years. "In a building I grew up in, and watching the kids storm the floor for our guys, (it was) magical. Unexpected, too."

Chris Lewis led Harvard (18-13) with 16 points, while Bassey had 15 and Seth Towns, the league's player of the year, finished with 13 before leaving the game with a knee injury with 8:20 remaining.

"Not having him on the floor certainly wasn't easy, but we still had opportunities to push through," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "And I'm very proud of my kids for battling through without Seth."

Harvard and Penn proved to be the top two teams in the Ivies this year after sharing the regular-season title with 12-2 conference records and then dominating Cornell and Yale, respectively, in Saturday's Ivy League Tournament semifinal games.

And after splitting their two regular-season meetings, both teams traded punches like heavyweight fighters in front of a packed crowd at the Palestra, Penn's home gym.

Fueled by a 16-0 run in which Penn was held scoreless for seven minutes, Harvard led 30-17 with five minutes left in the first half. That's when the Quakers turned things around, closing the first half on a 17-2 run capped by a Foreman 3-pointer right before the buzzer. Foreman, who sprinted right into the locker room as the Palestra crowd went wild, scored his 19 points all in the first half.

"That was huge for us," Brodeur said. "He gave us the spark we needed. That's just leadership."

The Quakers continued to surge after the break, with sophomore standouts Brodeur and Betley combining to score the first 11 points of the first half to put Penn ahead 45-32 and complete a 28-2 run spanning halves.

But trailing by 10 midway through the second half, Harvard reeled off a 13-0 run to take a 58-55 lead, sparked by 3-point plays from Bassey and Juzang.

Afterward, both coaches expressed amazement at the runs each teams made.

"I just thought the game had an incredible back and forth," Donahue said. "I had no idea we went on a 28-2 run -- that's crazy."

BIG PICTURE

Harvard: Despite Sunday's result, the Crimson continue to be the class of the Ivies with Amaker at the helm, having won six Ivy League championships since 2011 with NCAA Tournament wins in 2013 and 2014.

Penn: After rising to the top of the league faster than almost anyone expected, the Quakers are poised to remain there for a while with only two key players graduating and several highly touted underclassmen set to return from injury.

DANCING SHOES

Once a staple of the NCAA Tournament, Penn went to the tourney seven times between 1999 and 2007 before falling on hard times, due in large part to the rise of Harvard. The Quakers' last win at the Big Dance was in 1994 when they topped Nebraska in the first round, although they did put an upset scare into several teams since.

Can they do it again?

"I'll say this since I've been in the NCAA Tournament enough -- I don't know if you want to play someone like us," said Donahue, who led Cornell to the Sweet 16 in 2010. "We are older. We shoot the ball. We share the ball. And we're an elite defensive team. We can guard anybody. It's going to be fun."

PALESTRA MAGIC


Much has been made of the Ivy League Tournament being held at the Palestra since it began last year. But even if his Harvard team may have lost the home-court edge despite being the No. 1 seed, Amaker supports the decision.

"This place is considered one of the crown jewels of college basketball, and it's in our league," he said. "And that's a wonderful thing."

Donahue, who worked as a Penn assistant through the 1990s, has spent more time in the Palestra than most, and acknowledged the noise and atmosphere likely contributed to Penn's win.

"To me, there's nothing like this gym," he said.

UP NEXT

Harvard receives an automatic berth in the NIT by virtue of its top seed in the Ivies.

Penn is headed to the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cal State Fullerton: 2017-18 Big West Men's Basketball Champions



ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Kyle Allman scored 26 points, and Khalil Ahmad added 23 to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 71-55 win over UC Irvine Saturday in the Big West Tournament championship.

Allman was in a groove all game and had a glorious, two-handed breakaway dunk with 4:29 left to put the exclamation mark on the game. He made his first four 3-point attempts. That gave the fourth-seeded Titans a 65-49 lead. When he was at the free-throw line at the end of the game, Titans fans chanted "MVP! MVP!"

Allman made 8 of 16 shots.

Cal State Fullerton won the Big West tournament for the first time since 2008, making the Ttians' upcoming NCAA Tournament appearance the first in a decade and first under coach Dedrique Taylor.

After going scoreless in the semifinals, UC Irvine's Evan Leonard scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half.

Both teams suffered from poor shooting in the first half. The Titans shot 25.9 percent from the field and the Anteaters 30.3 percent.

CELEBRITY SIGHTING

Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball sat courtside for the championship game. Ball played high school basketball with UC Irvine forward John Edgar Jr. and Fullerton guard Austen Awosika at Chino Hills (California) High.

BIG PICTURE

Cal State Fullerton: The Titans made their mark this season by beating top seed UC Davis three times this year, including the Big West semifinals.

UC Irvine: As UC Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack said, the Anteaters are the "gold standard" of the conference. Even with a young team, the Anteaters advanced to the Big West Tournament final, so the future should be bight.

UP NEXT

Cal State Fullerton: The Titans are battle-tested, winning close games in the quarterfinals and semifinals to get to the championship but controlled the tournament championship most of the game.

UC Irvine: The Anteaters are putting themselves in good position in the offseason. They played for the tournament championship for the second consecutive season but lost both. The Anteaters have also played for the tournament title for the fourth time in six years.

New Mexico State: 2017-18 Western Athletic Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- Even with three different coaches in three years, New Mexico State keeps making NCAA Tournament appearances.

In the offseason, Chris Jans took over an already successful Aggies program after Paul Weir left for instate rival New Mexico. One year earlier, Marvin Menzies left for UNLV.

Jans got things organized during the season and rolling late as his Aggies once again won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship Saturday night with a 72-58 victory over upstart Grand Canyon at the Orleans Arena.

Zach Lofton scored 21 points, AJ Harris had 20, and Jemerrio Jones added 15 points and 18 rebounds to help New Mexico State win its fifth straight WAC Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We're going dancing," Jans said. "This was quite the journey. Hired a great staff and had to go to work everyday. Summer and fall were rough. There was lots of back and forth. We had to get on the right page. This group likes each other."

Jones was named tournament MVP. He had a tourney record of 55 rebounds in three games, while the previous record was set in four games with 53 by Boise State's Jason Ellis in 2005.

"I thought Zac would get (MVP)," Jones said. "I don't care about that. All I want to do is win."

The top-seeded Aggies (28-5) have won eight of their 13 appearances in the WAC Tournament.

"I don't care what seed they give us," said Jans, whose program has lost its last nine NCAA Tournament games, dating back to 1993. "This time, we have an experience bunch. They seed us where they seed us. Our guys are going to fight and be a tough matchup for anyone."

Alessandro Lever had 19 points to lead third-seeded Grand Canyon (22-11). Keonta Vernon had 17 points, while Casey Benson had nine points and seven rebounds for the Lopes, who were seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance in its first year of postseason eligibility after being in Division I for five years.

"It wasn't our night. It wasn't our time." Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle said. "I'm really, really proud of them. We've been waiting five years. It was a great year for our guys. We played real hard. We know what it's like to be here. Now there's something at the end (of the season)."

LOPES RALLY, AGGIES RALLY: After leading 36-22 early in the second half, the Aggies' lead was cut to 50-47 with 9:14 left. But New Mexico used a 6-0 run to keep distance from the Lopes the rest of the way.

The Lopes built their largest lead at 16-12 as both teams struggled offensively for the first 16 minutes. The Aggies responded with a 22-6 run, aided by four 3-pointers, two by Lofton. That run carried early into the second half.

"To credit them, we had a defensive breakdown (late in the first half)," Majerle said. "You have Jones, you have Lofton, and you have Jones going to get every rebound. Hats off to them. They have some really good players."

The Aggies swept the regular season, including winning at Grand Canyon 74-70 exactly one month ago.



New Mexico State: The Aggies are now 18-2 all-time at the Orleans Arena. .. Lofton also made the WAC All-Tournament team. . Lofton was ecstatic in the postgame press conference. "I'm so happy I came here," he said. "I didn't expect us to be that good. We had new hurdles, everything worked out."

Grand Canyon: The Lopes started 1 of 9 from 3-point range. ... Before Saturday, the Lopes defense has been key to their run, ranking fourth in the country in effective opponent field goal percentage at 43.7 percent. ... Lever and Vernon both made the all-tournament team. ... Grand Canyon may get an invitation from a smaller pay-to-play tournament. "It's something we have to talk about," Majerle said. "It will be more for our young guys."

UP NEXT

New Mexico State: The NCAA Tournament.

Grand Canyon: Wait for an invitation to a smaller tournament.

Texas Southern: 2017-18 Southwestern Athletic Men's Basketball Champions



HOUSTON -- Texas Southern started out 0-13 this season. Didn't win a game until Jan. 1. Never beat a nonconference opponent.

Who cares? The Tigers are going to the NCAA Tournament.

Trayvon Reed had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Demontrae Jefferson added 15 points and Texas Southern downed top-seeded Arkansas-Pine Bluff 84-69 Saturday in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

"We all came together at the right time, we all made a decision that winning basketball games were more important than anything else," coach Mike Davis said. "So being 0-13, it only bothered other people."

Texas Southern (15-19) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.

This is the Tigers' fourth appearance in the last five years. They're the only team since 1985 to reach the NCAA Tournament after starting 0-13.

"I can't wait for tomorrow," Davis said. "Let's get this selection Sunday going."

Last season, Texas Southern was ousted in the first round by eventual national champion North Carolina.

"I went last year and we came up short to North Carolina," Jefferson said. "I'm just trying to remain focused and know that this is just the beginning of the true March Madness."

Texas Southern will try and be the first team from the SWAC to win an NCAA Tournament game since 2010, when Arkansas-Pine Bluff beat Winthrop in the opening round.

"This year no matter who it is, we've got guys who can score points," Davis said. "We've got guys that can play. They don't fear anyone. We went to Kansas and Kansas beat us and all those teams beat us. But it wasn't like we were in the locker room shaking with nerves. We went out there and played our best basketball."

The Tigers also lost to Gonzaga and Clemson this season, and twice fell to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (14-20).

Trailing by nine at halftime, the Golden Lions closed to 57-55 with 11:05 left.

Texas Southern stayed in charge, and kept the lead from the foul line.

Jefferson scored six of the final 11 points for the Tigers, all on free throws. He finished 11 of 11 from the line.

"I didn't shoot the ball well in the SWAC Tournament," Jefferson said. "It was just trying to stay locked it. I couldn't really think about the makes and misses. Just taking the shots my team needed me to take, which were free throws tonight. So it was just get up there and knock those down for the team."

Arkansas Pine-Bluff struggled at the start and fell behind 22-11 midway through the first half.


"It's hard, especially playing against an outstanding team like Texas Southern that shot the ball extremely well tonight," Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach George Ivory said. "At the end of the day you can't beat a team that's shooting 59 percent from the field. It's very tough."

Golden Lions star Martaveous McKnight, the SWAC Player of the Year, didn't score until 9:38 before halftime. He finished with 17 points.

"Just look forward to the next play, forget the play before," McKnight said. "Keep believing in my teammates and keep playing. I don't think about it too much."

Christian Robertson also scored 17 points in the loss.

"I think the guys came back out in the second half and picked it up and they played well," Ivory said. "We had a couple of chances, had some miscues, but overall very proud of this team for what we've accomplished this year. We look for bigger and better things next year."

Stephen F. Austin: 2017-18 Southland Men's Basketball Champions



KATY, Texas -- Stephen F. Austin has become accustomed to earning the Southland Conference's NCAA Tournament berth.

"They are the Kentucky of the Southland Conference," Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Ladner said.

And after earning their fourth trip to the tournament in five years, the Lumberjacks aren't happy with just getting in.

T.J. Holyfield had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Stephen F. Austin rallied for a 59-55 win over Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland championship on Saturday night.

"It's exciting to be back in the tournament," said Holyfield, who was voted the tournament MVP. "Coach talked about he wants to coach the best team, and I feel we have to win a certain amount of games to do that, and we have to win a couple games in the tournament to do that."

Ivan Canette added 10 points for SFA (28-6), which earned its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth in the last five years after missing last season. The Lumberjacks shot 42 percent from the field and hit seven of 15 3-pointers.

"We haven't done anything," SFA coach Kyle Keller said. "Tonight, we won the tournament, but these guys are thirsty to do more. ... Our season is starting."

Joshua Filmore had 14 points, and Marlain Veal added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for Southeastern Louisiana (22-11), which had its nine-game winning streak snapped.

"We just didn't execute," Veal said. "We didn't trap as much."

The Lions are still looking for their second NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2005.

After two free throws by Veal gave the Lions a 51-49 lead, Kevon Harris hit a 3-pointer to give SFA a one-point lead with 3:21 left.

"I just try to play with confidence," Harris said. "I stepped up and made a big shot."

Filmore missed a 3-pointer on the Lions' next trip down the floor, and John Comeaux hit one of two free throws to give the Lumberjacks a 53-51 lead with 2:24 left.

Southeastern Louisiana committed turnovers on its next two possessions, and Holyfield hit a layup with 1:08 remaining to up the Lumberjacks' lead to four. Filmore hit two free throws with 54 second left to cut the lead to two.

"Once we got ahead of them, all the pressure got on them," Keller said.

Canette missed a free throw but got his own rebound and hit a layup with 39 seconds left to up the lead back to four, but Veal hit a layup eight seconds later to cut the lead to two. Ty Charles connected on two free throws with 20 seconds remaining, and after Eddy Polanco missed a jumper with 10 seconds left, the Lumberjacks got the rebound to seal it.

Trailing by 14, the Lions responded with a 22-2 run to take a 49-43 lead on a Joshua Filmore 3-pointer with 5:45 left. Filmore hit three 3-pointers during the run. The Lumberjacks responded with six straight points to tie it at 49 on a layup by John Comeaux with 3:51 remaining.

"We had an opportunity to win leading by six," Ladner said. "They made some tough plays and some big shots at critical times. They deserved to win."

The Lumberjacks took a 32-25 lead into halftime behind seven points apiece from Shannon Bogues and Holyfield.

BIG PICTURE

Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks had a chance to put it away early in the second half when they took the 14-point lead, but SFA went cold from the field, hitting one field goal over a 12-minute span. The Lumberjacks responded with a 16-6 run to end the game. SFA out-rebounded the Lions 34-27 and held a 16-2 edge in second-chance points.

Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions had the momentum with five minutes left and a six-point lead, but they could not keep it up. The Lions got eight points from their bench -- all from Jordan Capps -- and cooled off in the second half, shooting 37.5 percent after shooting 55 percent in the first half. The Lions also committed 15 turnovers.

"We turned it over a few critical times there," Ladner said. "Too many offensive rebounds and putbacks. That ended up being the big difference."

HE SAID IT


"To win a championship, to win in March, you have to win the paint. You have to dominate points, rebounds. The physicality of your team -- I don't care how big you are -- the will of your team has to overcome the other opponent no matter who they are." -- Keller.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

Joining Holyfield on the tournament team were Veal and Polanco as well as SFA's Shannon Bogues and Sam Houston State's Josh Delaney.

UP NEXT

Stephen F. Austin: Awaits its NCAA Tournament opponent.

"I really don't care who we play," Keller said. "We have seen enough styles that we aren't changing. We are going to be who we are that someone's going to have to adjust to us."

Southeastern Louisiana: Earned an automatic berth into the NIT after winning the regular-season championship.

Arizona: 2017-18 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Champions




LAS VEGAS -- Deandre Ayton dribbled through the sea of red-and-white confetti, bobbing and weaving past cheerleaders and fans. The Arizona big man came upon a security guard, dropped a spin move that left both smiling and headed to the locker room.

Ayton's night at the Pac-12 championship was just as smooth a ride.

Ayton had 32 points and 18 rebounds in one of the most dominating performances in Pac-12 Tournament history, leading No. 15 Arizona to its second straight title with a 75-61 victory over Southern California on Saturday night.

"The dominance he just put forth, if there's another player better, I'd like to meet him," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He put his team on his back, played the right way and absolutely was a one-man wrecking crew."

Ayton put on a show along The Strip, bouncing back from a nervous Pac-12 opener against Colorado with two dominating games.

The Bahamian big man had 32 points and 14 rebounds in a semifinal win over UCLA and knocked the Trojans (23-11) around like bowling pins in the championship game. Ayton made 14 of 20 shots from the floor and all four of his free throws to lead Arizona (27-8) to its ninth Pac-12 title.

"I was a little starstruck, I wasn't ready, rushing all of my shots against Colorado, not taking my time," said Ayton, who matched the Pac-12 freshman record set by UCLA's Kevin Love with his 23rd double-double. "Coach told me to face up, see what the defense is giving me and that's what I did."

USC gave Arizona trouble with its zone at times and had a decent offensive night. The Trojans just had no answer for Ayton.

"I don't think you're going to stop a guy like that, so we just have to try to do our best to contain him," said Nick Rakocevic, led USC with 13 points. "Although he went off tonight.

Both teams fought through adversity to reach the title game.

Arizona was twice entangled in a federal investigation into shady recruiting practices. USC was named in the probe as well, leading to sophomore De'Anthony Melton to be ruled ineligible this season.

The Trojans also have played without Bennie Boatright since Feb. 15, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury, and backup point guard Derryck Thornton missed the semifinals due to an illness.

In the title game, USC had success getting into the lane and with its pick-and-roll on offense while giving the Wildcats trouble with its zone.

Arizona had success getting to the offensive glass -- eight in the first half -- and by getting the ball to Ayton, who had 13 points and eight rebounds by halftime.

USC led 33-30.

"We had a three-point lead at halftime in a Pac-12 championship," USC coach Andy Endfield said. "That's what you play for, that's what you dream about."

But Ayton continued to be a nightmare in the second half and USC went down a big man when Chimezie Metu picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left.

Arizona took off from there -- literally.

Rawle Alkins brought the pro-Arizona crowd to a roar with a two-handed dunk over Elijah Stewart and Ayton followed with another dunk to make it even louder, putting Arizona up 53-46.

Ayton kept dunking and the crowd kept roaring until the confetti cannons went off.

BIG PICTURE

USC: likely locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament after its semifinal victory, but might sweat a little on Selection Sunday


Arizona: looking like one of the nation's best teams at just the right time and should get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

ALKINS' DUNK

Alkins' dunk over Stewart caused maybe the loudest of the night in T-Mobile Arena and still had Arizona's players talking long after the game.

"It took me a few seconds to realize what happened," Arizona center Dusan Ristic said. "It was one of the best dunks I'd ever seen in my life."

UP NEXT

USC: will play in the postseason, hoping it will be in the NCAA Tournament.

Arizona: will play in the NCAA Tournament, most likely as a high seed.

San Diego State: 2017-18 Mountain West Men's Basketball Champions



LAS VEGAS -- San Diego State's Trey Kell has been battling injuries throughout the season, missing parts of eight games through mid-February.

So, when a New Mexico player kneed him in his lower leg during the Mountain West Conference tournament championship on Saturday, he wasn't surprised.

He also wasn't coming out of the game.

Kell scored 11 of his game-high 28 points down the stretch to lead San Diego State to an 82-75 come-from-behind victory over the Lobos.

"I felt like I was rolling at the moment, I saw that we were down about six or something like that, so for me, coming out because of an injury wasn't an option," Kell said. "I didn't want to go home. It's just as simple as that."

Instead, Kell and the Aztecs (22-10) are headed to the NCAA Tournament with the league's automatic bid.

San Diego State also got 16 points and five rebounds from Malik Pope and 12 from Devin Watson.

"New Mexico was the one team I didn't want to play in this thing early," first-year San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. "(Coach) Paul Weir has done a great job with that team, they've gotten so much better and a team on an eight-game winning streak played a team on a seven-game winning streak -- it was the kind of game I thought we would see, right down to the end."

New Mexico closed the regular season on a five-game win streak before beating Wyoming by 10 and Utah State by 15 en route to the championship game.

There were 11 lead changes and six ties in a game that saw the Aztecs improve to 15-5 at the Thomas and Mack Center over the past four seasons.

Since losing six of eight in January and February, San Diego State is riding a nine-game win streak into the Big Dance, its longest since winning 11 in a row during the 2015 season. During the nine-game win streak, the Aztecs are winning by an average margin of 13.3.

"We were just tired of losing," Watson said. "We knew we had too much potential to be losing games like that. And mentally from then to now, I feel like we're on a whole new level."

After San Diego State opened the second half by hitting 5 of 6 and 8 of 13, the Lobos found a rhythm and connected on 5 of 7, and used a 21-10 run to take a 63-57 lead with 7:35 left in the game.

Playing in a record 10th Mountain West tournament championship game, the Aztecs weren't ready to concede.

Kell hit a pair of free throws, Jeremy Hemsley buried his first bucket of the game -- a 3-pointer -- and reserve Max Montana completed a four-point play after being fouled on his trey, igniting a 15-2 run. Suddenly, San Diego State was back in front, 72-65 with 3:57 remaining.

Ranked fifth in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (11.1), New Mexico was 8 of 24 from beyond the arc. But while San Diego State was making its big push, the Lobos missed their final seven from long-range.

"They were fortunate enough to make a couple of shots and get on a run," said a stoic Antino Jackson, who led five players in double figures with 17 points. "And we didn't make shots."

The Lobos (19-15) also got contributions from Anthony Mathis, who had 13, Joe Furstinger with 12 and Troy Simons and Sam Logwood, who each had 11.

"They deserve to win the championship, and they did," said New Mexico coach Paul Weir, also in his first year with the program. "Unfortunately for me and for us, that means the end of an amazing run with a tremendous group of young men that I'll never forget. I wish I could give them a different ending because they worked so hard and they gave so much and you always -- like your kids -- want to reward them for things like that Unfortunately I couldn't reward them tonight. And you have to give San Diego State credit for that."

BIG PICTURE



New Mexico: Junior Anthony Mathis, who ranks third in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage with a 49.5 clip from long range, and ranks third all-time on the school's single-season list for 3-pointers made with 98, was 2 of 7 from long range.

San Diego State: The Aztecs overcame their postseason woes against New Mexico, which came into the game sporting a 4-1 mark against San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament and 2-1 when the teams met as members in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

UP NEXT

New Mexico: Will hope to get a call from a lower-tier postseason tournament.

San Diego State: Will play in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina Central: 2017-18 Mid-Eastern Men's Basketball Champions



NORFOLK, Va. -- North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton looked at his phone and couldn't help but laugh.

Early this season, when the Eagles were struggling on defense and incorporating freshmen into the lineup, his phone was pretty quiet. But on Saturday, it was blowing up with congratulatory text messages after the Eagles used a late 11-0 run to break a 58-all tie and beat Hampton 71-63 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Association championship.

"This championship is different," Moton said, because it was unexpected. "To be honest, a lot of people gave up on this team."

The championship -- and automatic NCAA Tournament berth -- is the second in a row and third in five years for the Eagles (19-15).

"We've created the standard at North Carolina Central and I'm proud because these guys and the other guys in the locker room, they upheld that standard," Moton said.

Pablo Rivas had 22 points and the Eagles took command after neither team scored for more than two minutes.

"We just started coming up with some stops," said Rivas, whom Moton described as his best player, and who agreed to come off the bench after starting just one game.

Jordan Perkins added 13 points and nine assists and John Guerra scored 12 for the Eagles, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half. The junior had arrived at Scope Arena for the start of the tournament earlier in the week having made just five 3s all season.

"They had some guys that we kind of dared to make plays and they made them," Hampton coach Ed Joyner Jr. said.

The loss came in the Pirates' final MEAC game because they are moving to the Big South next season.

Malique Trent-Street scored 15 points to lead the Pirates (19-15), who also were seeking their third MEAC title in five years. Instead, as the regular-season champions, they are assured a spot in the National Invitation Tournament.

"The NIT is cool, but we wanted to leave the MEAC with the championship," Trent-Street said.

Akim Mitchell and Greg Heckstall each added 11 points for the Pirates, who made just 4 of 18 3-point tries (22.2 percent).

A 3-pointer by Kalin Fisher pulled Hampton even at 58-all with 4:24 to play, but the Pirates didn't score again until Trent-Street's layup with 18 seconds to go.

"I stayed up all night trying to develop a game plan because the first time we played them, that didn't work," Moton said, referencing an 86-70 home loss to the Pirates on Feb. 5.

BIG PICTURE


N.C. Central: The Eagles have made winning a habit in recent years, and did so this year with two freshmen -- Reggie Gardner Jr. (11.0 ppg) and Jordan Perkins (8.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) -- figuring prominently in the backcourt. They combined with veterans Raasean Davis, Rivas and Guerra to make NCCU a dangerous team to take lightly in the postseason.

Hampton: The Pirates were sloppy with the ball in the closing minutes, ruining their chances at a victory in front of a partisan and pro-Hampton crowd. The Pirates also got little help from their bench, which was outscored 28-9 by the NCCU reserves.

UP NEXT

N.C. Central will head to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years.

The Pirates' loss means the NIT is their consolation prize.