Gonzaga, Arizona bow out of NCAA tournament
March 28, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS ” Rick Pitino enjoyed watching Friday night’s game almost as much as his Louisville players enjoyed celebrating.
Fun-loving forward Terrence Williams danced on the sideline. Guard Edgar Sosa posed for the television camera. Even backup Kyle Kuric dunked. For the top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament, this was more fun than a team scrimmage or a pickup game.
Earl Clark scored 19 points and had nine rebounds and the Cardinals delivered one of the most crushing blowouts in regional history with a 103-64 victory over Arizona.
“We played great tonight because we really passed the ball beautifully,” Pitino said. “It’s fun as a coach to watch the guys be so unselfish.”
Should they follow the same script Sunday, against either Michigan State or Kansas in the Midwest final, the Cardinals (31-5) will return to the Final Four for the first time since 2005.
But if they play like this, they could fulfill another goal: Winning their third national championship.
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The Big East now has four teams playing in this weekend’s regional finals, including its regular-season and tournament champ, Louisville. Pitino improved to 9-0 all-time in the regional semifinals.
Louisville was incredibly efficient in the highest-scoring game in its NCAA tournament history, shooting 57.6 percent from the field and dishing out 29 assists on 38 baskets. It shot 48 percent on 3-pointers and grabbed nearly as many offensive rebounds (11) as Arizona had on defense (17).
Defensively, the Cardinals were even better.
They rattled the Wildcats with constant pressure, forcing nine turnovers in the first half and 15 in the game. Arizona was so out of sync, it threw away an inbound pass in the first half and twice had ball-handlers get crossed up just dribbling up the floor.
The combination put Louisville within one point of cracking the top five for most lopsided victories in a regional round. UCLA set the record with a 49-point rout over Wyoming in 1967, and the next four all occurred before 1972.
It was by far the Cardinals’ biggest rout in their long NCAA tournament, and easily the Wildcats’ most-lopsided loss.
Michigan State 67, Kansas 62
INDIANAPOLIS ” Goran Suton had 20 points and nine rebounds and Michigan State was steady from the foul line, rallying to defeat defending NCAA champion Kansas in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Kalin Lucas added 18 points for the second-seeded Spartans (29-6). He shot just 5-for-15 from the field, but made all five of his free throws in the final minute. Overall, Michigan State went 16 of 17 from the line.
Michigan State overcame a 13-point deficit in the first half and advanced to play Louisville on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Sherron Collins scored 20 points and Cole Aldrich had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Kansas (27-7).
With the game tied at 60, Lucas spun, pump-faked in the lane, drew contact from Collins, then dropped in a shot. He made the free throw with 48 seconds left.
Oklahoma 84, Syracuse 71
MEMPHIS, Tenn. ” Blake Griffin bulled his way to 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Tony Crocker added a career-high 28 points as second-seeded Oklahoma beat Syracuse to reach its first regional final since 2003.
Oklahoma (30-5) will play top-seeded North Carolina in the South Regional final Sunday. The last time the Sooners made it this far, Syracuse beat them en route to their own national championship.
And all that talk of an All-Big East Final Four? That’s over with now.
Syracuse was the league’s lone representative left in the South Region. The Orange (28-10) finally ran out of the magic that helped them pull off such wins as their six-overtime marathon over Connecticut in the Big East tournament.
The Sooners began pulling away midway through the first half. Griffin mowed over Syracuse’s gutsy guard Jonny Flynn going to the basket and also banged his noggin against the bottom of the backboard while going for a rim-rocking dunk.
Flynn led Syracuse with 22 points despite playing the second half with a bruised back after that crunching collision with Griffin.
North Carolina 98, Gonzaga 77
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) ” Ty Lawson sat on the sideline with both feet propped up on a chair, shooting an occasional glance toward the court as his left ankle was re-taped.
He went back in the game a few moments later, but there was no rush. North Carolina had this one well under control.
Lawson scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, and the top-seeded Tar Heels routed Gonzaga 98-77 in the South Regional on Friday night. They’ll play second-seeded Oklahoma on Sunday for a berth in the Final Four.
“If they play like that, they’re going to win the national championship,” Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt said. “They’d hit every shot, it seemed like. You can’t do anything on teams like that.”
Tyler Hansbrough added 24 points and 10 rebounds for North Carolina, which won its 99th NCAA tournament game, breaking a tie with Kentucky for the most by any school.
Wayne Ellington scored 19 points and Danny Green added 13 for the Tar Heels (31-4), who reached the regional finals for the third straight year. There was no jumping for joy afterward for this team ” after losing to Kansas in the national semifinals last year, there was still work to do.
“It’s a very happy, relaxed, calm locker room,” coach Roy Williams said. “We’d like to stay here and play pretty well another day.”
Now, we’ll have a regional final with a little Duke-Carolina flavor. Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel used to play for the Blue Devils. He made one of the most famous shots in the Tobacco Road rivalry ” a running buzzer-beater from around 35 feet that tied the teams’ 1995 matchup at Duke. The Tar Heels ended up winning in double overtime.
Gonzaga (28-6) seemed determined to match the Tar Heels basket for spectacular basket early on. Green dunked along the baseline, and Heytvelt answered seconds later with an alley-oop dunk. Green made a 3-pointer from the left wing, then Gonzaga’s Austin Daye made one of his own at the other end.
At the first television timeout, the Tar Heels were 8 of 10 from the field and the fourth-seeded Bulldogs were 4-of-5. North Carolina led 19-12.
Lawson didn’t seem slowed in the least by his much-discussed toe injury. He breezed past a defender for a layup to make it 23-16, then added an acrobatic layup while being fouled on a fast break to put the Tar Heels ahead 35-25.
North Carolina led by as many as 17 in the first half, and for a while it seemed the Tar Heels might go the entire half without a turnover. Ellington finally gave the ball away with an offensive foul with 5:53 to play.
The only blemish for North Carolina in the first half ” 9-of-18 free throw shooting that enabled the Zags to stay in the game. Gonzaga cut the margin to single digits before Hansbrough scored inside just before the halftime buzzer to make it 53-42.