NEW YORK — On the back of Shabazz Napier, some frenetic pressure defense and a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, No. 7 seed Connecticut is heading to the Final Four after a 60-54 win over Michigan State.
Napier finished the game with 25, complemented by DeAndre Daniels’ 12 and Ryan Boatright’s 11. That same trio helped lead a defensive charge that flustered the Spartans into 16 turnovers and 39 percent shooting. Senior guard Keith Appling seemed particularly bothered by the pressure, scoring two points, committing four turnovers and fouling out of the game, including a devastating fifth foul in the final minute.
NEW YORK — With 1.1 seconds remaining in Michigan State’s Sweet 16 game versus Virginia, Spartan Gary Harris stepped to the line with his team leading 60-59. After he sunk a free throw to increase the margin to two, head coach Tom Izzo called a timeout.
Following the huddle, Harris stepped to the line and intentionally bricked his second shot. Virginia, out of timeouts, was forced to scramble for a three-quarter court heave. Justin Anderson’s prayer wasn’t answered and Michigan State advanced to the Elite Eight with a two-point victory. But was the call easy for Izzo, coaching in his 57 th NCAA Tournament game?
“Well, I wanted it right away,” said Izzo after the game when asked about the intentional miss. “My assistants questioned it a little bit. I told them why: I still was relying more on an 80-foot shot than I was if they threw it. Yeah, you could foul the guy, but you never know how that’s going to be called and I wasn’t taking that chance. So I thought my best chance was an 80-foot shot and I guess it was.”
“That’s why we took the full timeout. Talked about it. It was great, it’s the way it should be.”
NEW YORK — Things must have felt very familiar for Connecticut in Madison Square Garden on Friday night. Jim Calhoun was in the house, the Husky defense was denying the opponent at the rim and a UConn guard was taking over a big tournament game.
It wasn’t Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon or Kemba Walker, but Shabazz Napier, the senior from Massachusetts who’s gotten pretty good at this World’s Most Famous Arena thing. He’s now 8-1 in postseason games at the Garden, spanning from the 2011 Big East Tournament to Friday night’s 81-76 Sweet 16 victory over Iowa State.
While he was a key part of Walker’s supporting cast during the five-game run as a freshman, this is now Napier’s team. In the highly anticipated guard matchup between the senior and Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, Napier dominated, knocking down his first four shots – all threes – to give the Huskies an early advantage they never relinquished. He finished with 19 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals.
NEW YORK — To help celebrate Iowa State’s first visit to the Sweet 16 since 2000, forward Dustin Hogue went with a specialty haircut. It’s a homecoming for Hogue, who hails from nearby Yonkers, and after debuting the look in practice yesterday, he’s sporting it in the Cyclones’ game against Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.
The custom look — a basketball with his surname and jersey number (22) — certainly hasn’t hurt Hogue so far, as he has 10 points at the half, although his Cyclones trail 36-26.
Dustin Hogue's hair is real nice. pic.twitter.com/o34nXJeD6W
Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery on their favorite games, the origin of 'Onions' and 'Happy Gilmore'
NEW YORK — On the eve of the first NCAA Tournament games at Madison Square Garden in 53 years, CBS’s announcing team of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery took some time to chat about their long history about a wide range of topics. The two men have a combined 62 years experience calling NCAA Tournament games, including the last 15 as America’s favorite combination. What can we learn from a morning with the duo? Quite a bit.
Uncle Verne and Raft’s Favorite Tournament Games They’ve Called Together
2000 Iowa State vs. Michigan State
Bill: “Interestingly enough, Iowa State – who’s playing here obviously – they played Michigan State at the Palace for the right to go to the Final Four, so that fits.”
Verne: “[then Iowa State coach] Larry Eustachy went nuts late in the game and was out on the floor, and Billy memorably hollered into the microphone ‘Where are the assistants?’ In other words, get out there and get the coach back.
2006 Northwestern State vs. Iowa
NEW YORK — Providence came into Madison Square Garden on the wrong side of the bubble. After Bryce Cotton and a stifling Providence zone were done on Saturday night, they left with a 65-58 win and their first Big East title in two decades.
On a night that many thought would belong to Doug McDermott, it was Cotton who took home the Dave Gavitt Trophy as the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The senior point guard from Arizona has been the lynchpin of coach Ed Cooley’s program during his time in Providence, making the All-Big East First Team the last two years, playing more minutes than any other player in the country this season and leading the conference in assists.
“I told Cotton Candy if he didn’t shoot the ball, we were going to have a one-on-one fight and I was going to lose,” said Cooley after the game. His threat was acknowledged, even though Cotton hadn’t shot it well the previous two games. [Get a chance at $1 billion: Register to play the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge now!]
NEW YORK — “Weather the storm!”
A particularly loud member of Xavier’s very vocal pep band shouted the above phrase early in the first half of the Musketeers’ Big East semifinal against Creighton. The weather he was referring to was the barrage of Bluejay threes raining down upon his team. Unfortunately for Xavier and their fans, the storm lasted for the better part of two hours as the Musketeers fell 86-78.
It was another night of history making for Doug McDermott - who moved past Keydren Clark and Harry Kelly to fifth on the all-time scoring list – but he was just the biggest part of a multi-pronged attack that shot 55% from the field, made 21-of-24 free throws, knocked down 11 threes and assisted on 18 of 27 made field goals. McDermott now has 3,078 career points after his 32 on Friday night, sitting 89 points behind Alphonso Ford’s fourth-place mark. McDermott's 67 points in his first two Big East Tournament games also broke Allen Iverson's old record of 58.
- Christopher Wilson at Yahoo Sports3 mths ago
NEW YORK — The last time Doug McDermott played in Madison Square Garden, St. John’s held him without a shot for the final 8:40 of a rare Bluejays loss. When he took the Garden floor against DePaul in Thursday night’s quarterfinal, he made up for lost time, knocking down a three 13 seconds into the game.
It was just the start of a busy first half for the conference (and most likely national) Player of the Year, who broke Donyell Marshall and Billy Donovan’s shared Big East Tournament record of 26 points in a single half. Marshall’s mark had stood since 1994, while Donovan did his damage back in ’87, but both were eclipsed when McDermott’s seventh three gave him 27 with 1:07 remaining.
NEW YORK — Leaning on Josh Fortune’s 24 points, a tremendous effort on the offensive boards and some clutch free throw shooting late, Providence survived a nearly epic collapse against fellow bubble team St. John’s in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.
The Friars appeared to be running away with the game when a LaDontae Henton layup put them up 17 with 6:24 to go, but on a day that had already seen top-seeded Villanova eliminated, the drama in the Garden was just getting started. Orlando Sanchez and JaKarr Sampson spearheaded a Red Storm run – mixing a frantic press on defense with a dedication to attacking the paint on offense - that made it a 69-68 game with a little over a minute remaining.
NEW YORK — After Sterling Gibbs’ buzzer-beating jumper knocked top-seeded Villanova out of the Big East Tournament, Selection Committee Chair Ron Wellman may have to turn to a Craiglist posting to give away the final number one seed in the NCAA Tournament:
AVAILABLE TO GOOD HOME: Mint number one seed. Guaranteed to play a 16 seed to start tournament. Free trip to Madison Square Garden with two wins.
Gibbs’ jumper – seemingly a tribute to Kemba Walker’s winner against top-seeded Pitt in the 2011 edition of this game - capped off a wild 64-63 opener to the Big East quarterfinals. The Pirates blew a double-digit second half lead to the third-ranked team in the country only to rally back with two go-ahead jumpers in the final minute. Freshman guard Jaren Sina drained a three with 17.2 seconds remaining to give Seton Hall a one-point lead, but Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard – who made nearly every big shot for the Wildcats down the stretch – responded with a jumper that seemed like it was going to save his team’s chances at their first Big East Tournament title since 1995 and a number one seed on Selection Sunday.