Editor’s Note: This article provides recaps from the four NCAA games played in Portland Thursday.
Texas Southern vs. Arizona
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Texas Southern coach Mike Davis says his plan to load up on tough non-conference opponents got his team to the NCAA Tournament. And it will again.
Davis, who led Indiana to the national championship game in 2002, scheduled teams like Gonzaga and Baylor early to prepare the Tigers for what they would face in the postseason.
He vowed to do the same next season after No. 15 seed Texas Southern fell 93-72 to second-seeded Arizona on Thursday.
“We’ll definitely be back next year here in the tournament,” Davis said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on. The first thing we going to do is get a really good non-conference game during our season so we won’t be overwhelmed.”
Despite his best efforts this season, the Tigers were overwhelmed by the bigger and faster Wildcats.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona (32-3), which jumped to a 54-33 halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson added 22 points.
Madarious Gibbs had 15 points for Texas Southern (22-13), which secured an automatic bid by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament. The senior guard also was the SWAC Player of the year.
“They’re a great basketball team. With size and athleticism that they have, it was kind of hard to compete with them,” Gibbs said. “But we went out and fought our hardest and tried to do the best that we could.”
Forward Malcolm Riley, who was cut above the eye in the SWAC championship game and required seven stitches, played with a bandage.
It was the 12th straight win for the Wildcats, who were coming off an 80-52 victory against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game last weekend.
Texas Southern was making its second straight appearance in the tournament after a 62-58 victory over Southern for the SWAC title. Last season, the Tigers fell to Cal Poly in their NCAA Tournament opener.
The Wildcats rolled through last year’s tournament with victories over Weber State, Gonzaga and San Diego State before falling to Wisconsin in the round of eight.
The teams had never met, but Arizona was wary going into the game because of Texas Southern’s regular-season upsets at Michigan State and Kansas State. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had dropped games to unranked challengers UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State.
The Wildcats took a 15-2 lead, subduing the smaller Tigers from the start. Brandon Ashley’s dish to Dusan Ristic under the basket for a layup extended the lead to 17-4.
Deverell Biggs’ steal and fast-break layup narrowed the gap to 21-11. But Arizona pulled away to a 40-20 advantage on Hollis-Jefferson’s dunk with 4:15 left in the half.
Hollis-Jefferson led all players with 16 points and seven rebounds at intermission. Tonnie Collier had eight points in seven first-half minutes for the Tigers. The reserve finished with 10 points.
Arizona stretched the lead to 66-39 on Elliott Pitts’ layup in the second half, but coach Sean Miller was judicious with his starters. The Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers 35-19.
“Just gotta keep coming to work and build on what we have,” Collier said. “I thought we had a pretty good season.”
So did Davis.
“I’m so proud of this basketball team,” he said. “We overachieved a majority of the year. We came together and realized we were a really good basketball team. We learned a lot. We grew a lot together.”
Ohio State vs. VCU
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points and rallied Ohio State from an early 12-point deficit as the 10th-seeded Buckeyes beat seventh-seeded VCU 75-72 in overtime in an NCAA Tournament opener Thursday.
Russell regrouped from a blow that sent blood streaming down the left side of his face near the end of regulation, showing just why many believe he will be a top pick in this summer’s NBA draft. He made 10 of 20 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and added six rebounds, two steals and two blocks to bring the Buckeyes (24-10) back in both halves and overtime.
Amir Williams added 13 points, and Jae’Sean Tate scored 12 to help Ohio State avoid a second straight one-and-done showing in the tournament. The Buckeyes will face second-seeded Arizona on Saturday.
The Atlantic 10 champion Rams (26-10) lost another heartbreaker in the first round as coach Shaka Smart’s team struggled to consistently create the “havoc” that carried them to an improbable 2011 Final Four run.
Ohio State outshot VCU 49 percent to 38 percent from the field, but the Rams outrebounded the Buckeyes 37-32 behind Treveon Graham’s 10 and Mo Alie-Cox’s seven to stay close.
But they never could reel in Russell.
He broke free for a tying layup to stabilize Ohio State at the start of overtime. Kieta Bates-Diop added a 3-pointer, and Scott followed with a layup that gave the Buckeyes a 73-70 lead.
Graham missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds before Russell hit two free throws to seal Ohio State’s victory.
Russell closed the first half with a flurry and got the Buckeyes off to a fast start after the break. The speedy left-hander zigged and zagged through VCU’s full-court press, and his 3-pointer put Ohio State ahead 45-39. Doug Brooks came back with three consecutive 3s for the Rams, who built a 52-47 lead that didn’t last long.
A few minutes later, blood streamed down the left side of Russell’s face after he absorbed a blow from Doug Brooks above his eye with about 5 minutes to play in regulation. Trainers cleaned up the wound with a bandage on the bench — the only time all game Russell rested. Officials reviewed the play and called a flagrant foul on Brooks.
But the Rams never folded.
They kept applying the pressure on defense, and Johnson hit consecutive 3s to put VCU up 66-64 before Williams’ tying dunk. Both teams had chances to win in the final minute of regulation as Scott missed a difficult runner for Ohio State and Graham’s well-guarded layup rimmed out for VCU.
It was a tough finish for Smart’s squad. They were upset by Stephen F. Austin in their tournament opener last season, and now end what had been an emotional March earlier than they hoped.
VCU had dedicated its postseason run to leader Briante Weber, who suffered a season-ending right knee injury in a loss to Richmond on Jan. 31. Even without the face of that havoc-causing defense, the Rams got hot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and beat Dayton in the title game for the conference’s automatic berth.
Despite his right leg being immobilized, Weber hobbled around the sideline shouting instructions and words of encouragement to teammates. He sat in the seat closest to center court and right behind Smart, who often stood, clapped and bent his knees trying to motivate his players.
In the end, it was not the scene they wanted.
Weber cried in a towel as Smart and teammate Jarred Guest consoled him following the final buzzer. He limped off the court to cheers from fans.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are 49-25 in the NCAA Tournament, including 18-8 under coach Thad Matta. … It’s the first time Ohio State won a tournament game since 2013, when they lost to Wichita State in the regional finals.
VCU: The Rams are 12-14 in the tournament, including 7-5 under Smart. … VCU is 8-1 against teams from Ohio.
Ohio State: Faces No. 2 seed Arizona.
VCU: Season over.
SF Austin vs. Utah
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — No big upset here. Just a strong performance for Jakob Poeltl and No. 5 seed Utah.
Poeltl had 18 points and eight rebounds, and the Utes opened their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years by holding off Stephen F. Austin for a 57-50 victory on Thursday night.
The high-scoring Lumberjacks were a trendy pick in brackets across the country, but the Utes used their stout defense to hold the Southland Conference Tournament champions well under their season average of 79.5 points. Ty Charles led 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin (29-5) with 14 points.
Jordan Loveridge added 12 points for Utah (25-8), which will play the winner of the late South Region game between No. 4 seed Georgetown and 13th-seeded Eastern Washington at Portland’s Moda Center.
The Utes led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Lumberjacks closed to 48-44 on Thomas Walkup’s layup with 3:33 left. Poeltl’s tip-in made it 50-45, and he added two free throws to put Utah up 52-46 with 1:37 left.
Charles hit a 3-pointer to pull Stephen F. Austin closer, but Trey Pinkney missed the first of two free throws with 40 seconds to go. Utah’s Delon Wright made a pair on the other end to put Utah up 54-50 with 30 seconds left.
Isiah Wright helped close it out at the line for the Utes.
The Lumberjacks had won nine straight, earning their tournament berth with an 83-70 victory over Sam Houston State in the Southland Conference Tournament.
The Utes won an at-large bid after falling to Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.
Utah last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, and the team had not won a tournament game since 2005. The Utes won the national championship in 1944.
The Lumberjacks pulled off an opening-day upset last year as the No. 12 seed, ousting VCU 77-75 in overtime. The game was memorable because of Desmond Haymon’s four-point play as the clock wound down in regulation.
Stephen F. Austin lost just one conference game this season, with 15 of its Southland victories coming by double figures. The Lumberjacks led the nation with an average of 17.8 assists per game.
But the Utes kept them on their heels nearly the entire night.
Utah pulled in front 16-10 on Delon Wright’s dunk midway through the low-scoring first half. Wright is the little brother of Dorell Wright, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers and calls the Moda Center his home court.
Stephen F. Austin went cold and Utah took advantage, extending the margin to 24-15 on Loveridge’s 3-pointer with 4:39 left in the half. Loveridge made 45.1 percent of his 3-pointers this season to lead the Pac-12.
The Lumberjacks’ drought lasted a little more than seven minutes, but they finished the half with back-to-back dunks from Tanner Clayton and Jacob Parker to go into the break down 26-19.
Stephen F. Austin: After last year’s upset of VCU, the team fell to UCLA in the next round. The Lumberjacks dropped their tournament opener against Syracuse in 2009.
Utah: The Utes have been to the NCAA Tournament 28 times, compiling a 35-30 record. … In 1944, Utah was included as a late replacement for Arkansas after two of the Razorback starters were seriously injured in a car accident that killed an assistant coach.
Stephen F. Austin: Season over.
Utah: The winner of the late game between Georgetown and Eastern Washington.
Eastern Washington vs. Georgetown
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — All the talk that the Hoyas couldn’t handle underdogs can hush. Georgetown finally showed it can be a bully in March again.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 25 points, Mikael Hopkins had 10 points and nine rebounds, and fourth-seeded Georgetown avoided another NCAA Tournament upset by beating No. 13 seed Eastern Washington 84-74 on Thursday night.
The Hoyas (22-10) had lost four of their last five tournament games — all to teams seeded 10th or worse — and fell behind by seven in the first half to the 3-point happy Eagles. But Georgetown got its groove back with its own long-range touch, going ahead by 23 early in the second half and holding off Eastern Washington’s late rally.
The Hoyas will face fifth-seeded Utah on Saturday in the round of 32.
National-scoring leader Tyler Harvey finished with 27 points, and Venky Jois had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (26-9), who entered averaging 80.8 points behind Harvey’s 22.9 per game.
Instead, Georgetown tired Eastern Washington with its fast-paced approach.
Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford has been so confident about his team that he predicted on a national radio show Wednesday that the Eagles would win. Hayford said later that he wanted his players to know their coach believed in them and to play fearless on the floor.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III said his players told him of Hayford’s headline-grabbing interview, and they were as eager as anybody to show — not talk about — what they could do.
The Hoyas’ hoped to exploit their size advantage, but Joshua Smith — their 6-foot-10, 350-pound center — picked up his second foul with 15:46 remaining in the first half and went to the bench. Smith was called for his third foul just 9 seconds into the second half and exited again.
The Eagles spread the floor and played just the kind of game they wanted: fast and filled with lots of 3-point attempts.
The problem? Georgetown could shoot it, too.
Eastern Washington made six of its first 12 shots from beyond the arc and took a 24-17 lead. But the Hoyas found their own stroke from deep, closing the half with a flurry to go up 43-33.
Georgetown finished 11 of 23 from long range. Eastern Washington was 9 of 28.
Smith-Rivera put the exclamation point on Georgetown’s streaky shooting by hitting consecutive 3-pointers during a second-half spurt that put the Hoyas ahead 58-35.
The Eagles, who rallied from 11 points down to beat Montana in the Big Sky championship, put a stir into the crowd when they closed within seven in the final seconds. But their last comeback bid simply ran out of time.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles are 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Oklahoma State in 2004 in their only other appearance.
Georgetown: The Hoyas last made it out of the round of 32 in 2007, when they advanced to the Final Four. … Georgetown is 4-1 against teams from the Big Sky.
Eastern Washington: Season over.
Georgetown: Faces No. 5 seed Utah on Saturday.