Oklahoma State Wins Opening Round
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton wasted no time this week pondering whether his team had done enough to merit an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
That’s because the Big 12 Tournament winner gets in automatically.
“I just control the things I can control, and the only thing I’ve been worried about since we played Saturday was getting my team ready to play,” Boynton said after the eighth-seeded Cowboys’ 71-60 victory over No. 9 seed Oklahoma in the opening round Wednesday night.
“We came here to win the Big 12 Tournament. We’ll worry about what next week brings next week.”
Cameron McGriff scored 18 points, Jeffrey Carroll added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Kendall Smith finished with 11 points for the Cowboys (19-13), who led 58-53 with 6 minutes left before easing away down the stretch to set up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 1 seed Kansas.
Oklahoma State swept the ninth-ranked Jayhawks during the regular season.
Trae Young had 22 points on 7-for-21 shooting for the Sooners (18-13), but no amount of offense could overcome a startling disparity on the boards. Oklahoma was outrebounded 53-27, and all of those rebounds led to a 19-2 advantage for the Cowboys in second-chance points.
“We just didn’t do the job we had to do against a good club in keeping them to one shot,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “They were more aggressive in the first half, when they popped a little bit of a lead, and again when we got close in the second half.”
Now, the Sooners must anxiously await their NCAA Tournament fate.
“Instead of us taking care of our business we left it in the committee’s hands,” Young said. “We played in the toughest conference in America. I think our resume speaks for itself.”
The Sooners beat the Cowboys by 20 in early January, back when they were ascending to No. 4 in the nation. But things began to fall apart midway through the conference schedule, beginning with a lopsided loss to Kansas State and an overtime defeat to the Cowboys in Stillwater.
The slump hit its nadir with a six-game skid that put the Sooners on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Things weren’t a whole lot better during the first half at the Sprint Center. Young was hassled every time he touched the ball, nobody else made shots and the Cowboys slowly built a 39-28 lead.
It swelled to 50-34 when McGriff hit his third 3-pointer of the second half.
“He was definitely a spark,” the Cowboys’ Mitchell Solomon said.
Young finally got on track for the Sooners, burying back-to-back 3-pointers when the Cowboys’ defense lapsed. That kicked off a 12-2 run that concluded with Brady Manek’s 3-pointer and got Kruger’s slumping bunch within 52-46 midway through the second half.
It remained nip-and-tuck until the 6-minute mark, when the Sooners missed six straight and nine of 10 from the floor. Brandon Averette began getting loose near the basket for layups, Carroll added a jumper and Tavarius Shine’s basket made it 64-53 and forced Kruger to call timeout.
The Sooners’ Jamuni McNeace was called for a flagrant foul moments later, and McGriff and Solomon buried four straight free throws, effectively putting the game away.
“Proud of these guys,” Boynton said. “They fought a lot of noise all season and to be playing this way at this point in the season shows a lot of character.”
Jayhawks’ Azubuike injures knee, out for Big 12 tourney
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas forward Udoka Azubuike sprained his left knee during a scrimmage this week, ruling him out of the Big 12 Tournament and putting his availability for the NCAA Tournament in question.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self said after a scrimmage at the Sprint Center that Azubuike sprained his medial collateral ligament near the end of Tuesday’s practice. Azubuike was going for a rebound and a collision occurred under the basket, leaving the 7-footer with a “Grade 1” sprain.
“We did an MRI as soon as practice was over,” Self said Wednesday. “It’s similar to an ankle or whatnot, there’s obviously a ligament that’s sprained or stretched and right now it’s too loose to put him out there, but these are injuries, I’ve been told, the healing process begins quickly.”
The ninth-ranked Jayhawks (24-7) open the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday against Oklahoma State, and Self said his sophomore big man won’t be examined by doctors until Sunday.
That means backup forward Mitch Lightfoot will start in the post, and freshman Silvio De Sousa — who became eligible a couple months ago — will be forced to play more meaningful minutes.
“Silvio is going to have to play at least Mitch’s minutes, and Mitch is going to have to play Doke’s minutes,” Self said. “I wish it had happened two days ago, we could have practiced playing five guards, but we’ll have to deal with what we have.”
Azubuike, who is averaging 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds, missed most of last season with a wrist injury. And his latest injury, which Self called a “freak accident,” merely continues a rough streak of absences for crucial players by the time the Big 12 and NCAA tournament rolls around.
Notre Dame 71, Virginia Tech 65
NEW YORK (AP) — Bonzie Colson banked in a go-ahead, 3-point heave that barely beat the shot clock with two minutes remaining, and Notre Dame rallied from 21 down in the second half to stun Virginia Tech 71-65 on Wednesday night at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Matt Farrell scored 22 points for the 10th-seeded Fighting Irish (20-13), who overcame a dreadful start in extending their late push to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Finally healthy after injuries to Colson and Farrell nearly wrecked a promising season, Notre Dame advanced to play Thursday night in the quarterfinals against fifth-ranked and second-seeded Duke, the defending tournament champion.
Do the Irish need to win at least that one, too, in order to make the field of 68?
Hard to say, but they sure woke up the echoes on this snowy night in Brooklyn.
With the Irish stars struggling to make shots, seventh-seeded Virginia Tech (21-11) was cruising along with a 47-26 lead with just under 14 minutes remaining when Farrell drained his second consecutive 3.
That started a ferocious surge that got a feisty Notre Dame squad back into it. The game got a little testy as the Irish picked up the intensity and the Hokies went cold on offense.
A technical foul on Virginia Tech swingman Chris Clarke for shoving Farrell led to four Notre Dame free throws that trimmed it to 54-50 with 7:45 to go. Colson kissed three fingers on each hand and gestured to the crowd after his desperation shot from the right wing gave the Irish a 60-59 edge.
They extended their advantage at the free throw line, and in the final minute, Farrell looked over at former Notre Dame star LaPhonso Ellis, broadcasting courtside for ESPN, and yelled: “I told you Phonso, we ain’t done!”
Colson, back recently from a broken foot, finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Rex Pflueger had 14 points and nine rebounds, and T.J. Gibbs added 13 points and seven assists.
Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs each scored 15 for the Hokies.