Michigan St 80, Louisiana State 63
When: 7:09 PM ET, Friday, March 29, 2019
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Recaps for Digital Sports Desk by Field Level Media
WASHINGTON DC – Freshmen Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown had career nights, lifting No. 2 Michigan State to an 80-63 victory over No. 3 LSU in the East Region semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Henry and Brown scored career highs with Henry pouring in 20 and Brown scoring 15 as the Spartans (31-6) advanced to Sunday’s regional final, where they will play No. 1 Duke. The Blue Devils topped No. 4 Virginia Tech 75-73 later Friday.
“It was one of those nights where I thought the basket was huge,” Henry said. “I’m glad that it was that way tonight. Just my teammates looking out for me and getting me the ball in certain positions. And Coach put me in great spots to score.”
Cassius Winston scored 17 and handed out eight assists for Michigan State while Xavier Tillman chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds. Kenny Goins tallied six points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Winston said of Henry and Brown, “They were huge tonight. In a lot of ways, they won the game. They were confident. They trusted in their abilities. They took their shots that they’re supposed to, and they just stepped up in a big way.”
Tremont Waters scored 23 for LSU (28-7), including a bucket that pulled the Tigers within 45-41 with 16:44 to play. But Michigan State responded with an 11-0 run, which began with Brown’s triple and 3-pointers from Henry and Goins.
“I thought we had a great game plan,” LSU interim coach Tony Benford said. “We wanted to protect the paint and try to get the ball in the paint. But they had some guys that stepped up. We wanted to contain Cassius. But you’ve got to give guys credit. Brown and Henry made shots.
“At the end of the day, they flipped it on us on the glass. We knew we had to protect the backboard. We had to rebound, protect our end, and whoever won the rebound battle I feel like was going to win the game. And it played out that way.”
Michigan State’s 3-point barrage blew open what was a four-point game, gave the Spartans a 56-41 lead with 14:41 to play and forced an LSU timeout. The Spartans kept it coming, eventually pushing the lead to 66-48 before LSU put together its final surge.
Two straight triples from Waters got things going and four points from Reid pulled the Tigers within 70-60 with a little more than four minutes to play. But Matt McQuaid scored six points to help the Spartans put the game away.
Kavell Bigby-Williams added 11 points for the Tigers while Naz Reid was good for 10 points and nine rebounds.
“You gotta give kudos to them,” Waters said of the Spartans. “They’re a great 3-point shooting team the way they move the ball and everything and they were able to make big-time shots.”
It was all Michigan State in the first half as the Spartans scored the first eight points of the game, forcing LSU to take a timeout less than two minutes into the game after Henry and Winston hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
The timeout did little to slow the Spartans, who made six of their first nine shots and went up 22-11 on a triple from Winston. LSU started to get back into it, pulling within 25-17 with 9:28 left in the first half before Michigan State started to take control once again.
A 15-6 surge for the Spartans put them ahead, 40-23, with 2:10 to play in the half after Nick Ward scored on a jump-hook. But the Tigers built some momentum heading into the locker room as they scored the final five points of the half, including a 3-pointer from Waters to cut Michigan State’s lead to 40-28 at the break.
LSU came storming out of the locker room, scoring the first eight points for a 13-0 run that began late in the first half.
–Field Level Media
Auburn 97, North Carolina 80
When: 7:29 PM ET, Friday, March 29, 2019
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
KANSAS CITY — Chuma Okeke had 20 points and 11 rebounds before leaving with a leg injury, and Auburn used another high-energy run to take down top-seeded North Carolina 97-80 in a Midwest Region semifinal on Friday night.
Fifth-seeded Auburn will next face second-seeded Kentucky, which pulled out a 62-58 victory over Houston in the second NCAA Tournament Midwest semifinal.
The Tigers defeated Kansas 89-75 to reach the Sweet 16. Kansas is No. 2 all-time in wins, and North Carolina is third. Kentucky leads the all-time list.
If Auburn wins its next game, the Tigers will reach the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Auburn (29-9) used a 14-0 run sandwiched around halftime to take a 49-39 lead at the 18:21 mark of the second half. The Tigers led by as many as 12 points before North Carolina scored six straight points. But Auburn answered the run and led 70-54 with 10:19 left.
By the time North Carolina (29-7) regrouped, Auburn led 76-57 with 9:19 remaining. North Carolina could not get inside 10 points the rest of the game.
“In the second half, early second half, we made some mental mistakes and they capitalized on it,” Tar Heels guard Kenny Williams said, “and, you know, they’re a team that once they hit a couple, they got hot, and they got hot in the second half and they kind of carried that momentum throughout the whole half.”
Auburn was led by Okeke, who left the game with 8:08 remaining and Auburn up 76-62 with a left knee injury. He did not return to the game. He was Auburn’s third-leading scorer this season with 11.8 points per game, and leading rebounder with 6.7 per game.
“We’re pretty emotional because it’s a bittersweet accomplishment because of Chuma getting hurt late in the game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said in his postgame news conference. “Nobody works harder, nobody gives us more courage. When it gets tough and you got to go to a matchup, we got five and you don’t. That’s how we felt.”
Auburn had five other players in double figures. Malik Dunbar scored 13 points, followed by Bryce Brown and Danjel Purifoy with 12 each, and J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty with 10 each. Jared Harper had 11 assists for the Tigers, who were 17 of 37 from 3-point range and shot 54.5 percent overall.
“We knew we could hit them,” Dunbar said of his team’s 3-point shooting. “We have a lot of guys who can knock ’em down, and tonight we just got on a roll.”
North Carolina was led by Coby White and Cameron Johnson with 15 points each, but they combined to shoot only 8 of 26 from the field and 2 of 14 from 3-point range.
Luke Maye had 13 and Williams had 10 for the Tar Heels, who as a team shot 43.1 percent from the field and 7 of 28 from behind the arc.
The first half was tight all the way, with neither team leading by more than five points. Auburn took a 41-39 lead into intermission after McCormick went end-to-end with 6.1 seconds left and hit a layup at the buzzer. The Tigers closed the half on a 6-0 run.
Okeke (12) and McCormick (10) led the Tigers in the first half. White had nine points for North Carolina.
–Field Level Media
Duke 75, Virginia Tech 73
When: 9:39 PM ET, Friday, March 29, 2019
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
WASHINGTON DC – Zion Williamson scored 23 points and Tre Jones hit five 3-point baskets on the way to 22 points as top-seeded Duke beat fourth-seeded Virginia Tech 75-73 Friday in a wild NCAA Tournament East Region semifinal.
Virginia Tech missed three shots in the final 10 seconds, including a pair of 3-point attempts.
“We’re still dancing, so I can’t complain as long as we’re winning,” Duke forward Javin DeLaurier said.
RJ Barrett scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and also finished with 11 assists as the Blue Devils returned to a regional final for the second year in a row.
“We felt great about winning because we had to play outstanding basketball in order to win,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Duke (32-5) next has a Sunday meeting with second-seeded Michigan State (31-6), an 80-63 winner against third-seeded LSU in the first regional semifinal Friday. The Blue Devils-Spartans victor will advance to the Final Four in Minneapolis.
Blue Devils freshman Cam Reddish didn’t play due to a left knee injury.
Jones’ fifth 3-pointer made it 71-66 before Williamson added a dunk with three minutes to play — and suddenly Duke fans were drowning out the noise created by rowdy Virginia Tech supporters.
Justin Robinson, though, sank a pair of foul shots with 29.6 seconds left, pulling the Hokies within 75-73.
Jones missed the front end of a one-and-one and Virginia Tech’s Ahmed Hill grabbed the rebound. He then ariballed a 3-point attempt, but the Hokies rebounded and called timeout with 5.8 seconds to go. Ty Outlaw hit only backboard on a 3-point try but Virginia Tech got a rebound and one last chance.
On another inbounds pass with 1.1 seconds left, Hill’s running catch-and-shoot from the lane bounced off.
“It was still the right play,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said, noting that game officials added time on the clock after initially it appeared only 0.6 remained. “The pass was perfect.”
Williamson said, “Just kind of went our way with that play.”
Kerry Blackshear Jr. posted 18 points for Virginia Tech (26-9). Hill poured in 13 of his 15 points in the first half, Robinson tallied 14, and Wabissa Bede had 10.
Duke started the second half strong with Barrett posting 13 points in less than eight minutes. By the time the Blue Devils finished a fastbreak with a Williamson dunk, it was 58-52, and the Hokies called timeout at the 10:23 mark.
Duke had its 60-52 lead trimmed to 64-61 with less than six minutes to go, but Williamson blocked a shot, leading to Jones’ jumper in transition.
Virginia Tech pulled in 17 offensive rebounds yet managed only nine second-chance points.
“That hurts,” Williams said. “That speaks to the competitiveness of the game.”
Virginia Tech led 38-34 at halftime, making seven of its first 13 attempts from 3-point range. Duke shot 51.9 percent from the field in the opening half.
Jones, a freshman guard, made two 3-pointers in the opening 10 minutes. He had more than one trey in only two other games this season, both in November.
“I wasn’t trying to take any shots out of rhythm,” Jones said. “Putting in a lot of work to get to this point.”
With Reddish sidelined, Alex O’Connell, a sophomore guard who didn’t play Sunday in the Blue Devils’ victory against Central Florida, made his seventh career start and scored four points.
Reddish has started all 35 games in which he has played.
Duke’s Jack White, who missed the first two NCAA Tournament games with a hamstring injury, was back in action off the bench but played less than three minutes. He didn’t score.
Williamson and Virginia Tech guard Justin Robinson both missed the teams’ Feb. 26 meeting, when the Hokies won 77-72 at Blacksburg, Va.
This was the ninth matchup between Atlantic Coast Conference teams in NCAA Tournament play. The Blue Devils defeated Syracuse in last March’s Sweet 16 round.
–Field Level Media
Kentucky 62, Houston 58
When: 9:59 PM ET, Friday, March 29, 2019
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City
KANSAS CITY — Tyler Herro was the hero as second-seeded Kentucky escaped with a 62-58 victory over third-seeded Houston in the second Midwest Region semifinal Friday night at Sprint Center.
The Wildcats next will face fifth-seeded Auburn, which used a strong second half to defeat top-seeded North Carolina 97-80 in the first semifinal.
Herro hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds left, then drained a pair of free throws with 13.7 seconds remaining to ice the victory. Herro led the Wildcats with 19 points.
Asked about Herro’s willingness to take shots at crucial times, Kentucky coach John Calipari said, “He wants to take them, but here’s the thing that he’s getting. He took one bad 3 in the game at the top with about six seconds (left on the shot clock). We’re trying to get away from being the team that dances, dances, dances, and shoots the 3 on a late shot clock.”
Kentucky (30-6) opened the second half with a bucket for its largest lead of the game, 39-26, but the Cougars (33-4) chipped away, eventually tying the score at 49-all with 4:24 left. When Corey Davis Jr. hit a layup with 3:39 remaining, Houston had its first lead since 3-2.
“I believed we would win even when we were down 11 at the half. We’ve been down more,” Houston senior forward Breaon Brady said. “So it’s tough not to finish and win. But now, it’s up to the younger guys to carry on what we’ve built: 33-4.”
After Kentucky’s PJ Washington sank a pair of free throws to tie the score, Houston’s Armoni Brooks hit a long 3-pointer. Four consecutive free throws gave the Wildcats the lead with just over two minutes left.
Back-to-back buckets pushed the Cougars to a three-point lead as the clock clicked under a minute.
Washington was fouled as made a bucket inside, but he missed the free throw that would have tied it. He redeemed himself with a block on a layup attempt by Davis. Herro then drained his trey, putting the Wildcats on top 60-58.
The Wildcats took it in stride when the Cougars began to hit their shots, sometimes in the face of tight defense, according to Washington.
“I mean, that happened to us a lot in this whole season,” Washington said. “We’re pretty used to it. We just had to stay confident in ourselves on both ends of the floor and just try to contest and then come back and try to get a bucket and keep the game close. And we felt like if we did that we had a good chance of winning.”
Davis missed a contested layup before Herro hit the final two free throws.
Kentucky will now face SEC rival Auburn. The Wildcats have beaten the Tigers twice this season, 82-80 on Jan. 19 in Alabama and 80-53 in Lexington, Ky., on Feb. 23, Auburn’s last loss.
“(Auburn is) playing great right now,” Calipari said. “They went through our conference tournament, like nine wins in a row? What is it? Eleven in a row. They’re playing and shooting it. They’re playing defense, getting their hands on balls.”
The defensive struggle was expected, as Houston ranked seventh in the country in scoring defense at 61.0 points allowed per game. Kentucky was 28th at 64.5. In their first two NCAA Tournament games, Kentucky allowed an average of 50 points while Houston allowed an average of 57.
“I think they played great defense,” Herro said of the Cougars. “I think that’s kind of their identity is just being a hard-nosed defensive team. Credit to them. They played great defense and made it hard on me.”
Houston was led by Brooks with 20 points. Davis added 14 and Galen Robinson had 10. Davis was shooting 42 percent from long range this season, but he was just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc against Kentucky.
“Kentucky is a great team,” Houston guard DeJon Jarreau said. “They outplayed us in the first half, but in the second half, we played Cougar basketball. We brought our all, but everything comes to an end.”
Washington, who missed Kentucky’s first two NCAA Tournament games with a foot sprain, did not start. He entered the game with 15:41 left in the first half. He scored his first points of the tournament at the 15:06 mark on a baseline jumper and finished with 16 points.
“It’s good to have PJ back,” Calipari said. “We don’t win the game today without him. We don’t.”
The postgame message from Houston coach Kelvin Sampson to his team was “to remember this feeling,” Brady said.
“That was the message to the younger guys. It’s their time now, for the incoming freshmen and the underclassmen,” Brady said.
–Field Level Media