Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo wasn't sure if his talented but inexperienced freshmen were ready to abandon their more comfortable up-tempo ways and play “smash mouth” basketball.
Two of those freshmen showed they could play any way they wanted in their NCAA tournament debuts, leading the ninth-seeded Spartans (20-14) to an opening-round 78-58 win over No. 8-seeded Miami on Friday night.
Freshman forward Nick Ward led the way for Michigan State, scoring 19 points on eight-of-nine shooting, while fellow newcomer Miles Bridges was eight-of-12 shooting and added 18 points in the win.
TJ Leaf made the Golden 1 Center his personal showcase in the first half of UCLA’s NCAA tournament opener on Friday evening.
The Bruins power forward threw down a vicious one-handed dunk in transition, made two three-pointers, an up-and-under layup and made a running jumper while getting fouled.
Leaf’s 16 points powered third-seeded UCLA to a 47-39 halftime lead over 14th-seeded Kent State in a first-round game in which the Bruins more closely resembled the run-and-fun team from earlier in the season than the largely joyless one from the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
NCAA tournament flash: Wichita State can play a little defense, too. Just ask the stunned Flyers.
The Shockers' powerful offense stalled out until the closing minutes, but their defense carried them through to a 64-58 victory over Dayton on Friday night in the South Regional.
Make it 16 consecutive wins for the Shockers (31-4), who brought their reputation for piling up the points on the way to Indianapolis, along with the feeling that they'd been slighted by their No. 10 seed.
Josh Jackson insisted a season's worth of distractions wouldn't take away from his focus in his first, and likely last, NCAA tournament.
The standout Kansas freshman proved true to his word in an opening-round 100-62 victory over UC Davis on Friday night, scoring 17 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the field in his return from a one-game suspension for an accumulation of embarrassing incidents.
Jackson scored the first field goal for the Jayhawks (29-5) and 11 of their first 31 points after missing last week's Big 12 Conference tournament. His hot start helped Kansas recover from missing its first four shots, and it helped the Jayhawks win their opening game of the tournament for an 11th consecutive year.
Jeff Dowtin scored a career-high 23 points with a perfect day at the free-throw line, upstart Rhode Island answered every threat and the Rams ran right into the next round of the NCAA tournament by stunning cold-shooting No. 6-seeded Creighton, 84-72, on Friday in the first round of the Midwest Region.
Kuran Iverson scored 17 points and Hassan Martin had 12 points and eight rebounds as 11th-seeded Rhode Island (25-9) earned its ninth consecutive victory.
The program won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since advancing to the Elite Eight and losing to Stanford in 1998.
Elijah Stewart has had a streaky season, on then off again, but his heat was rising when he camped out in the corner next to USC’s bench with 36 seconds left, the Trojans down by two points, in an NCAA tournament first-round game against Southern Methodist on Friday.
Jordan McLaughlin penetrated the lane, then found Stewart, who caught the ball with the laces straight. He eyed the rim. The ball hit only net on the way through the rim.
The Trojans trailed for almost all of Friday’s game, until it mattered. The 11th-seeded Trojans used a familiar formula — early deficit, furious comeback — to shock No. 6-seeded SMU, 66-65.