After a one-year absence, UCLA is back in the NCAA tournament, intent on making a deep run in what will almost surely be freshman point guard Lonzo Ball’s only college season.
The Bruins will enjoy size and skill advantages at almost every position against the Golden Flashes, who won four games in the Mid-American Conference tournament with their guard-heavy lineup to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
Both teams are relatively hot; UCLA has won 10 of its last 11 games, and Kent State nine of its last 10.
London Perrantes scored 24 points, Marial Shayok added a career-high 23 off the bench and No. 5 seed Virginia rallied from 15 points down to beat 13th-seeded UNC Wilmington, 76-71, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
Perrantes scored 19 points in the second half as the Cavaliers (23-10) got their slow-paced offense going. His biggest bucket was a driving bank shot with 1:37 remaining, which put the Cavs up, 71-66.
UNCW (29-6) wouldn't go away, though. Chris Flemmings drained a three-pointer from the elbow, and then Devontae Cacok hit a layup to make it 73-71 with less than a minute to play. But Shayok answered on the other end, banking in a runner that gave the Cavs some breathing room in the closing seconds.
Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and Notre Dame survived a first-round NCAA tournament scare by pulling out a 60-58 win over Princeton.
The West Region's 12th-seeded Tigers had a chance to pull ahead on their final possession, but Devin Cannady missed an open three-pointer just before the final horn. Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia pulled down the rebound and was fouled.
The Fighting Irish (26-9) nearly squandered an 11-point second half lead. Guard Matt Farrell scored 16 points, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with Notre Dame up 59-58.
Providence needed to regroup. After taking USC to the woodshed for most of the First Four play-in game of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday, USC was storming back.
An 11-1 run had helped turn a 15-point USC deficit into a small lead. Providence called a timeout and huddled on the court. USC forward Chimezie Metu, riding the go-ahead score and a scintillating block, sauntered straight into the mass of Friars, flexed and yelled something.
The Providence coaching staff protested, unsuccessfully to the officials, but the message was clear: After a dismal first half and a sleepy start to the second, the Trojans were in control.