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Villanova wins national championship on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater

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No. 2 Villanova won its first national championship since 1985, defeating No. 1 North Carolina, 77-74, on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beating three-pointer Monday night in Houston.

It is Villanova’s second national championship while North Carolina finishes as the national runners-up for the fifth time.

Click here for the up-to-date March Madness bracket

Villanova wins national title on Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer at the buzzer

The lead had evaporated. Overtime loomed.

For Villanova, its season hung in the balance in Monday’s national championship game, thanks to North Carolina guard Marcus Paige’s circus-shot three-pointer that tied the game with less than five seconds left. But that shot was about to be upstaged.

With the clock ticking down, Ryan Arcidiacono brought the ball upcourt, and tossed back to Kris Jenkins. Jenkins let it go.

The ball went in, Jenkins hands went up, and the rest of the team wrestled him down.

It capped a classic, 77-74 thriller for Villanova, which won its second national championship.

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Villanova defeats North Carolina, 77-74, on Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer at the buzzer

Some special visitors in attendance tonight cheering on North Carolina:

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Championship game: About to get underway in Houston

The starting lineups for the NCAA championship game:

Villanova (34-5): Junior forward Kris Jenkins; senior forward Daniel Ochefu; freshman guard Jalen Brunson; junior guard Josh Hart; senior guard Ryan Arcidiancono.

North Carolina (33-6): Junior forward Kennedy Meeks; senior forward Brice Johnson; sophomore forward Justin Jackson; sophomore guard Joel Berry II; senior guard Marcus Paige.

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Marcus Paige’s shot helps Tar Heels pull away from Syracuse

It was happening again.

Almost a week after Syracuse’s improbable comeback against Virginia, the Orange again trailed big against North Carolina in the second half of Saturday’s national semifinal game. Then, the lead started to vanish: a three-pointer, a dunk, a layup. When Malachi Richardson, last week’s hero, hit another three-pointer, the lead was in single digits, at seven.

North Carolina was reeling. It was dominating inside, but was 0 for 13 on three-point attempts. At the other end, Marcus Paige tried another.

This time it went in. The comeback faltered. North Carolina peeled away for an 83-66 victory, and will play Villanova on Monday for the national championship.

The three-pointer ended a horrid stretch for the backcourt from behind the arc, but Paige said “it was more of a relief for our entire team. We needed that basket.”

In film study this week, North Carolina (33-6) watched how Syracuse (23-14) had clamped down against Virginia with a full-court press. Forward Kennedy Meeks said the players saw how the Orange harassed a usually careful, patient team into mistakes.

“It’s a dangerous thing,” Meeks said.

Syracuse again clamped down late, as it cut into North Carolina’s lead.

“That’s when we needed our press to work, we needed our traps to work,” Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney said.

At first, they did. North Carolina had two turnovers in three possessions.

Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams called timeout and screamed at his players.

“My pulse went up quite a bit,” he said. “My heart rate went up quite a bit.”

The team settled down. It leaned on its preparation.

“We knew they would press eventually in the game,” forward Brice Johnson said. “Hey, if that’s what you want to do against a team that likes to run, then, hey, by all means go ahead and do it. We got a bunch of layups out of it. That’s what we do.”

The Tar Heels bullied Syracuse inside for much of the game. They scored 50 points in the paint and outrebounded the Orange, 43-31.

Johnson and Meeks shot a combined 13 for 20. Johnson and forward Justin Jackson each had 16 points, Meeks 15.

For Syracuse, Cooney scored 22 points and Richardson had 17.

North Carolina will make its 10th appearance in the national title game. The Tar Heels’ path there could not have been much smoother. They’ve trailed for all of 50 seconds in the second half of their NCAA tournament games.

But in the other semifinal, Villanova won by 44 points. It is the first time since 2008 both semifinal games were decided by double digits. Some North Carolina players caught some of the early contest. Others learned of the score for the first time in the postgame locker room.

“They won by how much?” Meeks said, mouth agape.

Williams said he’d been informed of Villanova’s unprecedented 71.4% shooting accuracy. If they shoot that again, Williams drawled, “they’ll probably win again.”

Syracuse, meanwhile, was an unlikely pick to even make it this far. The Orange squeaked into the tournament. Cooney said at his postgame press conference that “we weren’t even supposed to be here.” But they became the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four.

The game had another unusual distinction: it was played between two teams under NCAA scrutiny. Syracuse is on probation for NCAA rules violations, which Coach Jim Boeheim has vigorously argued against, and which resulted in his nine-game suspension earlier this season.

North Carolina has been under investigation for years over allegations of widespread academic cheating in the athletic program.

Boeheim grew argumentative when a reporter asked about the suspension.

“Why do you guys always ask me that, really? Did you ask Roy that?” Boeheim said. “I guess my answer to your question is, I’m happier now at the end of this year than any time I’ve ever coached.”

Sanctions may await North Carolina, too, but all of the involved players have moved on. For now, at least, their focus is elsewhere.

Running up the tunnel toward the locker room, Johnson yelled, “One more!”

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

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Final Four: North Carolina and Syracuse about to tip off

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Villanova defeats Oklahoma, 95-51, by record-setting margin

HOUSTON -- There came a time in the first national semifinal game — much of the second half, really — when a sense of decency had to be preserved.

It was the waning minutes of Villanova’s seismic, historic 95-51 demolition of Oklahoma on Saturday. Villanova guard Phil Booth tore off on another breakaway. He chopped his feet, anticipating a dunk.

“Coach was telling him, ‘Cool it down! Cool it down!’” Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu said. “We all understood at that point, we’re not trying to disgrace anybody. We’re not trying to make ourselves look like bad people.”

Villanova Coach Jay Wright knew: The Wildcats could hardly miss if they tried. Never in NCAA tournament history had a Final Four game been so lopsided. The 44-point victory made the next-greatest margin, 34-point wins by Michigan State (1979) and Cincinnati (1963), seem like nail-biters.

Villanova’s dominance was without parallel. The Wildcats (34-5) scored nearly 1.5 points per possession. They made 71.4% of their field goals, second in Final Four history to Villanova’s 1985 performance against Georgetown. Only back then, there were no three-point shots.

(The Wildcats made 11 of those against Oklahoma, on 18 attempts.)

It was easy to forget Oklahoma (29-8) had crushed Villanova in December by 23 points. Villanova’s second-half total alone (53) would’ve been enough to win the game, as the Wildcats scored 25 unanswered points.

“Got whipped in every way,” Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger said.

“I feel bad for Oklahoma,” Wright said afterward, on the floor. He was not gloating. “We’ve all had those nights.”

Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield had been the star of this NCAA tournament. But in the first half Saturday he went more than 15 minutes between baskets. Perhaps an even greater indicator of the Wildcats’ defense: For an eight-minute span, he didn’t even attempt a shot.

Villanova used all five positions to guard him, at different points. He couldn’t find space.

Hield made the first basket of the second half, then didn’t score again. He finished with nine points, and made one of eight three-point attempts.

Villanova, he said, was “throwing a bunch of bodies at me.” He called the Wildcats “one of the best teams I’ve ever played in college.”

The mood in Oklahoma’s locker room was funereal.

“Everything fell apart, even when we got stops,” Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins said

Forward Khadeem Lattin sat with his head in his arms. He politely requested not to do any interviews until he saw his mom.

Down the NRG Stadium hallway, Villanova’s celebration was muted.

“It feels good,” guard Josh Hart said. “I wouldn’t mind it on Monday.”

The Wildcats do not have a player like Hield, but they do bring a deep, versatile lineup. On Saturday, it was Hart’s turn. The former sixth man made 10 of 12 shots for 23 points. Forward Kris Jenkins scored 18 with eight rebounds. Six players scored in double figures.

The first half was dominant enough. The lead changed 11 times early. Then Villanova turned relentless. The Wildcats made two thirds of their baskets, which seemed disappointing only in hindsight. Their biggest run was a mere 12-0 as they took a 42-28 lead.

Oklahoma actually mounted a run early in the second half. Early on, the Wildcats’ lead was in the single digits. In the huddle, Villanova’s players snapped at each other, challenging themselves to answer.

They did, with a 25-0 run over almost six minutes.

The run began with a broken play. Hart lost his dribble at the foul line. He pivoted, turned, twisted, then flung a fadeaway as Hield contested. It went in.

Seconds later, Jenkins lobbed a pass that would make Brian Hoyer, who plays quarterback here for the Texans, jealous. From under Villanova’s basket, he hit Mikal Bridges on the other side of the court. Bridges threw down a dunk, with a foul. On the next possession, Booth splashed in a three-pointer.

“I mean, they’re just throwing it up there, and everything was falling for them,” guard Isaiah Cousins said. “I just figured that they pretty much had the game.”

The sequence was the backbreaker. Oklahoma had all but given up.

And Villanova still had 17 unanswered points to go on its march into the record books.

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Syracuse vs. North Carolina: How the teams match up

WHO: No. 10 Syracuse (23-13) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (32-6)

WHAT: NCAA Final Four, Saturday, 5:49 p.m.

WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston. TV: TBS; Radio: 710.

UPDATE: Syracuse has been to nine Final Fours. Its senior class alone has been to two. Its coach, Jim Boeheim, is second on the Division I wins list. The Orange aren’t a typical Cinderella team. But that’s what they are. Syracuse became the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four after mounting a 14-point second-half comeback against Virginia. Despite its seeding, Syracuse is not wanting for talent. Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone defense is swarming — Syracuse is fourth nationally in steal percentage. Playing against it is a slog — Syracuse’s average defensive possession is the longest in the nation. The matchup could give North Carolina trouble. The Tar Heels prefer to pound the ball into the paint — 6-foot-9 forward Brice Johnson leads the team with 17.1 points per game — rather than rely on shooting. The team makes just 32% of its three-point attempts, and only six teams in the nation get a lower percentage of their points from three-pointers. One exception could be Marcus Paige, whose shot has come alive in the tournament. He made six of nine three-point attempts against Indiana. For Syracuse, Michael Gbinije paces the offense, averaging 17.6 points a game. Only four players in the nation log more minutes. He has scored in double digits in every game this season. Malachi Richardson is also dangerous. He scored 21 points in the second half against Virginia. The Tar Heels have been to four Final Fours under coach Roy Williams and 19 overall, the most in NCAA history. North Carolina won the teams’ first two meetings this season, each by fewer than 10 points.

LINEUPS

Starters

Syracuse;Ht;Wt;PPG | Pos | North Carolina;Ht;Wt;PPG

Malachi Richardson;6-6;205;13.3 | G | Marcus Paige;6-2;175;12.3

Trevor Cooney;6-4;195;12.7 | G | Joel Berry II;6-0;195;12.8

Michael Gbinije;6-7;200;17.6 | G/F | Justin Jackson;6-8;200;12.2

Tyler Roberson;6-8;226;9.0 | F | Brice Johnson;6-10;230;17.1

Tyler Lydon;6-9;210;10.2 | F | Kennedy Meeks;6-10;260;9.2

Reserves

Syracuse;Ht;Wt;PPG | Pos | North Carolina;Ht;Wt;PPG

Kaleb Joseph;6-3;180;0.8 | G | Nate Britt;6-1;175;5.7

Frank Howard;6-4;190;1.7 | G | Theo Pinson;6-6;205;4.6

Chinonso Obokoh;6-9;21 | F | Isaiah Hicks;6-9;235;9.1

DaJuan Coleman;6-9;268;4.9 | C/F | Joel James;6-11;280;2.2

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Oklahoma vs. Villanova: How the two teams match up

WHO: No. 2 Oklahoma (29-7) vs. No. 2 Villanova (33-5)

WHAT: NCAA Final Four, Saturday, 3 p.m.

WHERE: NRG Stadium, Houston. TV: TBS; Radio: 710 AM.

UPDATE: No player this tournament has been as electrifying, or seemingly unstoppable, as Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. He scored 36 points against Virginia Commonwealth and 37 points against Oregon, when he made eight of 13 three-pointers. Hield is shooting nearly 57% in the tournament, has drawn praise from Kobe Bryant and brings the highest scoring average (25.4) of any Final Four player since 1990. The pressure will be on Villanova’s Josh Hart, who will likely guard Hield, but teams that have focused too much on Hield have suffered — guard Jordan Woodard, who is averaging almost 17 points per game, can also be lethal. Hield and Woodard, plus guard Isaiah Cousins and forward Ryan Spangler, have played 104 consecutive games together. Villanova will again try to make the game “ugly,” as the team proudly described its win over Kansas, when it won a grinder of a game with defense and rebounding. Villanova likes that style — its defense is seventh in efficiency. But its offense is even better: fourth in efficiency. Hart leads the team in scoring (15.3 points per game) and forward Kris Jenkins is a tough matchup who can shoot from the outside (he makes 38% of his three-pointers). The Wildcats are on a redemption tour after winning just one game in the last two tournaments. Now, there’s another indignity to avenge: in December, Oklahoma rained down 14 three-pointers and destroyed Villanova, 78-55.

LINEUPS

Starters

Oklahoma; Ht; Wt; PPG | Pos. | Villanova; Ht; Wt; PPG

Jordan Woodard; 6-0; 187; 13.0 | G | Jalen Brunson; 6-2; 199; 9.8

Buddy Hield; 6-4; 214; 25.4 | G | Josh Hart; 6-5; 202; 15.3

Isaiah Cousins; 6-4; 200; 12.8 | G | Ryan Arcidiacono; 6-3; 195; 12.3

Ryan Spangler; 6-8; 234; 10.3 | F | Kris Jenkins; 6-6; 240; 13.5

Khadeem Lattin; 6-9; 208; 5.7 | F | Daniel Ochefu; 6-11; 245; 10.1

Reserves

Oklahoma; Ht; Wt; PPG | Pos. | Villanova; Ht; Wt; PPG

Dinjiyl Walker; 6-1; 203; 3.4 | G | Phil Booth; 6-3; 185; 6.6

Christian James; 6-4; 218; 2.9 | G | Mikal Bridges; 6-7; 191; 6.3

Dante Buford; 6-7; 221; 3.6 | F | Darryl Reynolds; 6-8; 225; 3.8

Jamuni McNeace; 6-10; 215; 1.1 | F | Patrick Farrell; 6-5; 200; 0.4

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One half by Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson made this Final Four special

He walked into Syracuse’s locker room Friday, and he was not mobbed.

Malachi Richardson wasn’t the most popular player in the room. He might not have been the best one, either. But he was the reason everyone was here.

“A gift from God,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim’s wife, Juli, called it, according to the New York Post.

She was talking about Richardson’s miraculous second-half performance last Sunday, when he carried the Orange back from the dead and into the Final Four. Richardson rescued Syracuse’s season, and also saved this year’s roiling, unpredictable NCAA tournament from an orderly, ordinary conclusion.

Instead, the Final Four will be have one No. 1 seed, two No. 2s … and the first-ever 10 seed. (Three No. 11s have made it.)

Syracuse isn’t quite a rags-to-riches tale, but it isn’t a popular pick here, either. Villanova, in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, is the statheads’ darling. Oklahoma has the star, in Buddy Hield. North Carolina’s entire lineup is fearsome.

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Getting set for tipoff

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A year later Villanova’s ‘Piccolo Girl’ has come to terms with her NCAA tournament social media fame

Piccolo Girl was among the last to know she’d become “Piccolo Girl.”

At some point while Roxanne Chalifoux was playing in the Villanova band that day, a year ago, her phone died. It was just as well. Villanova had just been upset in its second NCAA tournament game. Chalifoux was crushed.

Afterward, she was commiserating over dinner when highlights of the game flickered on. She didn’t want to watch.

Then someone shouted, “That’s you on TV!”

And there she was, on “SportsCenter.” Chalifoux was dutifully playing the piccolo as tears welled and rolled down her cheeks. The camera lingered, Chalifoux tightly framed.

Chalifoux had gone viral. She was all over Twitter. She was on highlight shows. She was Piccolo Girl.

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Final Four: UNC, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Villanova

The NCAA tournament’s Final Four are set for Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Here’s the schedule (times PDT):

3:09 p.m.: Oklahoma (West) vs. Villanova (South)

5:49 p.m. North Carolina (East) vs. Syracuse (Midwest).

TV: TBS

Championship game will be at 6 p.m., Monday, April 4

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North Carolina beats Notre Dame, 88-74, to complete Final Four

Brice Johnson had 25 points and 12 rebounds to help top-seeded North Carolina reach its 19th Final Four with an 88-74 victory over sixth-seeded Notre Dame in the East Regional final on Sunday night.

The Tar Heels are in the Final Four for the first time since 2009, when they won the national championship. Coach Roy Williams is in the Final Four for the fourth time with North Carolina.

The Tar Heels will play Syracuse at 5:49 p.m. PDT on Saturday in Houston. Villanova will play Oklahoma in the first semifinal at 3:09 p.m.

Demetrius Jackson scored 26 to lead Notre Dame.

North Carolina shot 62% (31 of 50) and turned missed free throws into high-flying dunks to open a 77-67 lead with three minutes left.

The Irish have made some runs that kept the game tight.

North Carolina built some breathing room against Notre Dame early in the second half, but the Irish responded.

Demetrius Jackson keyed a Notre Dame run and the Tar Heels suffered a minor meltdown that aided the Irish run. North Carolina’s Brice Johnson was whistled for a foul, then tossed the ball high over his head in frustration and was hit with a technical.

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia made two free throws to trim Carolina’s lead to 51-50.

North Carolina had pulled ahead of Notre Dame, 43-38, at halftime. The teams combined to make 30 of 49 shots overall and 10 of 16 three-pointers in the first half.

Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem threw down a baseline dunk that stands among the most eye-popping of the regional rounds.

The only thing better may have been his teammates’ reaction on the bench. Shades of the Monmouth bench, the Irish put on a show.

Zach Auguste (see below) palmed his forehead and acted like he had fainted. His teammates wrapped their arms around Auguste and tried to prop him up.

--Associated Press

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Syracuse rallies in second half to beat Virginia, 68-62

Syracuse is headed to the Final Four after being one of the last teams to make the NCAA tournament, beating top-seeded Virginia, 68-62, in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.

Virginia is the third No. 1-seeded team to go down in the Elite Eight round this NCAA tournament.

Syracuse went on a 25-4 run, including 15 straight points, midway through the second half to erase a double-digit deficit and claim a 64-58 lead with 3:27 left.

Malachi Richardson scored 23 points for the Orange, who advance to their first Final Four since 2013 and sixth overall. Syracuse’s 15 unanswered points turned a nine-point deficit into a 64-58 lead with 3:27 left.

Malcolm Brogdon hit two free throws for Virginia to make it 64-62 with 27 seconds left, but the Cavaliers simply couldn’t wipe out the deficit.

Syracuse’s Michael Gbinje made one of two free throws and Tyler Lydon hit two more to make it 67-62 with nine seconds left.

Gbinije and freshman Tyler Lydon each scored 11 points for Syracuse (23-13), while teammate Tyler Roberson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

London Perrantes scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half for Virginia (29-8), which blew a 16-point lead in the second half.

Perrantes went on a tear in the first half, nailing five three-pointers as the Cavaliers grabbed a 14-point lead. They were up 16 early in the second when the Orange started to chip away at it.

Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon cut the lead to 39-32 with a three-pointer just over five minutes into the half, capping a 9-2 spurt.

Virginia got it back up to double digits before Malachi Richardson nailed another one for the Orange. But the Cavaliers’ Malcolm Brogdon answered with one of his own and Darius Thompson hit from long range to make it 51-37.

That made Virginia seven of 17 on thee-pointers. Syracuse was three of 13.

— Associated Press

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It’s about to go down

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Midwest Region: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 10 Syracuse, 3:09 p.m. (TBS)

Virginia guard London Perrantes (32) and teammate Devon Hall celebrate during a win over Butler.
(Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

Before every game, the door knocker comes out, and each of the Virginia Cavaliers takes a turn. While the swings are different for each player, the message is the same.

Just keep going.

“We don’t want to take steps back,” junior guard London Perrantes said Saturday. “We want to keep on knocking until the door opens for us.”

The next door for the top-seeded Cavaliers (29-7) leads to the Final Four in Houston, but standing in the way is resurgent Syracuse (22-13) after a late slide almost led to another empty March for the Orange. With Coach Jim Boeheim deftly pulling the right strings on his tricky 2-3 matchup zone, 10th-seeded Syracuse is giving up 53.7 points a game in the NCAA tournament.

The Orange appeared to be in big trouble in the Midwest Regional semifinals against Gonzaga, but used their full-court pressure to rally for a 63-60 victory and an all-ACC rematch with Virginia on Sunday.

“They’re a very disciplined team, and we’ve just got to be smart defensively and offensively, as well,” said Michael Gbinije, who scored 20 points against the Bulldogs, including a go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left.

The Orange visited Virginia on Jan. 24, and the Cavaliers used a strong finish to secure a 73-65 victory. Syracuse trailed 49-48 with 5:58 to go before Malcolm Brogdon hit consecutive 3-pointers to help Virginia pull away.

The Cavaliers shot 56.8% from the field in their third consecutive victory against the Orange. It was the highest shooting percent against Syracuse since North Carolina State shot 57.7 percent in the Orange’s 88-72 victory on Dec. 17, 2011.

“It’s a good zone. You have to be able to attack it in different ways,” Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said. “You have to knock down some shots. The ball has to move, you have to dent it off the dribble, get on the glass, different kinds of things.

“I just think I have the guys that have the right spacing and the right mindset, and these are the guys who have made the shots and made the plays.”

--Associated Press

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East Region: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Notre Dame, 5:49 p.m. (TBS)

The day before North Carolina and Notre Dame were to meet for a berth in the Final Four, the talk around the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was about a game played two weeks ago.

That would have been the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, a 78-47 victory for North Carolina over the Fighting Irish. A 31-point blowout just 15 days ago.

“I misplaced it,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said about the tape of that game. “Those are the ones that you burn, you don’t go back to. But certainly you have to learn from it, and we’ve talked about it a little bit in practice.”

Since that loss, Notre Dame has become the comeback kids of the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Irish have trailed in the second half of all three of their games and two have come down to the final seconds.

“They’re playing at a really high level right now. But I think we are as well,” Notre Dame forward Steve Vasturia said. “So especially with one day to get ready for them, we’re so familiar with what they do and they know what we do. So I think mainly for us just going out there and focusing on what we do best and playing with nothing to lose and that should be good enough for us.”

The matchup between top-seeded North Carolina (31-6) and sixth-seeded Notre Dame (24-11) in the East is just one of two all-ACC regional finals. In the Midwest, top-seeded Virginia meets 10th-seeded Syracuse, guaranteeing the ACC a team in the national championship game.

North Carolina players look to another matchup the Tar Heels had with Notre Dame that turned the season around. On Feb. 6, the Fighting Irish won at home, 80-76, and the Tar Heels say that second half is what turned things around for them. They have gone 12-2 since that loss.

“First thing we’ve learned is that defense wins championships. We’ve really played well defensively especially at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. And that’s basically what we learned mostly out of that game,” said Brice Johnson, North Carolina’s leading scorer (16.8) and rebounder (10.5). “We can’t let up on them because they’re a very good team and they will make runs during the game. And that’s pretty much it.”

This is North Carolina’s 26th regional final, and the Tar Heels have gone on to the Final Four a record 18 times, the last in 2009 when they won the most recent of their five national championships.

This is Notre Dame’s seventh regional final. The Fighting Irish won once, its only Final Four appearance in 1978.

--Associated Press

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Oklahoma’s strong rebounding effort is too much for Oregon

Oklahoma had a decided edge in the backcourt Saturday, an advantage that was borne out by the 61 points guards Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins combined for in the Sooners’ 80-68 West Regional final victory over Oregon at Honda Center.

But the blue-collar work the Sooners did on the glass, especially in the first half, against the supposedly superior front line of the Ducks was as much of a factor in Oklahoma reaching its first Final Four since 2002.

The Sooners had more offensive rebounds (11) in the first 20 minutes than Oregon had total rebounds (10). They turned six of those rebounds into 15 second-chance points, nine on three-pointers by Woodard, Cousins and Hield, and scored 12 points off turnovers en route to a 48-30 halftime lead.

“Yeah,” said Khadeem Lattin, Oklahoma’s 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, “we kind of just imposed our will in the paint.”

The paint was supposed to be Oregon’s domain, a place where quick and athletic forwards Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell, both shot-blocking specialists, and forward Dillon Brooks often dominate.

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Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield has a three-for-all at Oregon’s expense, and Sooners are going to Final Four

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield drives to the basket againt Oregon forward Elgin Cook during the second half of the West Regional Final on March 26 at Honda Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Behind the three-point line, Jackie Swann looked up and cried.

When her son, Buddy Hield, was growing up in the Bahamas, he had to fasten his own basketball hoop from milk crates or old bicycle rims.

Now, he climbed a ladder at the Honda Center and snipped a piece of net. Hield and Oklahoma were going to the Final Four.

See the most-read stories in Sports this hour>>

The Sooners never trailed in their breezy 80-68 victory over Oregon in the West Regional final on Saturday. Hield was transcendent. He scored 37 points and made eight of 13 three-point shots.

He made fadeaways and pull-ups. He scored three-pointers in transition and with hands in his face. Once, he pulled off a one-handed put-back at the rim. His makes rarely grazed the iron.

“Every time I felt like we were getting ready to do something, he would jump up and make a shot,” Oregon Coach Dana Altman said.

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Oklahoma advances to Final Four with 80-68 victory over Oregon in West Region final

Buddy Hield made eight three-pointers while scoring 37 points and Oklahoma advanced to its first Final Four since 2002 with an 80-68 victory over Oregon in the West Region final of the NCAA tournament on Saturday in Anaheim.

Jordan Woodard added 13 points for the Sooners (29-7), who streaked to an 18-point lead in the first half and never let the Ducks back in it.

The regional final was a monument to the formidable talent of Hield, the Sooners’ senior star. He produced a dynamite performance on his biggest stage, carving the Ducks’ defense from all distances with his smooth outside shot and a knack for momentum-swinging buckets.

Elgin Cook scored 24 points for the Ducks (31-7), whose 11-game winning streak ended one game shy of the second Final Four in school history.

Oklahoma is in the Final Four for the fifth time. Hollis Price and Aaron McGhee led Coach Kelvin Sampson’s Sooners there 14 years ago, only to lose to Indiana in the national semifinal. The Sooners have never won a national title, but Hield’s talent suggests history could be made in Houston.

Hield scored 17 points in the first half, capped by drilling his fifth three-pointer from three steps behind the line with four seconds left to put the Sooners ahead 48-30 at the break.

He hit two more huge three-pointers down the stretch, including a graceful, high-arching shot with 4:20 left that pushed Oklahoma’s lead back to 17 points.

The two-time Big 12 player of the year scored at least 30 points for the 12th time this season and matched his career high for three-pointers. His 37 points were his third-best total of the season.

Oregon had beaten six NCAA tournament-bound teams by double digits during its winning streak, but Oklahoma’s outside shooting and rebounding led to a first-half hole that was too deep for the Pac-12 champions.

Hield had the highest-scoring performance against the Ducks all season. He became the first player with 100 points and 15 three-pointers made before the Final Four since Stephen Curry of Davidson in 2008.

--Associated Press

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Villanova upsets top-seeded Kansas, 64-59

Kris Jenkins made two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, Jalen Brunson added two more with 3.5 seconds left and second-seeded Villanova upset top-seeded Kansas 64-59 on Saturday night in the NCAA Tournament South Region final to reach the Final Four.

Mikal Reynolds and Josh Hart each made big steals in the final minute to help the Wildcats (33-5) pull off the upset and end the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

The Wildcats are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2009, and they can credit balanced scoring and ferocious defense.

Jenkins, Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono each scored 13 points for the Wildcats, who used a 10-0 run to take a 50-45 lead and get key baskets and plays down the stretch in beating the Jayhawks (33-5).

Devonte’ Graham had 17 points, and Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. added 16 each for Kansas.

— Associated Press

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West Regional final: No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 Oklahoma, 3:09 p.m. (CBS)

Oregon Coach Dana Altman directs his team before an inbounds play against Duke on Thursday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Lon Kruger and Dana Altman are one win away from the Final Four, and neither man can bear to lose.

They can hardly stomach a win, either.

Kruger, the Oklahoma coach, gave Altman, the Oregon coach, his first Division I job, as an assistant at Kansas State. In return, Altman brought his star junior college player, a young man named Mitch Richmond. In their brief stretch together, along with point guard Steve Henson, they built one of the best stretches in Kansas State basketball history.

Both coaches moved on, but remained what Kruger called “best friends.” They’re both naturally calm, studiously dull and undeniably effective. They talk every 10 days throughout the season, play golf together and have avoided playing each other throughout their careers — they didn’t want one man to lose.

But they couldn’t avoid this game, the West Regional final on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, one of the biggest games of either coach’s career.

It has put Richmond, the former Laker, in a bind.

“I wanted to wear an Oklahoma shirt and an Oregon shirt,” Richmond said.

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Coach K offers apology to Oregon for chat with Dillon Brooks

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement Saturday that has apologized to Oregon Coach Dana Altman for his postgame conversation with Dillon Brooks, who helped lead the Ducks to an 82-68 victory over the Blue Devils in a West Region semifinal on Thursday night in Anaheim.

In a statement issued Saturday, Krzyzewski said “it is not my place to talk to another team’s player” and he hoped he “did not create a distraction” for the top-seeded Ducks.

Oregon plays second-seeded Oklahoma in the regional final on Saturday afternoon.

Brooks made a three-pointer with the shot clock expiring in the final seconds of the Ducks’ victory. In the handshake line, Krzyzewski had a prolonged discussion with the Oregon guard.

Krzyzewski said in his statement that chat “took the focus away from the terrific game that Dillon played.”

The Hall of Fame coach also apologized for responding “incorrectly to a reporter’s question about my comment to Dillon.”

Brooks said in the locker room after the game that Krzyzewski told him that “I’m too good of a player to be showing (off) at the end.”

In his news conference, Krzyzewski disputed Brooks’ version of events and appeared angry when it was brought up.

“I didn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said. “You can say whatever you want. Dillon Brooks is a hell of a player. I said, `You’re a terrific player.’ And you can take whatever he said and go with it, all right?”

Here is Krzyzewski’s statement in its entirety:

“Today, I spoke with Oregon head coach Dana Altman and apologized to him for my remarks to Dillon Brooks following our game. It is not my place to talk to another team’s player and doing so took the focus away from the terrific game that Dillon played. In the postgame press conference, I reacted incorrectly to a reporter’s question about my comment to Dillon. Clearly, the story that night was about Oregon advancing to the Elite Eight, and the outstanding game they played. I sincerely hope I did not create a distraction for Coach Altman and his team at this critical time of year. Certainly, I have the utmost respect for the Oregon program and their tremendous accomplishments.”

— --Staff and wire reports

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Syracuse punches its ticket to the Elite Eight with a win over Gonzaga, 63-60

Michael Gbinije made a go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left, sending Syracuse to a 63-60 victory over Gonzaga on Friday night and a spot in the Elite Eight.

Tyler Lydon sealed the win with a block on Josh Perkins’ runner in the final seconds. Lydon then grabbed the ball and made two foul shots before Domantas Sabonis’ desperate fling was well off at the buzzer.

Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney had 15 as Syracuse (22-13) advanced to the regional final for the first time since 2013.

The 10th-seeded Orange will face No. 1 Virginia on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points for Gonzaga (28-8), and Sabonis finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds.

— Associated Press

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North Carolina cruises past Indiana, 101-86, to reach the Elite Eight

Marcus Paige scored 21 points and North Carolina continued its offensive prowess, moving to the Elite Eight for the 20th time since 1975 with a 101-86 victory over Indiana on Friday night in the East Regional.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-6) will meet sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday, determining one of two guaranteed Atlantic Coast Conference spots in the Final Four. The Fighting Irish beat Wisconsin 61-56 on Friday.

It will be the same case in the Midwest Regional, where top-seeded Virginia will face 10th-seeded Syracuse, meaning at least half the Final Four will be from the ACC. The conference will also have a team play for the national title.

Brice Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who are in the regional final for the seventh time in coach Roy Williams’ 12 years and for the first time since 2012.

Yogi Ferrell had 25 points to lead Indiana (27-8).

— Associated Press

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Notre Dame advances to Elite Eight with win over Wisconsin, 61-56

Demetrius Jackson stripped the ball and scored the go-ahead layup with 14.7 seconds left and Notre Dame advanced to the brink of its first Final Four in 38 years with a 61-56 win over Wisconsin on Friday night in the East Region semifinal of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson sealed the win with a pair of free throws to send the Irish (24-11) into a regional final for the second straight season.

Notre Dame lost to Kentucky a year ago. This year, the Irish will get a shot at top-seeded North Carolina or Indiana on Sunday.

Vitto Brown’s 3-pointer with 26 seconds left put the Badgers (22-13) up 56-53 and kept Wisconsin’s shot at a third straight Final Four alive.

But the Irish shook off a miserable shooting game down the stretch and have their first Final Four since 1978 in sight.

— Associated Press

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Virginia keeps dancing, beats Iowa State 84-71

Anthony Gill finished with a season-high 23 points, Mike Tobey came off the bench to score 18, and top-seeded Virginia beat Iowa State 84-71 in the Midwest Region semifinals on Friday night.

The Cavaliers (29-7) withstood a second-half push by the fourth-seeded Cyclones (23-12) after grabbing a big lead in the early going and advanced to their first regional final since 1995.

Virginia will face Syracuse or Gonzaga on Sunday. A win would send the Cavaliers to their first Final Four since 1984, when coach Tony Bennett was a teenager.

Georges Niang had another big game for Iowa State, finishing with 30 points after scoring 28 against both Iona and Arkansas-Little Rock in the first two rounds. But an up-and-down first season under coach Steve Prohm ended on a disappointing note.

With a chance to go farther than they ever did under predecessor Fred Hoiberg, the Cyclones never could recover from a flat start in the arena where “The Mayor” now coaches the Chicago Bulls.

They got outscored 52-36 in the paint, with Gill finishing two points shy of a career high and Tobey missing his personal best by one. Gill had eight rebounds while Tobey grabbed seven.

ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon added 12 points and five assists for the Cavaliers.

Virginia was leading 49-35 early in the second half when Iowa State went on a 9-2 run that Monte Morris finished with a floater, drawing a roar from a large contingent of Cyclones fans.

But Virginia kept its cool and got the lead back up to 15 — 63-48 — on a put-back by Tobey with 9:10 remaining.

With many in the crowd wearing Iowa State’s Cardinal and Gold, Virginia did all it could to silence them in the early going. The Cavaliers led by as much as 17 and took a 45-31 advantage to the locker room.

Devon Hall hit a 3 on the game’s opening possession, London Perrantes added two more, and in a flash it was 17-3 just over five minutes into the game.

The Cavaliers exposed gaps whether Iowa State was playing man-to-man or zone. They showed some flash, too, like when Darius Thompson delivered a behind-the-back pass to Isaiah Wilkins for a fast-break dunk that made it 26-9.

Iowa State cut into the lead late in the half, with Niang nailing a 3 to make it 41-31 with just over a minute left. But Virginia regrouped.

Gill and Brogdon each hit a pair of free throws to make it a 14-point game and a soaring Gill blocked Niang’s layup at the buzzer.

— Associated Press

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Sunday’s NCAA results

ELITE EIGHT

  • No. 10 Syracuse 68, No. 1 Virginia vs. 62
  • No. 1 North Carolina 88, No. 6 Notre Dame 74
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Oregon topples defending champion Duke, 82-68

At midcourt, Oregon’s Dillon Brooks stomped and screamed. There had hardly been enough time for Duke’s players to turn around and watch his highlight.

Oregon can score in a blink, and it did so often in its 82-68 victory in Thursday’s West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center.

It was enough to be demoralizing for the Blue Devils.

A few minutes into the second half, Duke’s Matt Jones thought he had an open layup.

Oregon’s Jordan Bell closed fast. He swatted Jones’ attempt, hard, against the backboard. The Ducks scooped the rebound and tossed the ball to Brooks, who threw it down.

From block to dunk, it took three seconds. While Brooks and his teammates celebrated, Duke called timeout. In the huddle, shoulders sagged. Most of the second half remained, but Oregon was overwhelming.

“We just kept going and kept going,” Brooks said. “They couldn’t hang.”

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Top-seeded Kansas polishes off Maryland, 79-63

Perry Ellis scored 27 points to match a season high, Wayne Selden Jr. added 19 and top-seeded Kansas topped No. 5-seeded Maryland for a 79-63 NCAA tournament South Region semifinal victory Thursday night in Louisville, Ky.

The win put the Jayhawks back into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012.

It took time for the Jayhawks (33-4) to get going, but once they finally seized the lead late in the first half everything else fell into place for their 17th straight victory. They emerged from the break to make their first six shots and steadily take control behind senior forward Ellis, who made 10 of 17 from the field.

Selden was right there with seven-of-16 shooting to help Kansas earn a berth in Saturday’s regional final against Villanova at 5:49 p.m. PDT.

The Terrapins (27-9) dictated the early tempo and briefly engaged in a back-and-forth game with the Jayhawks before eventually falling behind the tournament favorite. Rasheed Sulaimon led Maryland with 18 points.

Landen Lucas added 14 points and 11 rebounds while Frank Mason III had 11 points for Kansas, which outworked Maryland 43-28 on the glass and outscored the taller Terps 40-28 in the paint.

Better shooting also helped the Jayhawks, who made 14 of 25 in the second half and finished 29 of 62 from the field (47%).

Kansas just had to take its time to slow down Maryland, which entered the game with every starter averaging at least 11 points per contest. Its main focus was keeping Maryland guard Melo Trimble (17 points) from getting hot, a strategy that worked as the sophomore made just five of 16 from the field with just one 3-pointer.

The Jayhawks defense kept other Maryland players from becoming factors on both ends as well and ended up holding the Terps to just 40% shooting including 35% after halftime.

--Associated Press

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Oklahoma easily defeats Texas A&M, 77-63

The house money ran out for Texas A&M, which extended its NCAA tournament run with a miraculous, last-minute comeback win in the second round but went bust against Oklahoma in the West Regional semifinals on Thursday.

With the Aggies channeling most of their defensive energy toward Sooners star Buddy Hield, Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard went off for 22 points and five assists to lead the Sooners to a 77-63 victory in the Honda Center.

Hield, one of four Naismith Award finalists, scored 17 points on six-for-13 shooting, well off his 25.4-point average. But Woodard nearly doubled his 12.8-point average, making eight of 11 shots from the field and five of six three-pointers, most of them uncontested.

Freshman guard Christian James scored 12 points off the bench, and forwards Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin each added 10 points to help Oklahoma (28-7) advance to Saturday’s Regional final against Oregon, with the winner of that game advancing to the Final Four.

“When people hug Buddy and deny him, that frees up some space on the interior,” Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger said. “So any time we can create a two-on-one at the rim, we like that.

“And when you take one of their defensive guys out of the rotation because he’s hugging Buddy, then maybe that frees up a few opportunities. But again, hugging Buddy is probably a pretty good plan too.”

The plan worked early for Texas A&M on Thursday night, as guards Alex Caruso and Admon Gilder limited Hield to five points and four shots in the first 12 minutes. The Aggies even took a 13-6 lead four minutes into the game, Jalen Jones fueling the early burst with a pair of three-pointers.

But Oklahoma weathered the run, came back to tie the score at 15 and went on a 14-0 run to take a 40-22 lead with 2 minutes 23 seconds left in the half. Woodard sparked the surge with a three-pointer and a free throw, and Isaiah Cousins, who scored only two points but had eight assists, scored on a coast-to-coast layup.

Hield, with Caruso overplaying him, took a nice backdoor pass from Spangler for a layup and found Woodard for another open three. Lattin completed the run with an alley-oop dunk off a Woodard pass.

Hield got an open look from the top of the key and drilled a three-pointer with 1:47 left, and Woodard picked up a loose ball and hit a running, 12-foot bank shot as the shot clock expired to give the Sooners a 45-26 halftime lead.

“The glass is your friend,” Woodard said with a smile. “I knew the clock was rolling down, so I just wanted to make sure I got it to the rim. It was just that type of night, I guess.”

Few expected the Aggies to go quietly, not after they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 44 seconds of regulation in Sunday’s double-overtime win over Northern Iowa.

Texas A&M pushed the ball inside to start the second half, with center Tyler Davis scoring seven of his team’s first eight points. But Oklahoma used good ball movement to find its big men, with Spangler and Lattin combining for eight early second-half points.

The Aggies trimmed the lead to 53-42 when Jones made two free throws with 15:01 left, but that was as close as they got. Hield drove for a basket, was fouled and made the free throw, Spangler scored from inside, and Hield hit a step-back three to push the lead back to 18 points (61-43) with 12:51 left.

“Defensively, we paid so much attention to Buddy. I think we fell asleep at times on the weak side and gave up layups,” Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said. “We had a hard time matching up with them. You take Buddy away, it opens up driving lanes for Jordan and Isaiah. They got dunks and layups for their bigs, and it just throws your defense totally out of whack.”

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Buddy Hield has carried Oklahoma’s basketball team with a sweet jumper and a sweet smile

Kyle Lindsted’s first sight of Buddy Hield is burnt in his mind like a brilliant tropical sunset. It was six years ago, when Lindsted, then the basketball coach at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan., was scouting a showcase in the Bahamas.

“He was just a little bitty guy with a smile and a dream,” Lindsted, now a Wichita State assistant, said of Hield, who was a stringy 16-year-old high school sophomore. “I just fell in love with him from the very beginning.”

The little bitty guy has grown into a strapping 6-foot-4, 214-pound senior guard whose long-range shooting skills have been compared to Stephen Curry. Hield has led Oklahoma to an NCAA West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center, where the Sooners will play Texas A&M on Thursday.

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Villanova finishes off rout of Miami, 92-69

Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins each scored 21 points, and No. 2-seeded Villanova never trailed in routing third-seeded Miami, 92-69, Thursday night in the South Region semifinal of the NCAA tournament in Louisville, Ky.

The Wildcats (32-5) are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2009, when they reached the Final Four. It’s their third trip to the regional final with Coach Jay Wright. They turned in quite the offensive performance with former coach Rollie Massimino, who led Villanova to the 1985 national championship, sitting nearby.

Villanova will play either top-seeded Kansas or No. 5-seeded Maryland on Saturday in the regional final.

Daniel Ochefu added 17 point, and Josh Hart had 11 for Villanova, which shot 62.7% (32 of 51) from the field.

Miami (27-8) now is 0-3 in the Sweet 16, including 0-2 with Coach Jim Larranaga.

Sheldon McClellan scored 26 points and Angel Rodriguez added 13 for the Hurricanes.

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Though Marshall Plumlee soldiers on at Duke, a fraternal dynasty nears its end

Chances are you don’t like Marshall Plumlee.

If so, it’s probably because of his brothers. And if you dislike his brothers, it’s probably because, like Marshall, they both played and won at Duke.

And everyone dislikes Duke.

Few siblings have come to symbolize a college basketball program like Miles, Mason and Marshall Plumlee have the Blue Devils, who will play Oregon in an NCAA tournament West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center on Thursday.

At least one of Perky and Leslie Plumlee’s three sons has started in 193 of Duke’s last 293 games, spanning eight seasons. Each has won a national championship.

“I’m mad at Perky and Leslie for not having more,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski joked. “Imagine, three 7-footers in one family.”

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What they’re talking about heading into the Sweet 16

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Last Pac-12 team standing, Oregon, takes on defending national champion Duke

Oregon, the last team standing from a battered Pac-12 Conference, has double the tournament wins of the rest of the conference. It dispatched Holy Cross, 91-52, in the first round before defeating St. Joseph’s, 69-64.

Duke defeated North Carolina Wilmington, 93-85, and Yale, 71-64. Duke is the reigning national champion but has almost completely overhauled its lineup this season — only Matt Jones remains from last season’s starting five.

That’s part of the reason Duke is a slight underdog — a rarity for the Blue Devils, who have won five national championships under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Grayson Allen leads Duke in points and three-point shooting percentage (43.5%).

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Oregon holds off St. Joseph’s, 69-64

Dillon Brooks refused to let top-seed Oregon and the Pac-12 Conference be eliminated on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, scoring 25 points and leading the Ducks to a 69-64 win over eighth-seeded Saint Joseph’s in the second round of the West Regional on Sunday night.

Oregon (29-6) was carrying the banner for the rest of the Pac-12 after the conference posted a collective dud on the opening weekend. Five teams were sent home in the first round and Utah was routed by 11th-seeded Gonzaga in the round of 32, leaving the Ducks as the lone conference representative.

And they were tested by the Hawks, rallying from down 58-51 in the final five minutes to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. Brooks started the rally with a driving three-point play and put Oregon in front for good on a three-pointer with 1:19 left.

DeAndre’ Bembry led the Hawks (28-8) with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

— Associated Press

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Texas A&M comes back to beat Northern Iowa in 2 OT

Texas A&M outscored Northern Iowa, 14-2, in the last 33 seconds of regulation to force overtime, then held on in double overtime for a 92-88 victory in Oklahoma City to move on to the Sweet 16.

Alex Caruso scored 25 points for third-seeded Texas A&M (28-8), which advances to the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history, the first since 2007.

Danuel House scored all 22 of his points in the second half and overtime, while Jalen Jones finished with 16 for Texas A&M, which has now won 10 of its last 11 games.

Jeremy Morgan had career highs of 36 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded Panthers (23-13), who led 69-59 in the final minute of regulation before committing four turnovers in the final 29 seconds to spark the Aggies comeback.

Northern Iowa had upset Texas when Paul Jesperson made a half-court game-winning shot. He launched another half-court heave at the end of regulation for the win against Texas A&M but missed.

— Associated Press

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Wisconsin beats Xavier on last-second shot, 66-63

Bronson Koenig made two three-pointers in the closing seconds, the last of them as the buzzer sounded, and seventh-seeded Wisconsin edged second-seeded Xavier, 66-63, on Sunday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.

The talented sharpshooter who failed to hit from beyond the arc in a first-round win over Pittsburgh connected from well beyond the three-point line to tie it at 63 with 11.7 seconds left.

Edmond Sumner brought the ball up court for Xavier (28-6), and then drove to the basket, running over the Badgers’ Zak Showalter and getting called for an offensive foul with 4.3 seconds to go.

Wisconsin (22-12) called timeout after crossing half court and coach Greg Gard drew up a play for his best outside shooter. Koenig got the inbound pass in front of his own bench and buried the fallaway shot, sending the jubilant Badgers streaming onto the court and into another Sweet 16. They’ll face Notre Dame on Friday in Philadelphia.

— Associated Press

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Maryland turns back Hawaii, 73-60

Melo Trimble scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Maryland beat Hawaii, 73-60, on Sunday in Spokane, Wash., to advance to the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Diamond Stone added 14 points for fifth-seeded Maryland (27-8), which advanced to the round of 16 for the eighth time in the last 22 years.

Mike Thomas had 19 points and 11 rebounds for 13th-seeded Hawaii (28-6), which won a tournament game for the first time on Friday.

Maryland will play Kansas next Thursday in the round of 16.

After a sluggish first half in which Maryland led 28-27, the tempo picked up in the second.

Hawaii went on a 10-4 run to take a 39-36 lead. Then the bottom fell out.

Trimble’s three-pointer, the first of the game for Maryland after 15 misses, highlighted a 14-0 run that put the Terrapins ahead by 12 points, 53-41, with just over seven minutes left.

— Associated Press

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Syracuse topples Middle Tennessee, 75-50

Syracuse's Michael Gbinije drives past Middle Tennessee's Reggie Upshaw during the second half Sunday.
(Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

The insufferable zone of Syracuse ground Middle Tennessee State’s magical March ride to a halt, and the No. 10 seed Orange beat the No. 15 seed Blue Raiders, 75-50, on Sunday night to advance to the Sweet 16.

Michael Gbinije poured in 23 points, Tyler Lydon added 14 and the Orange (21-13) used a 21-2 charge midway through the second half to crack open a close game and join five other ACC schools in advancing to the third round of the NCAA tournament.

After teetering on the bubble a week ago, they’ll play No. 11-seeded Gonzaga on Friday in Chicago.

The Blue Raiders (25-10), who shredded so many brackets with their upset of second-seeded Michigan State, made things tough on Syracuse for a while. They led early in the second half and still trailed just 40-39 with 16:02 to go, but proceeded to make just one of their next 16 field-goal attempts.

The Orange became the sixth and perhaps most unlikely of the ACC schools to advance to the Sweet 16, a record number for a single conference since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The league went 12-1 in the opening two rounds with only Pittsburgh losing.

Darnell Harris led Middle Tennessee State with 11 points, while Reggie Upshaw — who scored 21 points against the Spartans — was held to two on 1-for-10 shooting.

— Associated Press

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Oklahoma holds off VCU, 85-81

Buddy Hield scored 19 of his 36 points in the final eight minutes to help No. 2 seed Oklahoma hold off No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth, 85-81, on Sunday in Oklahoma City in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Hield, who didn’t score for more than 10 minutes to start the game, made nine of 12 shots in the second half after going two for eight in the first. The senior guard posted at least 30 points for the 11th time this season.

Jordan Woodard scored 17 points and Isaiah Cousins added 15 for the Sooners (27-7), who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. Melvin Johnson scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half,

JeQuan Lewis scored 22 points and Michael Gilmore added 12 for VCU (25-11), which was trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since its Final Four run in 2011.

— Associated Press

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Oklahoma rolls to a 44-31 lead over VCU at halftime

After scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds in Virginia Commonwealth’s opening-round victory over Oregon State, junior Mo Alie-Cox was scoreless in the first half against Oklahoma.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Alie-Cox also had three blocks and was seven for eight from the field against the Beavers, using his bulk to make up for his relative lack of height.

However, against the Sooners’ physical inside combination of Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, Alie-Cox struggled to find free space in the first half as Oklahoma outrebounded the Rams, 25-13.

The junior played only eight minutes in the first half, with 6-10 sophomore Michael Gilmore taking his place, and he also failed to grab a rebound.

Oklahoma led, 44-31, at halftime.

— Associated Press

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Meanwhile in Oklahoma City...

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No. 6 Notre Dame escapes with a win against No. 14 Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin's Clide Geffrard Jr. shoots against Notre Dame's Rex Pflueger (0) during the second half of a game on Sunday.
Stephen F. Austin’s Clide Geffrard Jr. shoots against Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger (0) during the second half of a game on Sunday.
(Al Bello / Getty Images)

Rex Pflueger tapped in a miss with 1.5 seconds left and Notre Dame survived a valiant effort by No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin, 76-75, on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.

With 17.5 seconds left, sixth-seed Notre Dame grabbed an SFA rebound down one and put it in the hands of Demetrius Jackson. The point guard drove to the basket and missed. Zach Auguste followed for the Irish (22-12) but could not convert. The ball slipped off the rim and with one hand Pflueger flipped it in for his only basket of the game.

A long heave from Stephen F. Austin (28-6) went wide and Notre Dame celebrated by swarming Pflueger.

The Irish advance to play either Wisconsin or Xavier Friday in the East Regional at Philadelphia.

Thomas Walkup, the hero of Stephen F. Austin’s first-round upset of West Virginia, scored 21.

— Associated Press

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Watch Notre Dame’s game-winning tip-in

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