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Oregon State keeps NCAA tournament dream alive with win over Loyola Chicago

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Ethan Thompson scored 20 points, including a pair of clinching foul shots with 35 seconds left, and No. 12 seed Oregon State kept its dream March going with a 65-58 victory over eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament Saturday.

Warith Alatishe added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Beavers (20-12), who were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 but ran roughshod through the conference tournament and have kept on winning on college basketball’s biggest stage.

They’re headed for their first Elite Eight since 1982 — which was later vacated by the NCAA — and will play second-seeded Houston on Monday night for a spot in the Beavers’ first Final Four since 1963.

Not even the fervent prayers of Sister Jean could help Loyola (26-4) deal with the constantly changing defenses that Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle rolled out. The Ramblers, who played with poise and perfection in toppling top-seeded Illinois, wound up shooting 33% from the field and five for 23 from beyond the three-point line.

“They just want to keep riding the wave,” said Tinkle, whose hungry bunch of underdogs have matched Missouri in 2002 as the lowest-seeded teams to advance past the Sweet 16.

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“We did use the fact we were picked 12th in the Pac-12 this year,“ Tinkle added, “but we haven’t made a big deal about the 12th seed. I don’t want to throw too much at them. They’ll see it. We just have to keep our feet on the ground.”

All-America forward Cameron Krutwig led Loyola with 14 points. Lucas Williamson and Braden Norris added 10 apiece, though both of them missed three-point attempts in the closing minutes as Loyola tried to mount a comeback.

“Very hard scene in our locker room,” said Ramblers coach Porter Moser, whose name has surfaced in connection with several major-conference jobs. “Kids cared so much, invested so much. Very tough when it comes to an end.”

It was the first meeting between the teams since Dec. 31, 1927, when Loyola won 31-19 and Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the Ramblers’ beloved 101-year-old chaplain, was still a schoolgirl.

For most of Saturday, it looked as if 31 points would be plenty.

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Oregon State guard Ethan Thompson celebrates during the second half of a Sweet 16 game against Loyola Chicago.
Oregon State guard Ethan Thompson celebrates during the Beavers’ Sweet 16 win over Loyola Chicago on Saturday.
(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

Oregon State turned it over twice before getting off a shot, went nearly 6½ minutes before making its first field goal, and over one stretch was one for eight with four turnovers. Loyola, failing to take advantage of its defense, proceeded to miss 11 consecutive shots as Oregon State flip-flopped between man-to-man and zone defenses.

The Beavers wound up shutting out Loyola over the last 5:48 to take a 24-16 halftime lead, the lowest-scoring first half of any game in the tournament. Krutwig was three for five from the field; the rest of the Ramblers were one for 18.

You’d have sworn the Beavers sported the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, not the other way around.

“We’re not in charge of the rankings,” Thompson said. “You know, the preseason, all of that — all we can control is what we can control. That’s going out every night, having fun, giving it our all and trying to win the game. That’s it.”

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Houston 62, Syracuse 46

Houston players, including Fabian White Jr. (35), gather as Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim, background, stands by March 27, 2021.
Houston players, including Fabian White Jr. (35), gather as Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim, background, looks on during the second half.
(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

Quentin Grimes scored 14 points while Houston’s defense locked down the surging Buddy Boeheim, helping the Cougars beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Justin Gorham had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Cougars, who pushed through to their first trip to a regional final in 37 years, earning a matchup with Oregon State for the Midwest Region title and a spot in the Final Four.

The Cougars also received a strong all-around effort from DeJon Jarreau, who finished with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists while leading the defensive effort that kept Boeheim in check — and ultimately derailed the 11th-seeded Orange’s latest postseason push as a double-digit seed.

Houston (27-3) came in holding opponents to a national-low 37.3% shooting and then harassed Syracuse (18-10) into just 28% (14 for 50), including a five-for-23 performance from three-point range.

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The focus was making every look difficult for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim’s son, who had been on a tear through four games in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournament games to earn the nickname “Buddy Buckets.“

The 6-foot-6 junior had averaged 28.3 points through those games, which included him shooting 60% from the field and 55.8% from three-point range.

Things weren’t nearly so easy Saturday.

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Baylor 62, Villanova 51

Baylor's Davion Mitchell, left, and Adam Flagler celebrate during a Sweet 16 game against Villanova on March 27, 2021.
Baylor’s Davion Mitchell (45) and Adam Flagler, right, celebrate during the second half of the Bears’ win over Villanova.
(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

Top-seeded Baylor overcame some frigid outside shooting to move into the Elite Eight, getting 16 points from Adam Flagler in a victory over Villanova and its amoeba-like defense.

The Bears (25-2) came in as the nation’s leading three-point team, shooting 41.5%, but made only three of 19 attempts in this one, unable to find room or get into a comfort zone against fifth-seeded Wildcats’ mix of 2-3 zone and man. Davion Mitchell, a 46% shooter from three this season, went 0 for 3 in a 14-point performance.

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Baylor, which started the season 18-0 and won its first Big 12 regular-season title, is one victory from the Final Four for the first time since 2012. The Bears will play Arkansas on Monday.

This game changed midway through the second half when Baylor all but abandoned what is normally its go-to shot — the three. The Bears took a six-point lead with a 14-2 run during which not a single point came from outside the arc.

“When we are two for 12 at half, we figured we’ve got to get inside,” coach Scott Drew said of the team’s three-point shooting. “We got good looks but not great looks. The guards did a great job of not settling and probing more.”

Because of that, Baylor shot 53% in the second half, even though it made only one three-pointer.

“Coach said we’re not going to win if we keep shooting the off-dribble three,” Mitchell said. “He told us to trust the defense and get in the paint.”

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The Bears played some defense too.

Constantly harassing Villanova shooters who had carved out space in the first half, Baylor held Villanova to 37.5% shooting in the second and 0 for 9 from three. Jay Wright’s team scored 10 points over the final 11 minutes. During one stretch in the decisive run, Baylor forced five straight turnovers on Villanova possessions. Baylor recorded four of its five blocked shots in the second half.

The Wildcats received 16 points from Jermaine Samuels but only three from Caleb Daniels on one-for-11 shooting.

“We were good enough to beat them, but they just played better down the stretch,” Wright said. “I think their defense got into us and wore us down.”

Villanova (18-7) came in without injured point guard Collin Gillespie and with a middling defense at best but looked to be turning things around for a while. This marked only the second time the high-powered Baylor offense was held under 65 points this season.

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Arkansas 72, Oral Roberts 70

Arkansas' Davonte Davis made the winning basket against Oral Roberts with 2.9 seconds remaining.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

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Davonte Davis hit a short jumper with 2.9 seconds left, and Arkansas advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 26 years with a win over Oral Roberts in the South Region semifinals.

The Muss Bus grinded its gears through the first half into the second, with bad shots and even worse defense putting Arkansas in a 12-point hole against the 15th-seeded Golden Eagles.

Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks (25-6) got their Pig Sooie swagger back, turning defensive stops into early-offense opportunities and offensive rebounds into points.

It came down to one final shot and Davis made it, sending Arkansas to the Elite Eight for the first time since the Nolan Richardson “40 Minutes of Hell” days.

“It’s amazing just being able to be in this position right now as an individual and as an Arkansas player,“ said Davis, who had 16 points.

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Next up for the Razorbacks is top-seeded Baylor in what should be a fast-paced South Region final Monday.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be in an Elite Eight in our second year,” said Musselman, who took over the program in 2019. “I really can’t describe it.”

The let-it-fly Golden Eagles (18-11) let history slip through their grasp.

Within reach of becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, Oral Roberts stumbled with a series of turnovers and missed shots. Max Abmas did his best to put the Golden Eagles in the Elite Eight for the first time in 47 years, scoring 25 points. His three-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.

“We gave him a pass option. We gave him a dribble option,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said. “He’s super bright and picks up things really quickly and understood and had great court awareness and had great selection on the shot. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in.”

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The Golden Eagles had history on their minds. Florida Gulf Coast was the only other No. 15 seed to get this far in 2013 and lost at the regional semifinal round.

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