East Region: Louisville steals past UC-Irvine
Seattle — It was a game of inches. Not surprisingly, Rick Pitino and a couple of his scrappy guards got it done for Louisville.
Freshman Quentin Snider made the winning free throws Friday in Seattle and Terry Rozier closed it out with a steal, helping the fourth-seeded Cardinals to a 57-55 victory over 13th-seeded UC-Irvine and the tallest player in the tournament, 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye.
"He looked 8 feet to me," said Pitino, whose team moves on to play Northern Iowa on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.
With the game tied, Snider snagged a rebound in the corner off a long miss by Luke Nelson and drew a foul when Will Davis II crashed into him.
Snider made the free throws with 8.9 seconds left, and the Anteaters (21-13) never got a final shot, thanks to Rozier's pick of Alex Young.
"These two guys had to make big, tremendous plays," Pitino said.
Putting Snider on the hot seat wasn't really the coach's plan when the freshman replaced Chris Jones in the starting lineup last month after the Cardinals (25-8) dismissed the senior guard. Pitino told his team there was no way Snider could replace Jones all by himself, and asked the rest of the guys to pick things up.
But in this game, Snider elevated his game. He finished with a career-high 16 points, 13 higher than his average — and scored the winning points. For a kid who grew up in Louisville and participated in Pitino's youth camps, it was one memorable performance.
"I just got up to the line and just shot it," Snider said. "I knew my team needed these points, so I just knocked them down."
Wayne Blackshear led the Cardinals with 19 points.
Ndiaye finished with 12 points and five rebounds for the Anteaters, and he generated most of the buzz.
Every time the sophomore, out of Senegal, touched the ball, a roar went through the crowd. And Ndiaye was a force through much of the second half.
Twice, he gathered the ball in the post, palmed it like a tennis ball and slammed it through the hoop without leaving his feet.
On the other end, he blocked one shot, altered about a dozen more and forced Louisville, a team without much outside shooting, to take its chances from the perimeter.
But with the game on the line in the last two minutes, he didn't touch the ball. And when the Big Fella got his fourth foul with 2:26 left, it cost UC-Irvine dearly.
Trailing 55-53, Blackshear took the ball straight at Ndiaye, who didn't contest it much, and hit a short shot over him to tie it with 42 seconds left.
"Tricky," Blackshear called it. "Because I was getting a couple midrange jumpers, and I noticed after I shot that I could have gotten to the rim. And then I did it at the end."
On the next possession, Nelson, who came to UC-Irvine from Britain, dribbled the clock down, but instead of looking inside, he jacked up a shot from a few feet behind the 3-point line that rimmed out.
There was a scramble in the corner. Snider grabbed the ball, and in the scrum, Davis fell into him to set up the freshman for the winning points. Lots of incidental contact, but should it have been a foul? Anteaters coach Russell Turner bit his tongue.
"To have it come down to a foul call and a non-foul call, that's a tough one," he said.Meanwhile, the Cardinals had two fouls to burn after Snider's free throws, and after using one of them, Rozier could be reckless, so he dove at Young with the clock ticking down and made the steal to seal the win.
"We had a quick play lined up and unfortunately, I lost the ball, and it just happens," Young said. "It's basketball."
Northern Iowa 71, Wyoming 54: Larry Nance Jr. came alive, and with him KeyArena in Seattle.
Nance, Wyoming's best player, had been held without a field goal — without even a good look at the basket — in the first 25 minutes of the Cowboys' first NCAA tournament game in 13 years. Then, in a three-minute burst, he was back — and so were the Cowboys, who cut Northern Iowa's 21-point lead down to seven midway through the second half.
The hearty Wyoming fans in yellow were on their feet, the packed crowd at KeyArena buzzing for an upset.
Except fifth-seeded Northern Iowa would have none of it. But in their methodical manner, Northern Iowa built their lead back up to double digits and put away No. 12 Wyoming.
Northern Iowa (31-3) advances to the Round of 32 and will play Sunday against Louisville-UC-Irvine. The Panthers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, when it upset Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16.
Seth Tuttle, the Missouri Valley player of the year, had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Panthers. Paul Jesperson scored 16 points off the bench for UNI, Nate Buss had 13 and Wes Washpun added 10.
Nance, a senior, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, despite managing only one shot attempt in the first half against UNI's tenacious defense
With Northern Iowa leading by 16, Wyoming emptied its bench with 1:21 left, the Cowboys receiving a standing ovation as the players left the floor.
Oklahoma 69, Albany 60: At Columbus, Ohio, TaShawn Thomas powered his way to 18 points inside and versatile Buddy Hield added 15 to carry the Sooners into the Round of 32 after early exits the last two years. The Sooners (23-10) led wire to wire.
Peter Hooley had 15 points, Evan Singletary 13, Sam Rowley 12 and Ray Sanders 11 for No. 14-seeded Albany (24-8), regular season and tournament champs of the America East Conference.
The Great Danes came in with the reputation of being a dangerous 3-point shooting team.
But Oklahoma proved it could pump it up from outside, too, hitting 7 of 24 behind the arc.
Dayton 66, Providence 53: At Columbus, Ohio, Dyshawn Pierre scored 20 points and Dayton rode a loud home-crowd advantage to another victory. The 11th-seeded Flyers (27-8) will face Oklahoma on Sunday night, with a chance to reach the round of 16 for the second straight season.
Sixth-seeded Providence (22-12) could not overcome early foul trouble on Big East player of the year Kris Dunn or a Dayton team buoyed by a legion of fans that made the 80-mile trip to Columbus. Dunn finished with 11 points before fouling out. LaDontae Henton had 18.
Dayton was playing its fifth game in eight days after reaching the final of the Atlantic 10 Tournament on Sunday in New York, then winning a First Four game against Boise State on its home court Wednesday.
Jordan Sibert, who made the key late 3-pointer that helped Dayton rally to beat Boise State, scored 15 points.