Conference tourney roundup: UK rolls into SEC final
Nashville, Tenn. — Top-ranked Kentucky reached high gear quickly and poured it on against an Auburn squad that lost two players in less than 24 hours.
Considering the Wildcats' effectiveness in many areas Saturday in a 91-67 victory that put them in the Southeastern Conference final, chances are a full-strength Tigers squad wouldn't have done much to change it.
Willie Cauley-Stein scored 18 points and Andrew Harrison added 15 to help Kentucky improve to 33-0 and break the school-record winning streak of 32 games set from Dec. 5, 1953, to Jan. 8, 1955. The Wildcats will face Arkansas, seeking their 28th tournament title and first since 2011.
Their effort against the Tigers was certainly a good tuneup.
"It was a good game, a hard-fought game and we played well," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose team shot 56 percent and outrebounded Auburn 39-25.
Trey Lyles, Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker each added 12 points for the Wildcats. They led by 28 with 6:04 left.
The Wildcats had their way against a short-handed opponent. Auburn forward Jordon Granger was suspended for fighting in Friday's quarterfinal win over LSU, and the school announced just before the tipoff that forward Cinmeon Bowers had been suspended for a potential rules violation.
Antoine Mason had 23 points for Auburn (15-20), which shot 33 percent and had won its previous three games. Malcolm Canada added 16 points, and KT Harrell had 13.
Coming off a 15-point quarterfinal victory, Kentucky started stronger and didn't let up. More than anything, the Wildcats quickly deflated an Auburn team that upset fourth-seeded LSU 73-70 in overtime Friday.
"We wanted to have a faster start than yesterday (against) Florida, and that's what we did," guard Aaron Harrison said.
Whatever euphoria the Tigers enjoyed from the LSU game faded in a hurry against Kentucky, which drilled them by 35 points last month in Lexington. The challenge was all the more difficult without Granger, who sat several rows behind the Auburn bench with fans dressed in warmups.
Then came the pregame announcement of Bowers' suspension that made Auburn's task even tougher. The forward sat on the bench dressed in a warmup, left with the role of playing cheerleader.
Starting in Bowers' place was 6-foot-5 junior swing man Devin Waddell, who had scored just 14 points this season. The Tigers also used 7-foot-2 reserve Trayvon Reed but still lacked the size and manpower to keep up with the taller, deeper Wildcats.
"We obviously knew we had our hands full," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "For our guys, we were undersized and undermanned, but we've been that way all along. I'm just proud of the way my guys competed."
Of Bowers' situation, Pearl added, "I hope that when we complete the investigation that we're OK."
Andrew Harrison and Lyles combined for 22 first-half points and the Wildcats led 47-29 at the break, shooting 58 percent.
Auburn drew within 55-42 on two free throws by Harrell early in the second half. But Kentucky built its lead to 27 with 10 1 / 2minutes left, with Booker lobbing to Cauley-Stein for a thunderous dunk. That brought Wildcats fans to their feet again as their team returned to a familiar spot in the tournament.
Asked to explain his play, Cauley-Stein said, "(it was) just being engaged and playing with a lot of energy. It started on the defensive end and just carried over to the offensive end."
No. 21 Arkansas 60, Georgia 49: Michael Qualls scored 15 points and Arkansas beat Georgia in the Southeastern Conference semifinals.
Bobby Portis scored a season-low four points for Arkansas (26-7).
Georgia (21-11) failed for a second straight year to reach the Bulldogs' first final since 2008 when they won a tournament rearranged by tornadoes that hit Atlanta. Marcus Thornton and Cameron Forte each scored 13 points for Georgia.
American Athletic Conference
No. 20 SMU 69, Temple 56: Markus Kennedy scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half to help SMU beat temple in the American Athletic Conference semifinals in Hartford, Conn.
Cannen Cunningham and Yanick Moreira each added 11 points for the Mustangs (26-6), the league's regular-season champions. They will face UConn in the final.
Quenton DeCosey had 14 points for Temple (23-10).
UConn 47, Tulsa 42: Ryan Boatright scored 21 points and UConn overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to beat and advance to the finals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Rodney Purvis added 11 points and Daniel Hamilton pulled down 12 rebounds for the defending national champions (20-13), who will have a chance Sunday to secure a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Shaquille Harrison had nine points and Rashad Ray finished with eight for Tulsa (22-10), which led 38-28 with 6:35 to play.
No. 11 Notre Dame 90, No. 19 North Carolina 82: Jerian Grant scored 24 points and Notre Dame took over with a 26-3 second-half run to rally past North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game in Greensboro, N.C.
Pat Connaughton added 20 points for the third-seeded Irish (29-5). They went from trailing by nine to up double figures with a stunning burst that seized momentum in what amounted to a road game and sent the program to its first title in any league.
Connaughton came up with a pair of 3s during Notre Dame's go-ahead run, with the Irish getting into a fast-paced, free-flowing attack set loose by a few ill-timed turnovers by the Tar Heels (24-11).
When it was over, Notre Dame had turned a 63-54 deficit into an 80-66 lead on Connaughton's dunk with 2:54 and largely silenced a home-state UNC crowd featuring plenty of blue in the Greensboro Coliseum seats.
VCU 93, No. 24 Davidson 73: Mo Alie-Cox muscled his way to 18 points inside and Treveon Graham provided the pop from the outside with 18 more, leading VCU past No. 24 Davidson and into the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game for the third straight season.
The fifth-seeded Rams (25-9) got some payback for a blowout loss at Davidson last week, snapping top-seeded Wildcats' 10-game winning streak, with their best performance since losing point guard Briante Weber to a knee injury six weeks ago.
A-10 player of the year Tyler Kalinoski scored 19 points a day after hitting a buzzer-beater that kept Davidson (24-7) from getting upset in its Atlantic 10 tournament debut.
Dayton 56, Rhode Island 52: Jordan Sibert scored six points in the final five minutes on a couple of reverse layups and a spin move to help Dayton slip past Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals at Baclays Center in New York.
The second-seeded Flyers (25-7) play fifth-seeded VCU on Sunday in the Atlantic 10 championship game.
E.C. Matthews led third-seeded Rhode Island (22-9) with 16 points. The Rams are likely headed for an NIT bid.
Dayton is in the A-10 finals for the first time since 2011 and looking for its second tournament title. The Flyers seem like safe bet for an at-large NCAA bid if they can't lock up an automatic bid for the first time since 2003.
No. 4 Villanova 69, Xavier 52: Josh Hart had 15 points in his latest brilliant performance off the bench, and top-seeded Villanova beat Xavier for its second straight Big East title in New York.
Looking to lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, the Wildcats (32-2) made an impressive statement much to the delight of a pro-Villanova crowd at Madison Square Garden.
After squeezing past Providence 63-61 with the help of a questionable call in the semifinals, Villanova had no such trouble against the sixth-seeded Musketeers (21-13).
Dylan Ennis scored 16 points and Darrun Hilliard had 12, sending the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament on a 15-game winning streak.
Eastern Washington 69, Montana 65: Tyler Harvey scored 18 points and Eastern Washington beat Montana 69-65 in the Big Sky championship game in Missoula, Montana earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Felix Van Hofe made a 3-pointer to cap a 14-2 run and give the Eagles (26-8) a 62-61 lead with 2:10 to go. Harvey completed a three-point play with 43 seconds left to make it 67-63.
Drew Brandon added 16 points for Eastern Washington.
Martin Breunig led Montana (20-12) with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Mike Weisner had 18 points, and Jordan Gregory 16. The victory was the Eagles' first over the Grizzlies in the conference tournament.
No. 13 Iowa State 70, No. 9 Kansas 66: Georges Niang scored 19 points, Abdel Nader made the go-ahead foul shots with 48 seconds to go, and Iowa State rallied from a 17-point second-half hole to beat Kansas in the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City, Mo.
It was the fifth straight game — including all three in the tournament — that the Cyclones rallied from a double-digit deficit, prompting Niang to dub them the "Comeback Kids."
Nader finished with 13 points, and Jameel McKay and Monte Morris had 11 each for the Cyclones (25-8). They also knocked off the Jayhawks on their way to winning the title a year ago.
Wayne Selden Jr. had a career-high 25 points for the Jayhawks (26-8). They edged Iowa State and Oklahoma by a game to win the regular-season crown.
UC Irvine 67, Hawaii 58: Luke Nelson scored 17 points and UC Irvine earned its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament in the school's 38-year basketball program history with a 67-58 victory over Hawaii in the Big West championship game in Anaheim, Calif.
The Anteaters (21-12) lost all four previous times they went to the Big West title game (1988, 1994, 2008 and 2013). They were the top seed in the tournament last year, but lost in the semifinals to Cal Poly.
Aaron Valdes scored 17 points for Hawaii (22-12), 14 of them in the first half to pace the Rainbow Warriors to a 33-29 lead at intermission.
Valdes' layup in the final minute of the opening half stopped the bleeding after Alex Young's 3-pointer capped an 11-2 run that sliced Irvine's 11-point deficit to 31-29 with 1:04 left on the clock.
UAB 73, Middle Tennessee 60: Robert Brown scored 22 points and made four 3-pointers for the Blazers' first Conference USA Tournament championship.
The Blazers (19-15) earned their first NCAA Tournament trip since 2011 with a team largely built on underclassmen and without a first- or second-team all-conference pick.
Middle Tennesssee (19-16) never made much of a dent in UAB's 11-point halftime lead, which the Blazers eventually doubled.
UAB hit 64 percent from the floor (14 of 22) in the second half and finished with nine 3-pointers.
Brown made half of his eight 3-point attempts. Freshman William Lee was 6-of-8 shooting for 13 points.
Jaqawn Raymond led Middle Tennessee with 12 points. The Blue Raiders scored the game's final eight points after falling behind by as many as 22 points.
Harvard 53, Yale 51: Steve Moundou-Missi hit a 15-foot jumper with 7.2 seconds left, Wesley Saunders scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and Harvard beat Yale in a one-game Ivy League playoff for its fourth straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Saunders then kept possession for Harvard on Moundou-Missi' miss by hustling for an offensive rebound, before setting up Moundou-Missi's go-ahead basket.
Yale's Javier Duren missed a running layup at the buzzer as Harvard fans rushed the floor at the Palestra.
Justin Sears scored 13 points and Duren had 12 for Yale (22-10). The Bulldogs missed out on their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962.
With Harvard (22-7) trailing by one, Saunders hit a driving layup and was fouled, completing a three-point play to give the Crimson a 51-49 lead with 1:27 left. Duren, who went 6 for 6 from the foul line in the final 4 minutes, hit two free throws to tie it at 51 with 54.6 seconds.
Yale and Harvard shared the Ivy League title with 11-3 records to set up the playoff to determine the conference's automatic NCAA bid. The Ivy is the only Division I league without a conference tournament.
Wyoming 45, San Diego State 43: Josh Adams hit a big 3-pointer with a minute left and Wyoming earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 13 years with a victory over San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship in Las Vegas.
Wyoming (25-9) labored through a physical, defensive-dominated second half, keeping the Aztecs within reach despite going 8:31 without a field goal. The Cowboys made 5 of 22 in the half, but Adams had the biggest one with 1:02 left, a 3-pointer that put Wyoming up 43-41.
San Diego State (26-8) missed two shots and Derek Cooke Jr. hit two free throws to put the Cowboys up four with 7 seconds left.
The Aztecs' Malik Pope scored on a putback with less than a second left, but Wyoming was able to get the ball in cleanly to earn its first conference tournament championship since 1988, as a member of the WAC.
No. 5 Arizona 80, Oregon 52: Brandon Ashley scored 20 points, Stanley Johnson added 14 and Arizona routed Oregon to win its first Pac-12 Tournament title in 13 years.
Top-seeded Arizona (31-3) rolled over Oregon in a dominating first half, building a 15-point lead with a flurry of 3-pointers and baskets in transition.
The Wildcats let up a little defensively in the second half, but were even better on offense to polish off their first Pac-12 championship since Lute Olson was coach and Luke Walton was tournament MVP in 2002.
T.J. McConnell had 12 points and six assists for the Wildcats, who shot 54 percent.
Oregon (25-9) was out of it almost from the start after Arizona went on two big first-half runs.
Western Athletic Conference
Mexico State 80, Seattle 61: Remi Barry scored 21 points and Tshilidzi Nephawe added 18 and 10 rebounds as New Mexico State defeated Seattle to win the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Aggies (23-10) shot 52 percent in winning the tournament championship for the fourth consecutive season.
Nephawe, a 6-foot-10 senior from South Africa, was named the tournament MVP.
Jadon Cohee led Seattle (16-15) with 16 points and William Powell had 14. Guard Isiah Umipig, who scored 30 in a semifinal win over Missouri-Kansas City on Friday, was held to 13 points on 2-of-7 shooting.