West Region: Russell struggles, Ohio State loses
Portland, Ore. — If D'Angelo Russell really has played his last collegiate game, it's not the way Ohio State wanted to send him out.
The standout freshman struggled to find his shot, scoring just nine points as the 10th-seeded Buckeyes lost 73-58 to second-seeded Arizona in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
"Unfortunately, it was kind of one of those days for him," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
The Buckeyes gave the Wildcats all they could handle in the first half, even with Russell — a likely NBA lottery pick — in a shooting funk.
Sam Thompson had 18 points and Shannon Scott scored 10 for Ohio State, which led by six points early on but never could match Arizona's size. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle 43-26, packing the paint and using their length to reel in Russell.
Russell made just 3 of 19 shots after going for 28 points in Ohio State's overtime win over VCU in its tournament opener. He added seven rebounds and six assists — including a dazzling, cross-court, no-look pass during a fast break — in what was probably his last game for Ohio State.
Russell wore a bandage to cover the five stitches he received above his left eye after taking an elbow in Thursday's contest. And he spent the final minutes on the bench listening to Arizona's fans chant "U-of-A!"
"I would say they played great D on a few of them, but a lot of them were great shots. I just missed," Russell said.
Russell declined to say whether he will declare for the NBA draft, as most expect him to do. He said his poor shooting performance will have no impact on his decision, either.
"I wouldn't say it's an individual factor, missing shots or feeling like, 'Oh, I lost to Arizona, I've got to get back at 'em,'" he said. "I don't see anything like that."
Arizona's Gabe York made five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, and T.J. McConnell turned in a terrific all-around performance.
McConnell had 19 points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals to help the Wildcats (33-3) overcome a sluggish start. The senior's steady hand created all kinds of space for York and other shooters to bust the Buckeyes' zone defense, which they rarely used during the regular season but broke out for the tournament.
"They got the ball to the middle a lot in the second half and Gabe York played a heck of a half," Scott said. "That kills a zone."
The Pac-12 champion Wildcats went ahead by 15 points with 6:34 remaining before holding off Ohio State (24-11), which eliminated Arizona in the regional semifinals two years ago. Next up for the Wildcats is sixth-seeded Xavier in the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Los Angeles.
It was sweet redemption for Arizona and coach Sean Miller, who lost on a last-second shot to Ohio State in 2013. And it was the first time in three tries that Miller beat Matta, a close friend and former colleague who also handed Miller's Xavier team a last-second defeat in the 2007 tournament.
"This is probably, without a doubt, maybe his best team," Matta said.
The Wildcats looked tentative most of the first half against Ohio State's smothering zone. In the second half, they worked the ball at a blistering pace and started hitting shots from outside.
York, who was scoreless against Texas Southern, hit four 3-pointers during one stretch. He finished 5 of 9 from long range.
"When they shrink (the defense) like that," York said, "the only thing that's left for me is to knock down shots."
Xavier 75, Georgia State 67: Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis came off the bench for a combined 38 points as sixth-seeded Xavier ended the biggest feel-good story of the NCAA Tournament.
The Musketeers (23-13) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in six years under coach Chris Mack. They'll face No. 2 seed Arizona — a 73-58 winner over Ohio State — in the West Regional semifinals in Los Angeles.
No. 14 seed Georgia State (25-10), whose injured coach Ron Hunter worked the sideline in a rolling chair, upset No. 3 seed Baylor Thursday. Hunter, who tore his Achilles tendon celebrating his team winning the Sun Belt Conference title, and his son and star player, RJ, became the darlings of the tournament.
North Carolina 87, Arkansas 76: Marcus Paige scored 22 points, including 20 in the second half, and North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years.
Paige missed seven of eight shots in the first half, including all three from 3-point range, and was pretty much a non-factor as the Tar Heels let the Razorbacks keep things close.
But the junior guard took over in the second half, scoring 13 of his team's 17 points during a 5-minute stretch that helped North Carolina build a double-digit lead. The Tar Heels held on from there, thanks partly to Paige closing things out from the free-throw line and with his ball-handling skills.
UNC advanced to play either No. 1 seed Wisconsin or eighth-seeded Oregon in the West Regional next week in Los Angeles. It will be Carolina's 26th appearance in the Sweet 16.
Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Bobby Portis finished with 18 points and 14 boards.