New York — Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and No. 1 Virginia completed one of the most successful seasons in the storied history of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, beating No. 12 North Carolina 71-63 in the tournament championship game Saturday night to finish 20-1 against league competition.
The top-seeded Cavaliers (31-2) set a school record for victories and won the ACC Tournament for the second time in five seasons under coach Tony Bennett, and third time overall. With plenty of their fans packing Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Cavaliers beat sixth-seeded North Carolina (25-10) for the second time this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.
Guy, the tournament MVP, scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and Hall added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Ty Jerome had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds for Virginia, which will certainly enter the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed.
Not bad for a bunch that started the season unranked and was picked to finish sixth in the ACC. With no one-and-dones and no lock NBA lottery picks, the Cavaliers dominated the ACC with efficiency and tenacity. They went 17-1 in the regular season, the one loss by one point in overtime, and finished in first by four games.
“This is one of the most connected groups I’ve ever coached,” Bennett said.
No. 9 Kansas 81, No. 18 West Virginia: Devonte Graham, the league’s player of the year finished with 18 points and 13 assists, most of them during the decisive second half, and led Kansas to victory over Jevon Carter and West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.
Malik Newman added 20 points on his way to tournament MVP, and freshman Silvio De Sousa had 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting in place of injured big man Udoka Azubuike, lifting the Jayhawks (27-7) to their 11th tournament title and a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
It was the second time in three years they’ve beaten West Virginia (24-10) for the championship.
“We just locked on and starting plays and kept competing, and it was just fun. It was fun to be out there,” Graham said with a smile. “It helped that we were able to make shots.”
Modest understatement there. The Jayhawks shot 72 percent from the field in the second half, and 56 percent for the game, while going 15 of 27 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“They have a lot of guys who can make shots,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Let’s be honest, all of those guys out there, if they’re not McDonald’s All-Americans it’s because they’re from another country. They have good players and their guy can coach, you know?”
Daxter Miles Jr. hit five 3s and had 25 points to lead West Virginia, which has lost the last three Big 12 title games. Sagaba Konate added 18 points while Carter, the best defender in the league, finished with 17 points and nine assists.
West Virginia still has not won a postseason league tournament since the Big East in 2010.
No. 2 Villanova 76, Providence 66, OT: Mikal Bridges scored 25 points and hit two 3-pointers in overtime as the Wildcats (30-4) won their second straight Big East Tournament and third in four years (losing in the 2016 final).
They put a bow on a fantastic season that should have them earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova had rolled to a pair of dominant victories in the tourney and held off a pesky Providence team that finally wilted late in its third straight overtime game.
The fifth-seeded Friars (21-13) rallied in the second half from another double-digit hole and seemed set to pull off one more upset and earn the automatic NCAA berth. Providence erased a 17-point deficit in the second half to beat top-seeded Xavier to reach the final. With one stunning rally on its resume, Providence nearly made it two.
Kyron Cartwright hit a jumper with 1:38 left that tied the game at 58 and Alpha Diallo scored on a driving layup with 40 seconds left for a 60-58 lead.
Big East player of the year Jalen Brunson tied it for Villanova with two free throws.
Providence missed a last-gasp shot at the buzzer.
Bridges, who scored 25 points, opened overtime with a 3 and hit another that helped stretch the lead for good. Brunson tied a career high with 31 points on an emphatic dunk that sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.
Brunson proved his worth as the best in the conference. He hit four 3s and made 12-of-23 overall from the floor, showing on the national stage why he’s a candidate for national player of the year.
“It’s an amazing environment and sometimes you can crumble,” Brunson said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way, but how are you going to respond to that? I’ve been a part of great teams with great leaders who’ve responded to different situations that have helped me through this process.”
Ed Cooley coached Providence in the second half with a towel fashioned into a skirt and tucked in his waist after his pants split.
“When I sat down, I felt the great breeze in the crack,” he said.
The side-splitting fashion statement almost worked as a rally towel.
Cartwright put Providence’s comeback in overdrive when he hit a 3 that made it 51-46 and had Cooley smiling and clapping on the sideline. He loved it even more when Cartwright came right back and hit another 3 that pulled the Friars within two.
Drew Edwards flexed his biceps when he was fouled on a tying basket and had the crowd chanting “Let’s Go Friars!” headed into a timeout. He sank the free throw to give Providence its first lead of the game, 52-51.
The Wildcats snatched the lead back and Bridges buried a 3 from the top of the arc that sent the team bench to its feet. Brunson was whistled next time down for an offensive foul and Wright twirled and stretched his arms toward the sky in protest.
“It was old school Big East,” Wright said.
Providence kept on coming.
The Friars had defeated three top-five teams this season and were soaring following overtime victories against Creighton and the Musketeers to reach the final. The Friars are the first team in the Big East Tournament to play three straight overtime games.
“It told me my team is tough, resilient, passionate,” Cooley said.
Diallo led Providence with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Cartwright scored 19.
Buffalo 76, Toledo 66: Wes Clark (Romulus) scored 26 points, Nick Perkins added 16, including a big 3-pointer in the final three minutes, and Buffalo won its third Mid-American Conference championship – and the league’s automatic NCAA bid – in four years victory over a Toledo team missing its top player.
The top-seeded Bulls (26-8) were the MAC’s best team all season, and it was no different inside Quicken Loans Arena, where Buffalo won its three games by an average of 14.
“We know how to play the game,” said Buffalo guard Jeremy Harris.
Buffalo’s recent supremacy under Oats in the cutthroat conference hasn’t been done since Kent State won titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002, a Golden Flashes team that came within one win of the Finals Four.
These Bulls may not get that far, but with depth, toughness and a shoot-now-ask-questions-later offense, they’re a handful for anyone and Buffalo has a program to be reckoned with.
“People want to go where you get to go to the NCAA Tournament,” said Oats, who signed a five-year contract extension on Thursday. “Kids want to go to the NCAA. I want to coach them.”
Toledo gave Buffalo all it could handle despite playing without star senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who sat out with a left knee injury suffered in the quarterfinals. Fletcher was the league’s top player this season, and his absence made things even tougher on the second-seeded Rockets (23-11), who couldn’t end their 38-year NCAA drought.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be as easy as people thought,” said Oats, who took over Buffalo’s three years ago when Bobby Hurley left for Arizona State. “We knew they would fight without Fletcher.”
The Rockets fought and never let the Bulls get too far away, and when freshman Marreon Jackson nailed a 3-pointer with 4:50 left, Toledo had pulled even at 63-all.
But the tourney-tested Bulls, led by Clark a Missouri transfer who was academically ineligible last season, went on a 9-0 run, highlighted by the beefy 6-foot-8 Perkins drilling his line-drive 3-pointer.
Clark was named the tournament’s most valuable player after finishing 10 of 15 from the field with five rebounds, four steals and three steals.
Before the game, Oats pulled aside Clark, who played for him at a Romulus High, and told him that it was up to him to get the Bulls back in the NCAA field.
“I told him, ‘You gotta play in this thing,’” Oats recalled. “He made sure we did.”
Jaelan Sanford scored 20 and Jackson 13 for the Rockets, who sorely missed Fletcher in the game’s waning moments. Toledo missed three straight 3-pointers during Buffalo’s big run.
“We’re disappointed because we feel we are the better team,” Sanford said. “We feel we should have won even without Tre. We have Tre, player of the year, different ballgame.”
After re-injuring his knee in the opening minute Friday, Fletcher sat on the bench in street clothes before the game. As his teammates warmed up, Fletcher dribbled a ball between his legs with little expression on his face. It had to be helpless, crushing feeling for the senior, who averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds this season.
However, for Toledo’s biggest game, he could only offer vocal and moral support.
Coach Tod Kowalczyk said Fletcher could be back for the NIT, and that the Rockets have earned the right to keep playing.
“I’d like to think that our league is going to fight, scratch and claw to get into that tournament,” Kowalczyk said. “We deserve it. We deserve to play in the NIT.”
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