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Columbia, S.C. — Zion Williamson had an explosive NCAA Tournament debut with 25 points and a can’t-miss second-half showcase to lead top-seeded Duke to an 85-62 win over North Dakota State on Friday night.

RJ Barrett led Duke with 26 points and 14 rebounds and combined with Williamson for a prolific showing for the freshmen stars. But it was Williamson who could not be contained in the second half and he turned a tight early contest into a Duke runaway in the first round of the East Region.

Duke led just 31-27 at halftime but Williamson took over after the break. He opened the half by driving on two defenders for a layup that drew a foul. He missed the free throw but Williamson answered with a monster slam.

The highlight, though, came moments later on Williamsson’s breathtaking dribble-behind-his-back-after-chasing-down-his-own-steal layup.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman outran 5-foot-11 190-pound Vinnie Shahid of North Dakota State for the ball after he tipped it for a steal. Williamson then dribbled behind his back, briefly losing and regaining his balance with a hand on the floor. That cleared room for Williamson to get to the lane and go up and under for a layup.

Just like that, the Blue Devils were up 40-27 and cruising.

The Bison (19-16) never recovered.

Barrett and Williamson gave Duke two players with 20 or more points in their NCAA Tournament debut for the first time since Mark Alarie and Johnny Dawkins did it in 1984.

The Blue Devils (31-5) will face either eighth-seeded VCU or No. 9 seed UCF on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Shahid led the Bison with 20 points.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team settled for too many missed jump shots early and it gave North Dakota State the chance to hang around.

Once Williamson got going, Duke showed why it is the top overall seed in this tournament and why CBS has dedicated a camera to follow Williamson’s journey.

Duke was expected to pick up where it left off last week when it won its 21st Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title. Williamson was electric in the conference tournament – he went 13 of 13 from the field in a quarterfinal win over Syracuse – and became the first freshman to win both ACC player of the year and tournament MVP.

Now on the big stage with the “Zion Cam” tracking his every move, Williamson was active early with a driving basket and a monster block on the other end.

Then a crazy thing happened – the Blue Devils struggled to score. They missed 3-pointers and close-in shots, mid-range jumpers and driving layups and found themselves trailing the Summit League Tournament champions 16-12 midway through the half.

Barrett and Reddish rallied Duke toward the end – Barrett had three straight baskets – and a Jordan Goldwire 3-pointer with a minute left made it 31-27 at the break.

Williamson’s early highlight came with the game tied at 16 as he took a pass on the baseline a few feet from the rim, rose up and put down a power jam. The sold-out crowd at 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena watched it unfold and drew in a collective breath before exploding at the result. Williamson played high school basketball in Spartanburg, 90 miles away from his NCAA Tournament debut.
 

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Liberty 80, Mississippi State 76: In San Jose, Calif., Caleb Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to send 12th-seeded Liberty to the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

The Flames (29-6) had lost twice as a No. 16 seed and once in the play-in game.

Cabbil finished with 18 points and Myo Baxter-Bell added 13.

Homesley helped rally Liberty from a 10-point deficit in the second half by scoring 14 points in a span of less than five minutes. Cabbil’s 3 gave the Flames the lead for good, 72-70, and Liberty did the rest at the foul line to spoil the first tournament trip for Mississippi State (23-11) in a decade.

Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs.

Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54: In San Jose, Calif.,  Payton Pritchard scored 19 points, Kenny Wooten protected the rim with four blocks, and 12th-seeded Oregon extended its surprising March run with a victory in the first round.

The Ducks (24-12) won four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament last week just to make the NCAAs then followed it with an impressive victory over a higher-seeded opponent. Oregon advanced to play No. 13 seed UC Irvine (31-5) on Sunday in the second round of the South Region.

Louis King added 17 points, Paul White scored all 14 points of his points in the second half and Wooten had nine points, six rebounds and the tone-setting blocks to give the Ducks their ninth straight win.

Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson each scored 14 points to lead the Badgers (23-11).

Virginia 71, Gardner-Webb 56: In Columbia, S.C., No. 1 seed Virginia rallied from 14 points down to beat No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb and avert another first-round exit as a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cavaliers trailed 30-16 with 6:42 left in the first half of the South Region opener but rallied and cut the Runnin’ Bulldogs (23-12) lead to six at halftime.

Virginia (30-3) then opened the second half with a 25-5 run to put to rest any thoughts of an upset. The Cavaliers used their trademark stifling defense to force 11 Gardner-Webb turnovers in the first 12 minutes after the break.

De’Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 23 points and Mamadi Diakite added 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and nine rebounds.

Jose Perez scored 19 points for Gardner-Webb, which was playing in its first NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State 62, Iowa State 59: In Tulsa, Okla., Ohio State went from barely making the NCAA Tournament to a spot in the second round with an upset of sixth-seeded Iowa State in the Midwest Region.

Kaleb Wesson had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded Buckeyes (20-14).

Keyshawn Woods added 19 points for Ohio State, which will play No. 3 seed Houston on Sunday for a spot in the round of 16. Musa Jallow added 11 points for Ohio State.

Iowa State (23-12) led just once in the second half but had a chance to send the game into overtime when Nick Weiler-Babb had an open attempt at a game-tying 3. His shot missed and ended the season for the Cyclones, who won the Big 12 Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAAs.

Marial Shayok scored 23 points and Lindell Wigginton added 14 for Iowa State.

Last year the Cavaliers were the top seed in the tournament and lost by 20 to No. 16 seed Maryland Baltimore County.

Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54: In San Jose, Calif., Payton Pritchard scored 19 points, Kenny Wooten protected the rim with four blocks, and 12th-seeded Oregon extended its surprising March run with a victory in the first round.

The Ducks (24-12) won four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament last week just to make the NCAAs then followed it with an impressive victory over a higher-seeded opponent. Oregon advanced to play No. 13 seed UC Irvine (31-5) on Sunday in the second round of the South Region.

Louis King added 17 points, Paul White scored all 14 points of his points in the second half and Wooten had nine points, six rebounds and the tone-setting blocks to give the Ducks their ninth straight win.

Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson each scored 14 points to lead the Badgers (23-11).

Tennessee 77, Colgate 70: In Columbus, Ohio, Admiral Schofield had 19 points and No. 2 seed Tennessee held off a second-half rally by No. 15 seed Colgate in the opening round.

Jordan Bone added 16 and Jordan Bowden 14 for Tennessee (30-5).

The Raiders (24-11) erased most of Tennessee’s 42-30 halftime lead with an 11-2 run, tied the score midway through the second half, and kept the game close after that.

Schofield hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Tennessee a cushion with 45 seconds left.

Jordan Burns had 32 points for Colgate, which played much of the game without leading scorer Rapolas Ivanauskas because of eye problems.

Buffalo 91, Arizona State 74: In Tulsa, Okla., Jeremy Harris and Nick Perkins each scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds to help lead No. 6 seed Buffalo past No. 11 Arizona State in the West Region.

CJ Massinburg had 18 points and six rebounds for Buffalo (32-3), which won its 13th straight game.

Zylan Cheatham scored 22 points and had eight rebounds before fouling out with 2:06 remaining for Arizona State (23-11). Romello White and Luguentz Dort each added 12 points.

Arizona State trailed 44-31 at halftime and pulled within nine early in the second half before Buffalo’s 7-0 run pushed its lead to 16 with 16:13 remaining. The Bulls’ advantage never fell below 14 the rest of the way.

UC Irvine 70, Kansas State 64: In San Jose, Calif., UC Irvine got back-to-back 3-pointers from Evan Leonard to spark the deciding run in an upset over Kansas State, the Anteaters’ first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.

Leonard and Max Hazzard each scored 19 points to send UC Irvine (31-5) into the second round of the South Region.

One year after making a run to the Elite Eight, the fourth-seeded Wildcats (25-9) had a short stay in the tournament as they struggled to decipher the Anteaters zone defense and missed star forward Dean Wade, who was sidelined by a foot injury.

Kamau Stokes led Kansas State with 18 points.

North Carolina 88, Iona 73: In Columbus, Ohio, Cameron Johnson scored 21 points, and North Carolina quickly erased a five-point halftime deficit to hot-shooting Iona, going on to win 88-73 on Friday night.

The Tar Heels (28-6), who came into the tournament as a top seed for a record 17th time, advanced to play Washington in the second round of the Midwest Region on Sunday. They’re hoping to reach their 11th Final Four.

No. 16 seed Iona surprised the Tar Heels early with their energy and outside shooting. Ricky McGill made all four of his 3-point attempts in the opening half as the Gaels (17-16) led by as many as eight and took a 38-33 lead into halftime.

McGill finished with 26 points. Asante Gist had 17 points and Andrija Ristanovic scored 11 for Iona.

Washington 78, Utah State 61: In Columbus, Ohio, Noah Dickerson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and ninth-seeded Washington made a successful return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years.

Eighth-seeded Utah State (28-7) had won 10 in a row and 17 of 18 while taking the Mountain West title. The Aggies got the highest seed in school history and were trying to end their own long NCAA Tournament drought – they haven’t won since 2002.

Washington (27-8) got enough from its top players. Jaylen Nowell had 19 points and five assists and top defender Matisse Thybulle finished with 10 points, five steals and three blocks.

Brock Miller had 13 points for Utah State.

Texas Tech 72, Northern Kentucky 57: In Tulsa, Okla., Jarrett Culver had 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help No. 3 seed Texas Tech shake off a slow start against No. 14 seed Northern Kentucky in the first round.

Tariq Owens scored 12 points and Davide Moretti had 10 for Texas Tech (27-6).

Northern Kentucky (26-9) got 23 points from Tyler Sharpe and 11 from Dantez Walton while giving the Red Raiders everything they could handle in the West Region.

Oklahoma 95, Mississippi 72: In Columbia, S.C., Rashard Odomes and Christian James scored 20 points apiece, Kristian Doolittle had 19 points and matched a career-high with 15 rebounds and No. 9 seed Oklahoma blitzed Mississippi with a season high in points in the first round.

The Sooners (20-13) scored on eight of their first nine possessions for a 12-0 lead and led by 17 at halftime.

The Rebels (20-13) had looked like a tired team for more than a month, and eight days off didn’t appear to help. Terrence Davis led Ole Miss with 17 points.

Iowa 79, Cincinnati 72: In Columbus, Ohio, Luka Garza scored 20 points, Jordan Bohannon made a three-point play during Iowa’s closing surge as the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes rallied past No. 7 seed Cincinnati in the first round.

The Hawkeyes (23-11) got their first NCAA Tournament win in four years despite what amounted to a home crowd for the Bearcats, who couldn’t overcome a subpar game by Jarron Cumberland. He was 3 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points.

Point guard Justin Jenifer scored a career-high 19 points for Cincinnati (28-7), which hasn’t made it past the opening weekend for seven straight years.

Houston 84, Georgia State 55: In Tulsa, Okla., Corey Davis scored 26 points to help third-seeded Houston to victory in the Midwest Region.

Fabian White had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Breaon Brady added 13 for Houston (32-3).

D’Marcus Simonds scored 18 points for No. 14 seed Georgia State (24-10), the Sun Belt Conference Tournament champion.

Houston rolled to a 15-3 lead in the first five minutes and the rout was on.

UCF 73, VCU 58: In Columbia, S.C., Tacko Fall had 10 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks as ninth-seeded UCF won its first NCAA Tournament game.

The win, UCF’s first in five NCAA appearances, sets up an intriguing matchup with overall top seed Duke between the game’s tallest player in Fall and its most dynamic star in Blue Devils freshman Zion Williamson on Sunday.

UCF (24-8) built a 21-point lead in the second half. The Rams (25-8) narrowed the margin to 62-55 on De’Riante Jenkins’ 3-pointer with 4:53 to go, but could get no closer.

BJ Taylor led UCF with 15 points while Aubrey Dawkins had 14.

Malik Crowfield had 11 points to lead VCU.

Virginia Tech 66, Saint Louis 52: In San Jose, Calif.,Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 20 points, Kerry Blackshear added 15 and fourth-seeded Virginia Tech earned its first NCAA Tournament win in 12 years.

The Hokies (25-8) had lost in the first round the past two years under coach Buzz Williams before finally breaking through and earning a second-round matchup against No. 12 seed Liberty in the East Region.

Virginia Tech got a big boost to go along with the lopsided win with the return of star point guard Justin Robinson.

Javon Bess scored 14 points and D.J. Foreman added 12 for the Billikens (23-13), who lost in their first tournament game since 2014.
 

 

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