Saturday's NCAAs: LSU outmuscles St. Bonaventure 76-61, Michigan up next

Michael Marot
Associated Press

Bloomington, Ind. — Freshman Cameron Thomas scored 27 points in another impressive performance and his LSU teammates provided the rebounding muscle, leading the eighth-seeded Tigers past ninth-seeded St. Bonaventure 76-61 on Saturday and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

LSU (19-9) can reach its second straight Sweet 16 if it beats Michigan, the top seed in the Midwest Region.

LSU forward Trendon Watford (2) scores with a reverse layup during the second half of a first-round game against St. Bonaventure Saturday.

“We can certainly play better, but I think we’ve played a lot more physical since the Vanderbilt home game,” coach Will Wade said. “For us, it’s about getting stops and rebounding, which we did a great job of.”

Darius Days and Aundre Hyatt each had 13 points and Trendon Watford had 11. Days and Watford also had 11 rebounds each while Hyatt grabbed 10. The Tigers have won five of six.

LSU took control in the second half thanks to Thomas and his ability to get to the basket. He scored 25 or more points for the 15th time this season, which LSU says is a freshman Southeastern Conference record in the one-and-done era.

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Jaren Holmes scored 18 points and Osun Osunniyi had 15 points and nine rebounds for St. Bonaventure (16-5). Jalen Adaway had 11 points in his home state.

The Bonnies still had a good time, hearing their contingent of fans chanting in the stands.

“We just played LSU in March Madness at Indiana University. This is a historical arena,” Holmes said. “While in the middle of a pandemic. This is something that I’ll be able to tell my children, talk about forever, honestly. This is a magical experience.”

Once the Tigers warmed up, the Bonnies never had a chance.

LSU started pulling away with a 9-2 spurt that gave it a 21-12 lead late in the first half, and when the Tigers opened the second half on a 12-2 spurt to make it 40-24, the Bonnies never got closer than nine.

The Bonnies relied heavily all season on one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. But on a day they shot poorly and got outrebounded 49-30, they couldn’t contain the more athletic Tigers.

Wade’s team seemed to be in sync throughout last week’s SEC Tournament and was back at it for the final 30 minutes Saturday. The Tigers will need to play 40 strong minutes to get past Michigan and make a second straight Sweet 16.

St. Bonaventure and LSU were a combined 3 of 24 from the field during the first eight minutes, missing 12 straight 3s. There were other problems, too. Watford went to the bench with his second foul seven minutes into the game and guard Javonte Cook ended up there, too, after drawing his second — a technical foul with 10:40 left in the first half. St. Bonaventure guard Dominick Welch injured his right ankle in the first half before returning.

Watford knocked down one 3-pointer from the corner in front of the St. Bonaventure bench, a few steps away from where his older brother, Christian, made a buzzer-beating 3 to help Indiana upset then-No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky in December 2011. Trendon Watford was in the stands that day and his older brother was there Saturday.

“The Watfords love Assembly Hall. He was so excited to play here. And I was so proud of him to hit the 3 and play so well in this building that’s so special to the family,” Wade said.

St. Bonaventure paused its activities on Nov. 19, delaying its season opener from Nov. 25 to Dec. 15. The Bonnies had six COVID-19-related cancellations during nonconference play and a rough start to February when they lost three times and had two cancellations in what was supposed to be a six-game stretch.

For LSU, COVID-19 protocols created a messy schedule. In addition to postponing three mid-December games because of health and safety protocols and losing Wade on Dec. 14 because of a positive test, the Tigers had eight additional postponements or cancellations, five rescheduled games and had seven of their last 10 regular-season games on the road.

More NCAA games

Abilene Christian 53, Texas 52: Abilene Christian and its frantic, havoc-causing defense sent Shaka Smart and Texas out in the first round yet again as the 14th-seeded Wildcats stunned the third-seeded Longhorns.

Joe Pleasant, a 58.8% foul shooter on the season, made a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds left as the Wildcats shocked their in-state rivals in the first meeting between the schools.

The Wildcats caused headaches for the bigger, more talented Longhorns all night and got just enough offense to pull off their first NCAA Tournament victory in their second appearance.

Pleasant finished with 11 points as did Coryon Mason for the Wildcats. Abilene Christian (24-4) will face UCLA in the second round on Monday.

Andrew Jones scored 13 points for Texas (23-5) and was nearly the hero. Jones hit two free throws with 56 seconds left and his 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining put the Longhorns in front 52-51.

But Damien Daniels drove to the basket and Pleasant grabbed the rebound. He was fouled and calmly hit both free throws.

Colorado 96, Georgetown 73: In Indianapolis, Colorado used an early 3-point barrage to parlay its highest seeding ever into a win over Georgetown and coach Patrick Ewing.

Led by freshman Jabari Walker’s 5-for-5 shooting clinic from 3-point range, the fifth-seeded Buffs (23-8) made 16 3-pointers and shot 64% from long range.

Walker missed only one of his 10 shots on his way to a career-best 24 points, and D’Shawn Schwartz (18 points) made four of his five 3s in the first half to put Colorado into cruise control. The Buffs made the round of 32 for only the third time since the brackets expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They will face fourth-seeded Florida State.

Georgetown won four games in four days earlier this month to take the Big East Tournament title and make a surprise trip to the NCAA Tournament. But the Hoyas finished 13-13 on the season. Qudus Wahab led Georgetown with 20 points.

Florida State 64, UNC Greensboro 54: In Indianapolis, RaiQuan Gray scored 17 points and Florida State began what it hopes will be another deep run under coach Leonard Hamilton, holding off 13th-seeded UNC Greensboro.

The Seminoles, who reached the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 in the previous two tournaments, allowed the Spartans to hang around deep into the second half thanks to an uneven offensive performance.

Florida State went 0 for 9 from 3-point range, winning a game without a made 3 for the first time since February 2018. The Seminoles still managed to shoot 50% overall.

Balsa Koprivica had 13 points and nine rebounds and Anthony Polite added 12 points for the Seminoles.

Isaiah Miller scored 17 points and Keyshaun Langley added 16 for Greensboro (21-9), which was seeking its first tournament win.

Alabama 68, Iona 55: In Indianapolis, Herb Jones scored 20 points and second-seeded Alabama pried open a tight game to beat coach Rick Pitino’s underdogs from Iona.

Jones had a steal and layup that highlighted an 11-0 run and gave Alabama (25-6) breathing room at 54-46 after the teams seesawed with the lead through much of the second half. The Crimson Tide advanced to face either UConn or Maryland.

Even though he came in with his highest seeding ever — a 15 — Pitino came to Indy with eight suits and at least a glimmer of hope he might use more than one.

Isaiah Ross scored 19 points on 8-for-18 shooting for the Gaels (12-6). The rest of the team went 15 for 41.

Ohio 62, Virginia 58: In Bloomington, Ind., Virginia’s unusual title defense ended with another upset loss in the NCAA Tournament, falling to Jason Preston and Ohio.

Some familiar problems showed up again for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, who struggled to score during a key stretch in the second half and shot 35% from the field for the game. Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to drop its opening game in the NCAA Tournament when it lost to UMBC in 2018, but it used the setback as motivation in its run to the championship in 2019.

Last year’s NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the pandemic, delaying the Cavaliers’ title defense. They just arrived in Indiana on Friday because of COVID-19 issues, and now they are heading home again.

Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston delivered for Ohio after leading the Bobcats to the Mid-American Conference Tournament title.

Vander Plas scored eight of his game-high 17 points during an 18-4 second-half run that erased a 38-31 deficit and gave the Bobcats a 49-42 lead. Ohio (17-7) never trailed again.

Preston finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Lunden McDay sealed the victory at the free-throw line in the closing seconds.

►Maryland 63, UConn 54: In West Lafayette, Ind., Eric Ayala scored 23 points and Maryland clamped down on defense down the stretch to snag a victory over No. 7 UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 10th-seeded Terrapins held UConn to 32% shooting to overcome the Huskies’ strong physical game. Maryland was outrebounded 40-29 but its defense carried the Terps to a second-round matchup against No. 2 Alabama.

Maryland (17-13) shot 51% for the game and converted 9 of 18 from behind the arc. The Terps built a 14-point cushion that UConn cut to 53-48 with 2:53 remaining. Ayala and Darryl Morsell each made a pair of three throws to push the lead back to nine.

Hakim Hart answered another small UConn (15-8) spurt with a jumper to make it a three-possession game, and a dunk with 30 seconds left ignited a celebration on Maryland’s bench.

Ayala was 8 of 14 shooting, including 3 of 5 from deep, and was among three Terps with five assists. Aaron Wiggins had 14 points and Donta Scott 12 for Maryland.

James Bouknight had 15 points and Jalen Gaffney 12 for the Huskies, who won five of their last six games to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016.

BYU 73, UCLA 62: At Indianapolis, Johnny Juzang poured in 27 points in his second big game of the NCAA Tournament, Jules Bernard provided a big second-half lift, and No. 11 seed UCLA beat sixth-seeded BYU.

Bernard finished with 16 points and Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 13 for the Bruins (19-9), who survived a First Four scare from Michigan State and now will play third-seeded Texas or No. 14 seed Abilene Christian for a spot in the Sweeet 16.

It was the first win for UCLA in regulation since handling Utah on Feb. 25.

Alex Barcello led the Cougars (20-7) with 20 points, most of them coming as Mark Pope’s team tried to rally from a 38-27 halftime deficit. Brandon Averette added 15 points and Matt Haarms finished with 11 points and 10 boards as BYU – which fell to Gonzaga in the Mountain West finals – suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in 60 games.

WEST

Gonzaga 98, Norfolk State 55: At Indianapolis, Corey Kispert scored 15 of his 23 points by halftime and No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga rolled in its opener, beating Norfolk State.

Anton Watson had 17 points on 7-for-7 shooting for the Bulldogs (27-0), who shook off a slow few opening minutes and easily handled the 16th-seeded Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions.

Next up for the undefeated Zags is eighth-seeded Oklahoma in the second round of the West Region.

Gonzaga led by 22 points before the break and kept stretching the lead after halftime. It has won 31 straight dating to last season.

Devante Carter and Kyonze Chavis each scored 12 points for the Spartans (17-8), who had won seven straight.

►​​​​Creighton 63, UC Santa Barbara 62: In Indianapolis, Christian Bishop made both ends of a one-and-one with 16 seconds left to give fifth-seeded Creighton the lead, and the Bluejays hung on to beat 12th-seeded UC Santa Barbara.

Creighton’s turbulent season, which included a one-game suspension for coach Greg McDermott after he made a racially insensitive remark in the locker room, continues Monday in the West Region when the Bluejays (21-8) face either Virginia or Ohio.

Bishop was fouled by Amadou Sow on the floor after grabbing an offensive rebound and went to the line with the Gauchos (22-5) up 62-61.

The junior came into the game making 57% from the line, but dropped in both, barely touching the rim.

JaQuori McLaughlin had a chance to put the Gauchos back on top but couldn’t finish at the rim. He led UCSB with 13 points.

Southern California 72, Drake 56: In Indianapolis, Evan Mobley had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 6 seed Southern California used smothering defense to beat Drake.

Mobley, a 7-foot freshman forward and AP second-team All-American expected to be a lottery pick if he declares for the draft, made 7 of 15 field goals and blocked three shots.

Isaiah Mobley scored 15 points and Drew Peterson added 14 for USC (23-7), which advanced to play No. 3 seed Kansas in the second round on Monday.

Joseph Yesufu scored 26 points for 11th-seeded Drake (26-5), but none of his teammates scored more than six. Drake shot 29% overall, including a dismal 19% in the second half.

Kansas 73, Eastern Washington 84: In Indianapolis, David McCormack returned from his COVID-19-caused hiatus just in time to rescue No. 3 seed Kansas, piling up 22 points and nine rebounds as the slow-starting Jayhawks rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat No. 14 seed Eastern Washington.

Ochai Agbaji scored 21 points, Marcus Garrett fought foul trouble to add 20 and Dajuan Harris Jr. had 13 for the Jayhawks (21-8).

Tanner Groves scored a career-high 35 points and younger brother Jacob Groves had 23 for the Eagles (16-8), whose third trip to the NCAA Tournament ended just as quickly as the first two — though not without putting up a fight.

►Iowa 86, Grand Canyon 74: In Indianapolis, Iowa got 24 points from Luka Garza and avoided the early NCAA Tournament exit that befell other high seeds.

Ohio State, Purdue and Tennessee were all bounced from the tournament on a wild opening day of upsets, but the second-seeded Hawkeyes (22-8) used a strong shooting display to advance.

Iowa shot the Antelopes and their boisterous fans back to the desert, hitting 54% from the floor while going 10 of 22 from behind the arc.

Joe Wieskamp added 16 points to help lead the Hawkeyes into the next round Monday against Oregon, which advanced after Virginia Commonwealth became the first team to bow out of the bracket due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Grand Canyon (17-7) gave the Havocs reason to remain on their feet early by keeping the Hawkeyes within reach before an Iowa surge before halftime allowed the Hawkeyes to pull away.

Asbjorn Midtgaard had 18 points and Jovan Blacksher Jr. 15 for GCU.

►Oklahoma 72, Missouri 68: In Indianapolis, Austin Reaves scored 23 points, Brady Manek added 19 and Oklahoma slipped by ninth-seeded Missouri.

The eighth-seeded Sooners (16-10) are on to the second round for fourth time in the last six tournaments and will likely face No. 1 Gonzaga on Monday in the West Region. The unbeaten Zags faced 16-seeded Norfolk State later Saturday night.

The Sooners pulled out to an eight-point lead with 1:08 left behind Reaves’ free-throw shooting, but Dru Smith made two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep the pressure on and pull Missouri within 70-67 with 46.7 left.

Smith led the Tigers (16-10) with 20 points.

Reaves missed a jumper and Missouri got a possession to tie with 17 seconds to go, but the Tigers never managed to get off a 3-pointer. They fumbled the ball around to waste a few seconds and then Oklahoma’s Elijah Harkless fouled Drew Buggs on the hand as he dribbled, putting him at the line with 2.1 seconds left.

Buggs made the first and missed the second on purpose. Jalen Hill grabbed the rebound for the Sooners, was fouled and made one more free throw to wrap it up a quintessential 8-9 game between the former Big 12 rivals. The lead changed nine times and never reached double digits for either team.

Both teams limped into the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma ended the season losing five of six in the tough Big 12. Missouri went 3-6 in its final nine in the Southeastern Conference.