NCAA: PAC-12 eliminated from NCAA tournament
Entering the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the Pac-12 had three representatives left in Arizona, UCLA, and Utah. However, that all changed by the end of weekend with each of the teams suffering a loss.
UCLA had a difficult matchup in the Sweet 16 round against one of the top teams in the nation in Gonzaga. The Bruins trailed throughout the game, but had cut the deficit to just 35-34 with a quick 6-0 run to start the second half. The Bulldogs responded by scoring the next 12 points with big man Przemek Karnowski leading the way.
UCLA was unable to bounce back and fell to a 74-62 defeat to Gonzaga. It was the Bruins’ poor shooting (38 percent) that doomed them with Norman Powell, who led the team with 16 points, making just 8-of-19 shots and Bryce Alford was only 3-of-11. The win marked the first trip to the round of eight for head coach Mark Few, where they ultimately fell to Duke.
Arizona was able to advance to the Elite Eight after squeezing by Xavier in the Sweet 16 with a 68-60 victory. With a trip to the Final Four on the line, the Wildcats came up short to the top-seeded Wisconsin, who seemingly had an answer for every bucket in the second half. Frank Kaminsky led the way for the Badgers with 29 points, but it was his teammate Sam Dekker that sealed the win for his team.
Dekker, who had a career-high 27 points, keep Arizona at bay in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game with back-to-back high arcing 3-pointers after the Wildcats pulled within five points each time. Arizona was lead in scoring by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley each chipping 17 points. The win marked the first back-to-back Final Four appearances for Wisconsin in school history.
Finally, Utah had a tall task ahead of them in the Sweet 16 against Duke, who cruised by San Diego State in the third round 68-49. It was not Jahlil Okafor, but it was the Blue Devils’ other talented freshman Justise Winslow that led the way for his team with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.
It was ugly shooting game for both teams with neither making more than 45 percent of their shots. Utah struggled shooting just 35 percent, including just 25 percent (4-of-16) from 3-point range. It was Duke’s balanced scoring led by Winslow, who became the third freshman in school history to record at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.
Duke’s other freshman starters in Tyus Jones had 15 points, and Okafor chipped in with six points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Utah in the loss was led by Brandon Taylor had 15 points, and talented freshman Jakob Poeltl had 10 points and eight rebounds. The win for Duke followed by another one in the Elite eight over Gonzaga marked the 12th Final Four appearance for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils will join Michigan State, Wisconsin, and undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four.
Bob Garcia IV
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