The whirlwind is over, and the intense run of 47 games in four days reached its conclusion on Sunday night. The NCAA Tournament field is pared to 16. TheSportsNotebook looks back on the eight second-round games from Sunday…
Cincinnati 62 Florida State 56: If Florida State was going to win this game they needed to have a significant edge in the interior. That didn’t happen, Bernard James and Xavier Gibson combined for just 16 points and 7 rebounds. If Cincinnati was going to win this game they needed to win the battle in the backcourt. It wasn’t a huge edge, but led by Sean Kilpatrick’s 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc, and it was enough for the Bearcats to move on to Boston as a #6 seed.
N.C. State 66 Georgetown 63: This game was a battle of the Wolfpack’s balance against Hoya frontline strength. The final report card? N.C. State had four players score between 12-14 points. While Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson was the best player on the floor with 23 points, frontcourt mate Henry Sims was in foul trouble and ineffective. It marked the second straight poor showing from the Georgetown in the interior. Unlike Friday, they didn’t get bailed out in the backcourt. Jason Clark struggled to a 3-for-11 shooting day.
Kansas 63 Purdue 60: I watched this game and reviewed the boxscore and am still not entirely sure how Kansas managed to pull this one out. I suppose we can start with the performance of unheralded guard Elijah Johnson, who had 18 points, but the individual story of the game is Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, who came out in the first half nailing three-pointers with such impunity I half-expected him to pull a rendition of the Jordan Shrug, 20 years later. Hummel ended with 26 points and nine rebounds. As for Kansas they won a game they probably shouldn’t have and got a big game from a no-name player when they needed it most. Oh, and on top of that, the favorite in their bracket got hit with devastating injury news, as we’ll see next. Does anyone else see things starting to coalesce around the idea that it might just be Kansas’ year?
North Carolina 87 Creighton 73: The Tar Heels got John Henson back on the frontline and his ten rebounds keyed a 43-34 edge on the glass, something the overmatched Bluejays couldn’t keep up with. But the word that point guard Kendall Marshall has a broken wrist is positively devastating. It’s not his shooting hand, and he may still play, but it’s impossible to deny how much this injury affects Roy Williams’ team. Picking up on the point from above with Kansas, North Carolina has now had both Henson and Williams deal with wrist injuries, getting progressively worse. Are the signs becoming clear that it’s just not Carolina’s time? If the bad injury breaks don’t persuade you, maybe the fact I picked them to win it all in my bracket pool will.
Ohio 62 South Florida 56: Ohio won this game behind the arc. South Florida enjoyed narrow, but clear edges in most statistical categories, but the Bobcats owned the three-point line. They hit 9-of-18, including a perfect 4-for-4 from guard Walter Offutt. South Florida was 2-for-15.
Xavier 70 Lehigh 59: Lehigh was off to a big lead early in the game and it looked like they might make history in becoming the first #15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. In the game previews here yesterday, Xavier center Kenny Frease was identified as the key to the game, the one player who could separate the Musketeers from the feisty underdog. Frease had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and had he been anything less, his team would be going home.
Michigan State 65 St. Louis 61: This one was a victory for the John Madden Theory. The former NFL analyst used to talk in the playoffs about how, in big games, stars have to play like stars. Michigan State may have gotten all it could handle, but star Draymond Green had 16 points and 13 rebounds. And his main sidekick Keith Appling scored 19. St. Louis played well enough to get the upset, but Michigan State’s best players met the moment.
Florida 84 Norfolk State 50: The score pretty much tells it all here. Kyle O’Quinn, the Norfolk hero in the upset of Missouri, was held to four points and three rebounds. And the Florida defense held Norfolk to 27 percent shooting.