Friday, March 23, 2007

2007 NCAA Tournament (The Sweet Sixteen)

Finally, a full night of entertaining basketball, both college and pro. The tip-off of the Sweet Sixteen was last night and all four of the games were gripping including 3 of the 4 coming down to the final moments.

(5) Tennessee- 84
(1) Ohio State- 85

Ron Lewis came up HUGE yet again and helped spark a historic 20-point comeback to knock off the 5th seeded Tennessee Volunteers, 85-84. At halftime the Vols were up by 17 and were seemingly cruising to a trip to the Elite 8, because not only did they have the hot shooting, Chris Lofton on their side they also had history with them. The biggest comeback in a NCAA Tournament game at the half that ended in Regulation was the 17 points erased by UNLV. And not only that, the Buckeye's leading scorer, Greg Oden, was on the bench most of the second half due to foul trouble.

"In this tournament, the two most important words are `survive' and `advance,' and we've been very, very fortunate the last couple of games to do those things," said Buckeyes coach Thad Matta.

With the absence of Greg Oden(played in just 18 minutes) for majority of the game, the Buckeyes looked to their terrific guards to win the game for them and they delivered. Ron Lewis had 18 of his 25 points in the second half and Mike Conely Jr. scored 9 of his 17 points from the free throw line including the game winner with 6.5 seconds left. Conley did miss his final free throw however and it was rebounded by the Vol's, Ramar Smith, who ran the court and put of a last second shot to only be swatted into the crowd by Oden as the buzzer went off.

"We played about as well in the first half, I think, as we can play," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We're terribly disappointed. We've proven we can beat some of the best teams in the country. We've also proven we can come close to beating some of the best teams in the

But with excellent guard play and a timely Oden block, the Buckeyes completed this amazing comeback and have advanced to the Elite 8 to face the Memphis Tigers.

(3) Texas A&M- 64
(2) Memphis- 65

I think it's pretty safe to say although Memphis was the higher seed, they were not favored to win Thursday night. With their leading scorer, Chris Douglas-Roberts, spraining his left ankle in the round before and whether or not he'd be able to play still up in the air and then you take into fact that the Aggie's were basically playing a home game(the game was played in San Antonio), I, for one, surely expected A&M to win. But Douglas-Roberts did play and he played well, scoring 15 points and playing 37 minutes, which led the team. Memphis has been known as a team that has a very deep bench and their bench shined Thursday, outscoring Texas A&M's, 26-14 and Jeremy Hunt outscored not only the bench of A&M's by himself, he also was the game's leading scorer with 19 off the bench.

The last person Memphis coach, John Calipari, would've wanted at the free throw line with the game on the line was Antonio Anderson. Anderson had missed two open lay-ups and had missed three consecutive free throws.

"I wanted to choke him at halftime," Memphis coach John Calipari said.

But alas, Anderson was the one that would be taking the two free throws, down by 1, with 3.1 remaining in the game, it was Anderson who had just 3 points at that point in the game and was just 1-6 from both the field and the line.

"When I got to the line I could see we were tired and deep down so was the other team. I just wanted to get the game over with," said Anderson, who finished with five points. "I missed free throws earlier, but I had the confidence I could knock them down."

And knock them down he did, Antonio Anderson was so clutch and he sank both of the free throws to give his Tiger's the lead. On the final play of the game, you would expect Acie Law, who had been give the nickname "Captain Clutch" for his flare for late game heroics, to get the last shot, but no. The last shot was taken by defensive specialist, Dominique Kirk, and his shot from just inside the half court line was short. Kirk, who was coming off of his best two games of the year, finished with just 4 points in his 28 minutes of play and he for mentioned Acie Law, struggled scoring just 13 points in his final college game.

(3) Pittsburgh- 55
(2) UCLA- 64

This game was just what most thought it would be, a grind-it-out defensive game. The second seeded UCLA Bruins were able to out last the pesky fifth seeded Pittsburgh Panthers in route to a 64-55 win. Both Ben Howland's Bruins and Jamie Dixon's Panthers played extraordinary defense, and the team's defenses barely allowed an open shot the entire game.

"It starts with our coach," point guard Darren Collison said. "He emphasizes defense all year long and we showed it pays to be physical."

The Bruins never trailed this game despite the less than mediocre shooting from the field. The Bruins shot .429(18-42) from the field and .385(5-13) from beyond the arc. I know, not good at all, but the Panthers were worse, they shot just .364(20-55) from the field and .438(7-16). With all the shots not falling, the Bruins had to find another way to score and they found it in the form of the free throw line. The Bruins were absolutely amazing from the stripe, shooting .885(23-26) as a team. That has to be one of the best shooting performances from a team with that much riding on the game and the lack of offense.

"We did a great job to knock down free throws, and it's a good thing we did because we weren't scoring a lot," forward Josh Shipp said. "I think we're just getting down to business and focusing on free throws."

Although Aaron Affalo's shooting troubles continued as he went 3-11 from the field, he was still able to score a game high, 17 points thanks to 10-10 shooting from the line. Affalo has to fight his way out of this shooting slump, eventually. Right? While Affalo is slumping, Darren Collison is doing the exact opposite. He's averaging about 13.5 ppg during the NCAA Tournament but even more impressive is his shooting percentage, which is around 63%. The Bruins will certainly need Collison to continue his good play and they desperately need their best player, Affalo, to step up if they hope to win against Kansas, who also advanced to the Elite Eight.

(4) Southern Illinois- 58
(1) Kansas- 61

The first seeded Kansas Jayhawks, were almost taken to the breaking point by the fourth seeded Southern Illinois
Salukis defense. The defense of the Salukis' is by far the best and it was almost enough to take down the immensely athletic Jayhawk team. Kansas' Brandon Rush scored 12 points on 6-6 shooting along with Darrell Arthur and Russell Robinson scoring 9 apiece , helped Kansas and coach, Bill Self avoid yet another embarrassing exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas has many NBA caliber players on their roster and I highly doubt that they have had to work as hard as they did Thursday night to get points. Every shot was contested, and down low, despite being smaller, the Salukis' were tough on the Jayhawk's big men, Julian Wright(scored just 7 points, averages 12.1) and Sasha Kaun(scored only 2 points, averages 6).

"It shows that we can win whatever the circumstances are," said Kansas guard Mario Chalmers, who scored just nine points. "Everyone knows we like an uptempo game in the 80s, but we can take our time and slow it down with the best of them, too."

Southern Illinois' guard, Jamaal Tatum, kept the Salukis in the game scoring 19 points, 3 assists and 2 steals in his final college game. Tatum did not shoot well from three point range, shooting just 1-8. And he missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 8 seconds left.

"The shot I took is a shot I've practiced numerous times in the gym at night (and) in between classes," Tatum said. "It felt good. I don't know what to say."

Overall a very exciting night of college basketball and should be much of the same tonight. Here's the match-ups in the final night of the Sweet Sixteen.

(5) Butler
(1) Florida

(6) Vanderbilt
(2) Georgetown

(7) UNLV
(3) Oregon

(5) USC
(1) North Carolina

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