March Madness Blog – Elite 8 Saturday games

Well yesterday’s games sure were fun! Since I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday, here are a few observations from last night’s games:

- Xavier got down big early and could never come all the way back. They eventually trimmed it to a three-point game with about 20 seconds left, but the Musketeers fell short to Baylor, 75-70. Xavier’s 3-point shooting was atrocious, as they did not make a three until just under three minutes left in the game. You can’t expect to win against a more dominant low post team if your perimeter play is that bad.

- Boy, did North Carolina look rough without point guard Kendall Marshall! Ohio had the game within their grasp, as Walter Offutt had a free throw chance to go up one with 25 seconds left to play, but it fell short, as did their upset bid. The game went to overtime, and the Bobcats only managed two more points. North Carolina fans can thank Tyler Zeller for carrying the team. He had 20 points and 23 rebounds. The Tar Heels had 22 turnovers, but none from Marshall’s backup Stillman White. Roy Williams seemed reluctant at times to play White, but considering his lack of turnovers, Williams should have a lot more trust in him.

- NC State came so close to getting their rematch with North Carolina, but Kansas’ Jeff Withey was too much of a disruptive force on defense. He had 10 blocks! NC State shot just 28 percent, and Kansas fans can feel confident about a Final Four appearance if they play the same North Carolina team that showed up Friday.

- And the game of the night, at least for me, was Kentucky vs. Indiana which was wildly entertaining. By halftime, the two teams had combined to score 97 points! In the second half, Kentucky was able to to pull out to a 10-point lead and keep it in that range, so the game never seemed in doubt, but it sure was fun to see a final score of 102-90. We don’t see college scores get that high anymore.

On to tonight’s games…

#4 Louisville vs. #7 Florida WEST REGION

Final Score: 72-68 Louisville

Observations:

- This was a tale of two halves. Florida led the pace in the first half, bombing away from three, and Louisville clamped down defensively and dominated the second half.

- After the seven-block performance against Michigan State, Gorgui Dieng only blocked one shot tonight.

Key Stats:

- Florida was 8-12 from three in the first half. They were 0-8 in the second half.

- Louisville only turned the ball over 6 times. Florida turned it over 13.

Rick Pitino vs. Billy Donovan: Billy Donovan is 0-7 against his mentor Rick Pitino. Maybe the eighth time will be the charm.

Who does Louisville want to play? “I want UK because of the in-state rivalry, but I want Baylor because they got the infragreen uniforms.” – Russ Smith in the postgame conference.

Player of the Game: Russ Smith. Louisville’s sixth-man Russ Smith had 19 points and led the Cardinals offense.

Up next for Louisville: Winner of Kentucky vs. Baylor

If Kentucky gets by Baylor Sunday, the state of Kentucky will be in a frenzy. Louisville vs. Kentucky in the regular season is already heated, but in the Final Four, with a chance at the National Championship on the line…what a rivalry game that will be. Winner gets bragging rights for quite a while.

#1 Syracuse vs. #2 Ohio State EAST REGION

Final Score: 77-70 Ohio State

Observations:

- Syracuse finally missed Fab Melo. They were out-rebounded and could not guard Jared Sullinger in the post.

- With the East regional being played in Boston, Syracuse had tons of fans in the stands. At times it sounded like this game was being played at the Carrier Dome.

Key Stats:

- It was tied 29-29 at the half. Jared Sullinger did not play from the 13 minute mark on in the first half after he was whistled for his second foul. Syracuse was unable to take advantage.

- Ohio State out-rebounded Syracuse 37 to 22.

- Ohio State missed 11 free throws, but took 42.

Quote of the night: “We got Jared Sullinger in foul trouble and we didn’t take advantage of it.” – Jim Boeheim in the postgame conference.

Players of the Game: Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas. These two helped keep the Buckeyes in the game when Jared Sullinger had to sit most of the first half.

Up next for Ohio State: Winner of North Carolina vs. Kansas

Some good big men await the Buckeyes and Jared Sullinger whether Kansas or North Carolina win Sunday. John Henson and Tyler Zeller from North Carolina or Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey from Kansas. It may be the first game all season long that a team will match up equally in the paint with Ohio State.

Uncommon Challenge