College Basketball Nation: 2011 NCAA Tucson



TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jacob Pullen became Kansas State's all-time leading scorer Saturday and tied his career-high with 38 points. But hearing about it made him cry.

It's not difficult to understand why. The cornerstone of the Wildcats' surge into national relevancy saw his collegiate career ended 70-65 by Wisconsin in the round of 32 on Saturday night.

"I wanted them to remember me as a person that led the team to a Final Four, Elite Eight, and the outcome of this game didn't allow that to happen," Pullen said. "All individual accolades are stuff I care nothing about. I'll pass up on all of them. I'll be 100th in the scoring thing if that would have got me to the Final Four. You know, that is all I wanted. I wanted a ring."

Pullen dominated his marquee matchup with Badgers all-Big Ten point guard Jordan Taylor, who was 2-of-16 from the field.

"He was the best player on the floor tonight," Taylor said. "But we're moving on and going to New Orleans. So that's all that matters."

Wisconsin will face Butler, which upset top-seeded Pittsburgh in Washington, D.C.

And while Taylor lost the battle in the most obvious ways, he also kept his cool and played a critical role down the stretch, particularly when he blocked Pullen's 3-point attempt that could have tied the game at 68. Taylor was 6-for-6 from the free throw line -- he finished with 12 points -- and added six assists with no turnovers. Pullen had three turnovers and two assists.

"His 6-to-0 assist-turnover ratio says he stayed focused," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He was having a rough night scoring, but he is a taskmaster of his own skills and his own abilities that he's not going to throw the rest of it away simply because things have gotten away from him. Because he is that dedicated to being the leader on this team on the floor. He never wavered from that the whole time."

Pullen didn't get as much help as Taylor did. Four Badgers reached double figures, led by Jon Leuer with 19 points and seven rebounds, and another had eight points. Curtis Kelly, with 11 points, was the only other Wildcat who reached double-figures. The Badgers bench outscored Kansas State's 15-5.

"We got nothing from our bench today," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "We got breakdowns from our bench. That's what we got."

Pullen simply couldn't do it all. He missed the second of three free throws that could have tied the game with 10 seconds remaining. And, with 22 seconds left and Kansas State down by one, he fell and turned the ball over as he drove for the basket.

"I made a move and I thought he had my hand," Pullen said of the play, the loose ball ending up with Mike Bruesewitz. "I went to at least try to put the ball on the rim. But it was a physical game, and the referees decided not to call anything. So we had to play through it."

Bruesewitz is a fine example of the sort of help Pullen didn't get. He connected on a 3-pointer with 1:33 left that gave the Badgers a 64-61 lead, one they'd never surrender.

Taylor was gracious about his matchup with Pullen, repeatedly calling his adversary, "the best player on the floor." But Pullen's outstanding career is over. And for Taylor and the Badgers?

"Unbelievable feeling in the locker room celebrating with your teammates knowing you are one of 16 teams still playing," Leuer said. "At the same time we think we're far from over. We have a lot of work to do still and are looking forward to our next challenge."

Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin 70, KSU 65

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Kansas State's Jacob Pullen won the battle of point guards with Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor. But Taylor and the Badgers won the game 70-65.

Pullen scored a tournament-high 38 points, but Taylor blocked Pullen's 3-point attempt that would have tied the count at 68 with three seconds left.

Turning point: The score was tied 61-61 when Curtis Kelly missed a jump shot. The Wildcats got the rebound, but Taylor stole the ball from Pullen. On the other end, Mike Bruesewitz ripped a 3-pointer, and the Badgers took a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Key player: With Taylor struggling, the Badgers needed someone to step up, and that was Bruesewitz, who hurt his knee in the Big Ten tournament. He scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds and was a key player in the final minutes when Wisconsin asserted itself.

Key stat: Two of them. Wisconsin hit 9 of 20 (45 percent) from 3-point range. When the Badgers shoot well, they are tough to beat. And the bench outscored the Wildcats 15-5.

Miscellaneous: Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 19 points and seven rebounds. ... Pullen was 6 of 8 from 3-point range. He's now Kansas State's all-time leading scorer. ... Just one other Wildcat -- Curtis Kelly with 11 points -- reached double figures. ... Four Badgers reached double figures. ... Taylor was just 2 of 16 from the field, but he hit all six of his free throws, had six assists, four rebounds, a steal and the key block.

What's next: Wisconsin plays Butler Thursday in the Sweet 16 in New Orleans.

Aztecs win ugly over Owls in 2OT

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
10:34
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Double-overtime isn't always about great basketball. Winning isn't always pretty. In terms of basketball that often made you want to scratch your eyes out, San Diego State and Temple put on quite a show.

But a "W" is the ultimate measure every time, even more so when not getting it means the season is over. The greatest season in the history of San Diego State basketball is not over after a 71-64 victory that required two extra frames to decide. And Temple's season is. Neither obsessed about aesthetics afterward.

Aztecs coach Steve Fisher began his post-game chat with reporters with a sympathetic message to Temple and its coach -- and his good buddy -- Fran Dunphy: "When you play a game like this and lose, it's so disastrous for awhile mentally that you can't comprehend it unless you are there."

And then he admitted it wasn't "perfect basketball," seeing the teams combine for 41 points in the second half, with both teams shooting under 35 percent from the field. Then he cut to the chase.

[+] EnlargeBilly White
Jennifer Stewart/US PresswireBilly White stepped up for the Aztecs by notching 16 points and 13 rebounds in SDSU's win over Temple.
"We've got a good team. We find different ways to win," he said. "We did that again tonight. And collectively we've won 34 games. So we feel we belong."

San Diego State had the final shot in regulation and in the first overtime, but couldn't convert on neither. Free throw shooting and defense made the difference the the second OT. Kawhi Leonard, who struggled offensively much of the game, made four free throws, grabbed a steal and made the ensuing dunk that sealed the deal. Malcolm Thomas and Billy White both blocked Temple shots in the final minute, with Thomas' block of Lavoy Allen perhaps being the play of the game.

When the final buzzer sounded, sheer exhaustion muted the Aztecs celebration. Chase Tapley, one of four Aztecs who scored in double figures, collapsed to the floor.

"It was just a great game to remember for a memory," Tapley said. "I just had to sit on the floor. I was exhausted. Just playing my heart out."

That goes for both teams.

San Diego State took an 11-point lead in the first half and looked to be establishing the fast pace it wanted. At halftime, when it led 36-31, the Aztecs had a 12-0 advantage in fastbreak points.

But Temple adjusted during halftime, and it controlled the tempo thereafter. San Diego State scored just 18 points after the break, frustrated as Temple mixed in some zone defenses.

"I thought they were a little comfortable in running their man offense," Dunphy said. "They were doing a good job on their high ball screens and we let [point guard D.J.] Gay get into the gaps a little too easy a couple times. So we said let's throw some zone at them and see how they react."

Said Fisher: "Temple did a good job of controlling tempo. That's what they've done all season. They made us guard. They made us guard for long stretches."

Still, the Aztecs looked to be in good shape when they took a seven-point lead at 52-45 with 7:18 left. They scored just one more bucket the rest of the way, though, as the Owls forced the first OT.

In the first overtime, Temple, with a 59-57 lead, watched as Leonard missed the second of two free throws. But Rahlir Jefferson was called for a lane violation. Suffice it to say, Temple fans will be talking about that call.

"I don't really know what I could say," Dunphy said. "Could they have let it go? Yeah. But that's the way it worked. We had to live with it."

Gay admitted that the Aztecs were "out of whack" at times during the game. But he noted, they are advancing to the Sweet 16 and "at the end of the day we came out with the win."

However, when a reporter tried to see poetry in the way San Diego State won -- calling it a team of destiny -- Gay balked.

"I don't think I'm throwing around 'destiny' just yet," he said. "It's kind of like, you know, hard work is paying off. You know, a team -- fruit of its labor."

It was laborious, yes, but it was a win. That is the only reward that matters in the NCAA tournament.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- San Diego State's 71-64 victory over Temple in double-overtime was equal parts thriller and ugly. But here's a guess that the Aztecs will take it.

Turning point: San Diego State took a 7-point lead at 52-45 with 7:18 left. The Aztecs would score only one more basket in regulation, and Temple tied the game at 54-54 on a hook shot from Lavoy Allen to force the first overtime. The turning point in the second overtime? Temple got two looks to tie the game at 65, but Khalif Wyatt and Allen both missed. Billy White then made a fadeaway jump shot on the other end, and the Aztecs had a little breathing room with two minutes left. The Owls scored just one more point.

Key player: With Kawhi Leonard struggling, White stepped up again by scoring 16 points and pulling down 13 rebounds.

Key stat: Leonard was just 5-of-14 from the field, but he connected on all six of his free throws, including four in the second overtime.

Miscellaneous: Both teams couldn't score in the second half after shooting well in the first. Temple hit 33.3 percent of its shots, while the Aztecs managed only 34.6 percent. ... The Aztecs had a 12-0 advantage in fast break points at halftime, but Temple had a 7-4 advantage in the second half.

What's next: San Diego State plays the winner of the Connecticut-Cincinnati game in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Anaheim.

Preview: Saturday in Tucson

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A look at Saturday's games in Tucson:

No. 7 seed Temple (26-7) vs. No. 2 seed San Diego State (33-2), 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT)

Temple and San Diego State both had a story and a game on Thursday. Both won games, so both stories are no longer front-and-center.

When Temple beat Penn State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, it won its first tournament game since 2001 and ended coach Fran Dunphy's record 11-game tournament losing streak. And when San Diego State beat Northern Colorado, it won its first tournament game. Period.

Those issues behind them, when the second-seeded Aztecs and seventh-seeded Owls meet today, it will only be about advancing to the Sweet 16. It will be about basketball.

"As soon as we walked out of the locker room we knew it was time to turn the page on this chapter of San Diego State basketball and start focusing on what's possible in the future," SDSU point guard D.J. Gay said. "And that's Saturday."

Oh, there is one other angle: Revenge.

In the 1994-95 season, Dunphy took his Penn Quakers to Ann Arbor and beat then-Michigan coach Steve Fisher, now the Aztecs coach.

"I think the referees cost us the game," Fisher quipped.

By the way, Fisher and Dunphy are good buddies.

The setup: San Diego State wants to run. Temple doesn't. The Aztecs are bigger in the frontcourt. The Owls are bigger in the backcourt. San Diego State is deeper. Five Temple players played 30 or more minutes against Penn State, and forward Lavoy Allen never left the game. Eight Aztecs played at least 10 minutes against Northern Colorado and just three played 30 or more minutes. Of course, SDSU won in a blowout. And it would help the Owls if they can get quality minutes out of forward Scootie Randall.

Who to watch: San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard is a force inside and averages a double-double, but he's merely the headliner for one of the nation's top frontcourts. Team captain and point guard D.J. Gay has a 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For Temple, Juan Fernandez hit the game winner against Penn State and scored 23 points, as did Ramone Moore, who dominated the second half. Allen is the key figure inside for the Owls.

Why to watch: This will be a big-stage test against a quality foe for San Diego State to prove it deserves a No. 2 seed and is a legitimate Final Four contender. It's also a test of basketball styles. You might even wonder if fans will start competing chants of "East Coast" and "West Coast."

What they're saying:

Gay on Temple trying to slow down San Diego State's fast tempo: "We definitely try and play an uptempo game, try to speed it up. When teams try to slow it down on us, we might come out more aggressive on the defensive end. Try to cause more turnovers or do anything to help speed the game up. But I think speeding the game up can be done on the defensive end."

Fernandez on slowing down the Aztecs: "Well, like I just said before, we're a team that tries to slow down the ball a little bit, play more halfcourt offense and defense. That is where we feel more comfortable. On the other hand, they prefer to play an uptempo game and go up and down and try to get as many fast-break points as they can. So we will have to try to establish ourselves and play our rhythm."

Fernandez on his game winner against Penn State: "That shot was big yesterday. But we already celebrated. There is not too much you can do about it now. We just got to win tomorrow."

Moore on if San Diego State is similar to a team Temple has played: "I would say they're unique. I can't remember any teams that we played similar to the style of play they like to play."

Dunphy on Leonard: "He is a tough matchup for us. Especially if we have to play three guards, and [freshman] Aaron Brown will probably start on him and that's going be a tough matchup for Aaron Brown. We'll need to help him greatly. When Scootie gets in, he'll probably play him and Scoot's not used to playing over the last month. So he is a very difficult matchup for us, there's no question about it."

Dunphy on Scootie Randall's health: "I think yesterday we gave him the opportunity, as I said before, he deserved that opportunity to get in there yesterday. He had actually run full court on Tuesday and looked pretty good. Wednesday a little bit  we didn't run real hard on Wednesday, but gave him a little bit of a run there. And he ran a little bit full court again today. And we just finished our practice. So we'll do the same thing, put him in midway through the first half and see if he's more comfortable out there and he's helping us, then he can stay out there."

No. 5 seed Kansas St. (23-10) vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8), approx. 8:40 p.m. ET (TNT)

As point guard showdowns go, it doesn't get much better than Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor versus Kansas State's Jacob Pullen.

Taylor averages 18 points and 4.7 assists. Pullen averages 19.5 points and 3.7 assists. Both earned first-team all-conference honors, Taylor in the Big Ten and Pullen in the Big 12. Pullen is the first Wildcat to earn first-team honors twice and was one of two unanimous picks this year. Taylor leads the nation with a 4.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Both said the round of 32 tilt between the Badgers and Wildcats is not about them. But both admitted to being aware of the matchup. And if they weren't, reporters were there to graciously remind them.

"Any time you play players like that, it definitely bring out the best in you," Taylor said. "You definitely have to bring your A-game. But at the end of the day it's about the team. They're not going to say Jacob Pullen moved on or Jon Leuer or Jordan Taylor moved on. So you definitely relish the challenge. It makes it fun to play against players like that. But, at the same time, it's all about what's on the front of your jersey."

While it's not really about a battle of point guards, it sort of is. Both are the engines of their respective teams on both ends of the floor. Pullen, in fact, seemed like a one-man team at times this season -- see his 27-point average over the final six regular-season games when the Wildcats were fighting for a spot in the tournament. And Taylor is the fulcrum of Bo Ryan's "swing offense."

Further, tempo will be critical in the matchup. The Wildcats and Pullen want to play fast. The Badgers and Taylor want to slow it down. And each will be trying to push his counterpart out of his comfort zone.

"We've got to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping [Taylor] in a position where he doesn't know what kind of defense we're playing, whether we're trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen," Pullen said. "The other thing is we really got to make him guard. Whoever he is guarding, we got to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game. We got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends not only on offensive end."

One problem for Kansas State: It isn't easy to dictate tempo to Wisconsin, though many have tried, and Kansas State coach Frank Martin said as much.

"If you can speed up a Bo Ryan team, it will probably be the first time in 30 years that happens," Martin said. "Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable. To not let him get in rhythm. And No. 2 is to keep him out of the paint. Because when he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters."

As for defending Pullen, Ryan doesn't see it that way exactly. While the Badgers largely play man-to-man defense, just like the Wildcats, it's still more team than individual.

"We don't get into a lot of, 'It's you against you, or you got to take him and you got to shut him down,'" Ryan said. "We don't do that because our defense is predicated on help. We always want to get five guys guarding three guys. That is our goal all the time. Learned that at a night clinic in Valley Forge, Pa., in the early '70s, and it still works."

Who to watch: Other than the point guards? There are a couple of bigs of note. For Wisconsin, it's Leuer, who leads the Badgers with 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He'll be matched with Curtis Kelly, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Why to watch: It's another interesting contrast of styles, with the Wildcats hoping for a fast-paced frenzy, and the Badgers preferring the half-court game. Both will try to impose their will on the other. The Badgers turned the ball over only 229 times this season versus 479 from Kansas State. And the Badgers are better at the free throw line, leading the nation with an .827 percentage versus .647 for the Wildcats. Of course, the Wildcats hit 86 percent of their free throws in their win over Utah State.

What they're saying:

Taylor on hearing that K-State will try to speed things up: "I think we have to do exactly what they're trying to do, play at our own pace. Play at the pace that we're comfortable with."

Leuer on Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels: "From what I've seen, they can do a lot. They're both very active and long and athletic. They have good touch around the basket. They're physical. And we're going to have to do our best to try to limit their touches and not let them get into a rhythm. And the more we can keep the ball out of there and not let them get deep post position... that's what you want to do against anybody, not let them get deep post position. But those guys, especially because they're going to make it hurt if they get it down there."

Ryan on Kansas State's physical offensive rebounding: "Well, contact's a good thing. You got to enjoy contact, physically to block people out. We're not going to outjump them. I don't think lengthwise we're going to be any longer than them. So you just got to do what you do every day in practice. Require guys to put a body on somebody. Don't let somebody get an angle. And be willing to dig in. I'm sure the other teams that play against them have said that, too. Then you got to go out and do it."

Pullen on the KSU scoring record: "When I'm done playing basketball at Kansas State and I get a chance to actually sit down and look back, I think it will mean a lot then and I'll really cherish it more. But right now I don't want to jinx myself and I don't want to know how close I am because that is the wrong focus."

Martin on narrowing his player rotation: "My job is to help our team win. And if guys don't deserve to play, it's not charity. You know, they better practice well or they're not going to wear a uniform."

Martin on his team: "Our kids acted this season like I wish our society would act. That means that when things get hard, they don't pass blame. They don't run away from it. They don't roll their eyes. They don't quit. Which is a great word in today's society, 'quit.' Contrary, our guys handle stuff with loyalty, with honesty, with commitment. Those are the words I grew up on. And, unfortunately, our society's turned some in today's day and age. I'm just happy our kids didn't pay attention to society and they stuck to the values that I believe in."


TUCSON, Ariz. -- Kansas State wouldn't have made the NCAA tournament without point guard Jacob Pullen elevating his game late in the season. So you can understand that an ill Pullen was not a good thing heading into a showdown with Utah State, a nationally ranked, veteran team with 30 wins that was curiously seeded at No. 12.

But Pullen, the Wildcats first two-time All-Big 12 first-team selection, wasn't going to let a little fever end the Wildcats' season. He sat out Wednesday's shoot-around, and then he ended up making the Aggies sick with a game-high 22 points and five assists in a 73-68 victory.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Jacob Pullen
Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIREKansas State's Jacob Pullen scored 22 points against Utah State.
"When it comes to basketball, you know, I put the way I feel aside." he said.

And so the Wildcats, counted out as one of the nation's biggest busts just a few weeks ago, survived and will play Wisconsin on Saturday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.

Scary thing is, Pullen, who averaged 27 points per game over the final six regular-season games, wasn't at his best, particularly on defense.

"He just didn't have that gear today," coach Frank Martin said. "[Utah State point guard] Brockeith Pane is fast and strong. [Pullen] just didn't have that gear to keep up with him and our guys didn't do a good job helping him. You can't have that."

Martin was unhappy with the Wildcats in the second half, when they repeatedly allowed the Aggies to make threatening runs at their double-digit leads.

"After our season, and all our growth and all that, it was little disappointing that we reverted in the second half to mistakes that we made early in the year," Martin said. "But this time of year you win, you get a chance to play again. "

Pullen led a Wildcats resurgence at the free throw line. A team that hit just over 64 percent from the stripe this season, connected on 24-of-28 (85.7 percent) and Pullen was 9-of-12. They made eight more free throws than the Aggies, and that played a major role in a game in which the overall numbers were fairly even.

Utah State coach Stew Morrill wasn't buying that Pullen wasn't at his best.

"I didn't think he was affected," Morrill said. "He is a really special guard. Holy smokes. I mean, when you do things that you often do to a good player -- when you double him, when you are helping -- he is coming off screens, he immediately senses that. He's got a great feel for the game, makes plays for his teammates. He's just special."

Pullen's matchup with Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor will be a highlight of Saturday's game. "[He's] one of the best guards in the country, I think," Pullen said.

One on a list that includes Pullen.

Video: UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
1:18
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ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach talks with UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt after the Bruins' victory over Michigan State.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Just like Wisconsin, Kansas State looked to some like a team ripe for the picking by a confident "mid-major" that arrived at the Southwest Regional with 30 wins. And just like Wisconsin answered the call against Belmont, so did the Wildcats against Utah State.

Fifth-seeded Kansas State dispatched Utah State 73-68 behind balanced scoring and really, really good free-throw shooting, which is a surprise because the Wildcats are a lousy free-throw shooting team.

Turning point: Kansas State led 56-43 with five minutes left, but Utah State went on a 7-0 run, which was punctuated by a driving slam dunk by Pooh Williams. Utah State then forced a K-State turnover. The Aggies fans were energized. But the Wildcats sprung a trap on point guard Brockeith Pane, who travelled on the ensuing possession. Jamar Samuels made a layup and the lead was eight again. And that, really, was the pattern of the game. Utah State makes a challenge; Kansas State answers.

Key player: Kansas State point guard Jacob Pullen was ill yesterday, but he was just sick against Utah State. The Wildcats leader scored 22 points and dished six assists.

Key stat: The Wildcats hit just 64.4 percent of their free throws this year. Yet they connected on 24-of-28 -- 85 percent -- against the Aggies.

Miscellaneous: Kansas State averages 15 turnovers a game but they had just nine against the Aggies... WAC player of the year Tai Wesley led Utah State with 18 points and six rebounds... Kansas State is now 11-4 in first-round games.

What's next: Kansas State will play fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday.


TUCSON, Ariz. -- We should have seen Wisconsin coming. The Badgers are not a good team to pick against in the first round of the NCAA tournament, not even if they looked bad in their past two games.

Stylish pick to go down to scrappy Belmont? Nope. That's so 40 minutes ago after an impressive 72-58 dismantling of the Bruins, who were kind of hoping they'd get the team that lost 36-33 to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament.

Again, nope.

"I think it probably hurt us that they hadn't played as well the last couple times out," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "Most of us do a better coaching job and demand a little bit more when things haven't been going well."

The Badgers are now 9-1 in their first tournament game under coach Bo Ryan. So we should have seen this coming. And we should have remembered about point guard Jordan Taylor and forward Jon Leuer, only one of the nation's best inside-out combinations.

Taylor scored 21 points with six assists, while Leuer had 22 points and seven rebounds. Taylor was 5-of-9 from 3-point range, with the Badgers accuracy from behind the arc ultimately being the story of the game.

Belmont loves the 3 and shoots a lot of them. But both teams shot 22, and the Badgers were happy to hit 12 while the Bruins were less enthused about their six.

"[When] we are hitting shots, believe it or not, we tend to play better," Ryan said.

This was not the team that got drubbed by Ohio State end embarrassed by Penn State. But Ryan and his Badgers weren't biting on whether their downturn and the rising skepticism about whether they were ready for the tournament served as motivation.

Ryan is all about what's next, and his players apparently have digested his philosophy.

"We forgot about those last two games as soon as they were over," Taylor said.

Let's not forget, the Badgers, now 24-8, had won eight of nine before the two-game skid.

Still, Taylor did admit that scoring just 33 points in a loss is, well, remarkably ugly. They had 34 at the half against the Bruins.

"Anytime you lose you want to play better," he said. "You want to get back on the court."

Here's a guess the court of public opinion may now judge these Badgers a bit differently.


TUCSON, Ariz. -- Northern Colorado was game, but it just didn't have enough to keep up with San Diego State for 40 minutes.

The second-seeded Aztecs asserted themselves in the second half and rolled to the program's first NCAA tournament victory with a 68-50 victory over the Bears in a West Regional second-round game.

The Aztecs believe this will be the first of many. Perhaps even many this month.

Turning point: A 3-pointer from Devon Beitzel cut San Diego State's lead to 35-32 with 16:03 remaining. Then the Aztecs asserted themselves with a 16-3 run over the next eight minutes and coasted home. The key player was guard James Rahon, who connected on three treys during the run.

Key player: When two players gets get double-doubles, things are good. Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Billy White chipped in 14 points and 12 boards. Northern Colorado really didn't have anyone to match up with these two powerful players.

Key stat: Northern Colorado needed to hit 3s to win, but San Diego State connected on 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from behind the arc, while the Bears were just 8-of-22 (36.4 percent).

Miscellaneous: The Aztecs had 15 offensive rebounds compared to nine for the Bears, and won the overall battle on the boards 45-33. ... San Diego State had just four turnovers, so just five points from point guard D.J. Gay certainly doesn't tell the story. ... San Diego State had 14 second-chance points; Northern Colorado had just five.

What's next: Second-seeded San Diego State advances to take on No. 7 Temple, which beat Penn State 66-64, on Saturday.



TUCSON, Ariz. -- Temple's Fran Dunphy doesn't do giddy. He's not going to pull a Dick Vermeil and cry you a rain forest. He is an ace with the occasional "harrumph." So it shouldn't be unexpected that he downplayed the dismissal of a bothersome monkey from his shoulders on Thursday in the McKale Center.

Monkey? An 11-game NCAA tournament losing streak is probably the equivalent, for a basketball coach, of a creature who would make King Kong scamper away in terror.

But after Dunphy's junior point guard Juan Fernandez feathered in a fall-away jumper just before the buzzer to beat state rival Penn State 66-64 in a second-round West Region game, that losing streak -- the worst in tournament history -- is over.

"I probably think about it less than others do," Dunphy said just before the slightest pause. "But you think about it."

It was a game befitting such a red-letter moment, featuring 20 lead changes. Just moments before Fernandez became the latest tournament hero to produce a shining moment that will be replayed endlessly over the coming years, it appeared Penn State's high-scoring guard Talor Battle might earn the honor. He drilled a long 3-pointer to tie the game with 14 seconds left.

While the Owls went bonkers after winning their first tournament game since 2001, Battle, Penn State's all-time leading scorer, sat on the floor for several moments and took in the celebration. His first trip to the tournament with the Nittany Lions ended suddenly, even though he scored 23 points.

"For the rest of my life, I'll know that we didn't just come out here and get beat," Battle said of the ending. "It took a heck of a shot from Fernandez to beat us. I bet you one thing. For the rest of our lives, we'll be able to watch the 2011 one shining moment and always have to see that shot."

Fernandez scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half. In fact, it was Ramone Moore who kept the Owls in the game, scoring 17 of his 23 in the second half.

"I kind of got on a roll," Moore said. "And I think my teammates noticed that. During the timeout, Coach said, 'Let's get the ball in Ramone's hands,' and running plays for me. And I think I capitalized."

Dunphy isn't above looking to his players for their thoughts. Guard Khalif Wyatt, who did a good job pressuring Battle much of the afternoon, piped in with a suggestion for the final play.

Said Dunphy, "We called timeout, we were discussing what to run and Khalif Wyatt, who I listen to all the time -- he's got sage advice for me often -- said, 'I think we need to just put it in Juan's hands. Then if he is not ready to do it, then Juan will give it to Ramone, and that's how we'll win the game.'"

Temple, the No. 7 seed, improved to 26-7. It advances to play the winner of the San Diego State-Northern Colorado game. Penn State finishes its season at 19-15.

Most of the numbers from the game were fairly even -- rebounding, turnovers, field goal percentage -- but two numbers stood out. The Temple bench outscored Penn State's 10-2, and the Owls connected on 13 of 15 free throws compared to just four of six for the Nittany Lions, who didn't go to the charity stripe in the second half.

Penn State also took a blow early in the second half when senior forward Jeff Brooks went down with a shoulder injury. He was the team's second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

"Jeff Brooks is a big part of what we do offensively; we try to give him the ball around the basket," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "We really didn't get to the free throw line tonight at all. And he usually is the guy we try to get the ball to around the basket to get fouled and get to the free throw line and also rebound the basketball. So that got us a little sideways for awhile. But that's not an excuse."

Dunphy has 419 career wins, but only one before Thursday in the tournament. His 1-12 tournament record and .077 winning percentage were the all-time worst for a coach with at least eight games coached, according to STATS LLC.

The Penn State players looked stunned by the turn of events -- a season put to bed with a buzzer-beating shot. Of course, Dunphy knows about as well as anyone how they feel. So if he seemed a bit neutral about ending his losing streak, it might be because he's sympathetic. Or perhaps he just isn't sure what to feel just yet.

"So nice to see Juan make that shot," he said. "I had a good feeling when it left his hands that I thought it was going to go in. Might have been our time. That's all, just our time."
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Temple won its first NCAA tournament game since 2001, but it might be even bigger than that because Owls coach Fran Dunphy is no longer yoked with an 11-game tournament losing streak.

After a thrilling 66-64 win over Penn State in the second round of the West Region, Dunphy's winning streak sits at one, with potential to grow.

Turning point: Both teams produced clutch shots at the end, but Temple got the ball last. Just after a 3-pointer from Penn State's outstanding point guard Talor Battle tied the game at 64-64 with 14 seconds left, Owls guard Juan Fernandez answered with a short jumper in the lane just before the buzzer.

Key player: Fernandez ruled the first half, but Ramone Moore surged in the second half in the back-and-forth affair. Fernandez scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half, while Moore scored 17 of his 23 in the second half.

Key stat: Temple's bench outscored Penn State's 10-2.

Miscellaneous: The Owls were 13-of-15 from the charity stripe. Penn State was just 4-of-6 and didn't shoot a free throw in the second half... Dunphy entered the game 1-12 all-time in the tournament and 0-3 with the Owls.

What's next: On Saturday, Temple will play the winner of No. 2 San Diego State versus No. 15 Northern Colorado, which tips off at 4:40 p.m.

Previewing Tucson: The night games

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
7:03
AM ET
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Southeast Regional games here pits teams from major conferences against a pair of so-called "mid-majors" that each won 30 games. Should the higher-seeded power conference teams be worried? Probably.

Wisconsin vs. Belmont, 7:27 p.m. ET

The setup: Wisconsin had won eight of nine before losing its final two games, including a plodding 36-33 defeat to Penn State. Still, the Badgers MO is they don't beat themselves. Belmont, which has won 12 in a row, is a deep team -- nine players see at least 14 minutes per game -- that forces a lot of turnovers, shoots well from 3-point range and takes care of the ball.

Who to watch: The Badgers feature an outstanding inside-outside combination in forward Jon Leuer and in point guard Jordan Taylor. Both earned All-Big Ten honors and average more than 18 points per game. Belmont is all about balance. Four players average between 7.7 and 12.4 points per game. The guy with 12.4 ppg, sophomore guard Ian Clark, however, is likely the one to take the lead Thursday.

Why to watch: These are two smart, disciplined teams, and that would tend to favor the more talented Badgers if not for the final two games of the season: a blowout loss to Ohio State and a terrible performance against Penn State. Also, Belmont has a lot of the qualities of a team that notches an upset in the tournament. The Bruins up-tempo, high-scoring offense could challenge the Badgers.

What they're saying: "The key is to not let them get good looks. Wisconsin lost their last two games, so they're going to come in prepared. Their loss to Penn State is a good example of how to beat them. We have to keep them to a low field goal percentage and confuse their defense," said Belmont guard Drew Hanlon.

"We know they're a good team. I've been around long enough to know how good some teams are in spite of what the public or other people might understand about teams or names or anything else. So, being a grizzled veteran, I'm well-aware of Belmont," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.

Of note: Belmont shot 319 more 3-pointers than its opponents this season. ... The Badgers have been to the NCAA tournament in each of coach Bo Ryan's 10 seasons in Madison. Just five other coaches can say that: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Texas' Rick Barnes and Gonzaga's Mark Few. ... Rick Byrd has been Belmont's coach for 25 seasons and he ranks 12th among active Division I head coaches with 610 career wins. ... Leuer has reached double-figures in scoring in 38 consecutive games. ... Belmont has reached the tournament four times since 2006 but this is its first Big Dance since 2008. ... The Badgers are 8-1 under Ryan in first-round games. ... Byrd is close friends with country singer Vince Gill and his wife, Amy Grant.

Kansas State vs. Utah State, 9:57 p.m. ET

The setup: Kansas State was one of the nation's most disappointing teams -- it started 2-5 in the Big 12 -- before it won eight of its final nine games and earned a No. 5 seed. Utah State dominated the WAC and finished 30-3 and felt it deserved a higher seed than 12. Still, the Aggies have been impressive in the regular season before only to flame out in the tournament -- see five consecutive first-round defeats.

Who to watch: Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen averaged 27 points per game over the final six regular-season games. He does it all and is one of the elite players in the region. The Aggies are led by WAC player of the year Tai Wesley, who leads the Aggies with 14.7 ppg and 8.0 rebounds.

Why to watch: The Aggies didn't play a terribly ambitious nonconference schedule and they haven't won a tournament game since 2001, but this is a veteran team -- four senior starters -- that has been here before. Further, they are disciplined and smart and play good defense. Kansas State, despite the turnaround, is still a bit flighty. It doesn't shoot terribly well and hits only 64.4 percent of its free throws. Was the loss to Colorado in the Big 12 tournament another wake-up call? Or a regression?

What they're saying: "Early in the year, I might have questioned the leadership on our basketball team, but I'm telling you, I couldn't be prouder of the leadership that we've got right now," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin.

"We've been around long enough to know that K-State is just a bunch of guys. We hear a lot of things about the Big 12, the Big Ten and the western conferences. We get it in our heads that they're not a normal basketball team. But in the end they're just a bunch of guys playing basketball just like us. We're going to come out and play hard. I like our chances," said Utah State junior forward Brady Jardine.

Of note: Utah State has been ranked in the top-25 for nine straight weeks, its longest streak being ranked since 1970-71. ... Kansas State is 10-4 in first-round games. ... The Aggies are one of just three teams that have won at least 23 games in each of the past 11 years (Gonzaga and Kansas are the other two). They've averaged 25.6 wins over the past 12 years. ... Pullen is the Wildcats first two-team All-Big 12 first-team selection. ... Wesley ranks 10th in the nation in field goal percentage (59.5 percent). ... Utah State's No. 12 seed isn't far off from its NCAA RPI (15th).
TUCSON, Ariz. -- San Diego State is a threat for the Final Four. It's got backcourt and frontcourt balance. It's athletic and plays tough defense.

Northern Colorado is making its first NCAA tourney appearance. It went 4-24 four years ago. Apologies to the Bears, but they are mostly a one-man team that looks to 2-guard Devon Beitzel, who accounts for nearly 30 percent of his team's scoring.

But the second-seeded Aztecs and the 15th-seeded Bears do share one thing: neither has won an NCAA tournament game.

The overwhelming odds are it will be San Diego State, which is 0-6 all-time in the tournament. But you never know. The Aztecs would be advised to hold off on showcasing their "Duke strut" just yet.

"We really haven't proven anything yet," forward Billy White said. "We haven't won a tournament game."

And there is this detail. In 2008, Northern Colorado won at San Diego State, and the Aztecs home crowd, which has garnered so much attention lately for their love-affair with their team, booed them off the floor.

"It didn't feel good at all," guard D.J. Gay said. "It's something that I'll probably remember the rest of my life."

Of course, a lot has changed since then. Few doubt the Aztecs these days. They showcase an up-tempo offense and play great defense. They have one of the best frontcourt trios in the nation with Kawhi Leonard, White and Malcolm Thomas along with a ball-protecting senior point guard, Gay, through which everything flows.

Some teams have had success dropping back into a zone, clogging the lane and forcing San Diego State to shoot from the perimeter. But the Bears are a mostly man-to-man team, so if they opt for a zone they'll be out of their, er, comfort zone.

The most obvious plan for the Bears is to slow the game down, protect the ball and make a bunch of 3-pointers.

"We can't get into a running game with these guys," Northern Colorado forward Chris Kaba said. "We've got to make sure we take care of the ball. I think the biggest thing that has been drilled into us this week is patience offensively."

Which means figuring out ways to get scoring opportunities for Beitzel, who averages 21.4 points per game.

"We call Beitzel 'Little Jimmer' because he shoots the ball every time he gets the ball," SDSU guard Jamaal Franklin said.

"Jimmer," of course, is BYU scoring sensation Jimmer Fredette, who scored 43 and 25 points in regular-season wins over San Diego State, its only defeats this season.

Beitzel isn't Fredette, but he's a redshirt senior whose seen plenty of highs and lows as the Bears have built their program. He and his teammates wouldn't be blamed if they played like they were just happy to be here. But he insisted that's not the case.

"Our mentality is going there with a chip on our shoulder and doing whatever we can to win," Beitzel said. "I mean, we've been undersized and we definitely don't have the most athletic team. But we fight every game. And we don't give up."
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Temple versus Penn State is a Pennsylvania brawl transported to the desert of the West Region, with two hard-nosed, defensive-minded teams trying to do something neither has done in a decade: win an NCAA tournament game.

Penn State hasn't played in the tourney since 2001, when the Nittany Lions reached the Sweet 16 and lost to, you guessed it, John Cheney's Temple team. A decade later and the Owls haven't won a tournament game since. In fact, current Temple coach Fran Dunphy is riding a personal 10-game tournament losing streak, which extends back to his days coaching Penn.

While Dunphy mostly danced around the topic, his players certainly are aware that postseason futility is an albatross for any program.

"That's how people grade you nowadays -- how you do in the postseason," Temple forward Lavoy Allen said.

The Owls' chances of breaking through and advancing will be better if forward Scootie Randall is able to play. The 6-foot-7 junior would help both inside and out as he's the team's best 3-point shooter. Dunphy said Randall, who hasn't played since Feb. 17 because of a foot injury, was pain-free Monday and Tuesday.

"So we're hopeful that he can give us some minutes tomorrow," he said.

Said Randall: "These guys have been playing great without me, but I think I can contribute and really help my team out if I can play this weekend. It'll be up to coach tomorrow; it's a game-time decision."

Both teams enter the matchup playing well. No. 7 seed Temple won 12-of-13 before losing to Richmond in the Atlanta 10 semifinals, and the other loss was to Duke. No. 10 seed Penn State wouldn't be here if not for winning five of its final seven games, including three in the Big Ten tournament. Both losses were to No. 1 Ohio State.

Still, there's no question who the underdog is. Penn State (19-14) is the football power where basketball is an afterthought. It's one of five at-large teams with at least 14 losses. Temple is the big-city Philadelphia school that loves its hoops. The Owls lead the all-time series 59-32 and have won the past six meetings. They didn't hook up this year, but they did face each other in a preseason scrimmage that apparently didn't go well for the Nittany Lions.

"For the two times we played in our sophomore and junior years and in this scrimmage that we're speaking about, they just beat us up in [all] three games," Penn State guard Talor Battle said. "Simple as that. They outmanned us. They out-toughed us."

Fair to say there's more on the line here than in most first-round matchups: state pride as well as tourney pride.

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