College Basketball Nation: 2012 Portland Region

Video: Peyton Siva's maturity

March, 18, 2012

Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis break down the importance of Peyton Siva for Louisville's 59-56 win over New Mexico.

PORTLAND -- Louisville went one-and-done the past two years in the NCAA tournament, and coach Rick Pitino seemed just a bit defensive about it when he met with reporters on Wednesday. Ah, but it became clear after his Cardinals slipped past New Mexico 59-56 and earned a berth in the program's 18th Sweet 16 that he was just striking a pose.

A defensive pose, just like his team struck in victories over Davidson and then the Lobos.

New Mexico shot just 39.7 percent from the field, was 5-of-23 from 3-point range and surrendered 13 turnovers, as Louisville prevailed in a battle of two tough defenses. Louisville shot 45.8 percent from the field, including 7-of-15 from 3-point range.

"We played great defense tonight," Pitino said.

But the story of the game was a pair of second-half runs. The Cardinals jumped ahead 44-29 with an 18-4 run to start the second half, and the game looked like it might become a blowout. But the Lobos countered with a 17-5 run that closed the gap to 49-46 with 6:30 remaining.

[+] EnlargePeyton Siva
Steve Dykes/US PresswirePeyton Siva's late free throws helped send fourth-seeded Louisville to the program's 18th appearance in the Sweet 16.
That's when things got interesting. Lobos forward Drew Gordon tipped in a rebound to cut the margin to 55-53 with 1:10 left, but the Cardinals answered with a drive and dish from Peyton Siva that ended with a Gorgui Dieng dunk with 35 seconds remaining. (Said Pitino, "That was a great pass."). Siva, who surged late after being quiet most of the game, hit two clutch free throws, which made a 3-pointer from Gordon with 3 seconds left mostly academic.

Louisville, which improved to 29-9, will play the winner of Sunday's Michigan State-Saint Louis in the Sweet 16 in Phoenix.

Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 17 points. He connected on all three of his 3-point attempts, and also grabbed three of the Cardinals' nine steals.

"He always comes up big for us," Pitino said. "When we struggle for points, he's always there."

For New Mexico, the late run surely will engender some wonder at why the second half started so slowly, as a 1-point deficit became 15 points.

"We were just out of rhythm, out of sync offensively, I thought," Lobos coach Steve Alford said. "And then to start the second half, I think they really came at us and got some easy baskets, which we hadn't given up in the first half."

Gordon had 4 points and 5 rebounds at halftime -- and scared New Mexico fans when he fell to the floor with 4:47 before halftime with an apparent knee injury. He finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs.

Pitino was asked in the postgame media session why he looked so relieved, and if it was due to the last two tournament flame-outs. Pitino countered by noting that, in the two years before those flameouts, the Cardinals went to consecutive Elite Eights.

Why was he so giddy then?

"I'm about as happy as I've ever been in this game right now because these guys truly are like my children," he said.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A quick look at Louisville's 59-56 win over New Mexico in a round-of-32 NCAA tournament game in the Rose Garden.

Overview: The frantic second half featured two huge runs against two stingy defenses, but Louisville was able to hold on at the end due to some clutch play from guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. The Cardinals jumped to a 44-29 lead with an 18-4 run to start the second half. Immediately thereafter, the Lobos countered with their own 17-5 run, which closed the gap to 49-46 with 6:30 remaining. Game on. But Siva made a driving layup and got a huge assist on a dunk from Gorgui Dieng to stop the bleeding. He and Smith each hit a pair of free throws down the stretch, which kept New Mexico at bay.

Turning point: The turning point, really, was New Mexico fighting back, because it looked like it was going to be a blowout midway through the second half. But the fact that the Lobos fell just three points short makes it fair to ask why they came out of the halftime locker room so flat, yielding a 15-point deficit before they fought back.

Key player: Russ Smith scored a team-high 17 points, including hitting all three of his 3-pointers. He also had three steals.

Key stat: While New Mexico ended up hitting an awful five of 23 3-point attempts, the worst of it was the Lobos connecting on just two of their first 17. They shot 39.7 percent from the field -- versus 45.8 percent from Louisville -- which is a big reason a 34-23 rebounding advantage didn't matter.

Miscellaneous: Louisville is headed to its 18th Sweet 16. ... The Cardinals connected on seven of 15 3-point attempts (46.7 percent). ... New Mexico forward Drew Gordon had four points and five rebounds at halftime. He finished with a game-high 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. ... Siva, who averaged 14.4 points in five previous postseason games, had no points and just two assists at halftime, but he scored six points and dished three assists in the second half. ... New Mexico shot only eight free throws. Louisville shot 12.

What’s next: Louisville will play the winner of Michigan State's Sunday game with Saint Louis in the Sweet 16.

PORTLAND -- There was 1-17 and Kelvin Sampson and the NCAA investigation and an implosion of a marquee program whose fans love their team because they really love the game of basketball -- and the game had become unwatchable at Indiana.

Misery was Hoosiers basketball over a 10-year stretch since the school last played for a national title in 2002. A proud program found itself cast into the fetid basement of the Big Ten with a 6-25 record in 2008-09.
The return of Indiana basketball from the depths was one of the major stories of this college hoops season. But everyone knew that story would be tested in the NCAA tournament. In college basketball, that's when plots thicken and teams are unmasked, their ultimate truth revealed by the pressure of win-or-go-home.

That the Hoosiers beat a rugged VCU team 63-61 to advance to the program's first Sweet 16 in a decade is meaningful in itself, of course. But the way the Hoosiers prevailed adds heft and substance to the accomplishment.

VCU was pushing Indiana around most of the night in the Rose Garden. It was dictating the pace. And its "havoc" defense forced a stunning 22 turnovers. The Hoosiers' previous worst this season was 18.

There were plenty of reasons to get flustered and to let doubt enter into the team huddle. Only it didn't. And during the final stretch, it was the IU defense, as well as clutch play, that stood out.

"I got to see this game, the last six or seven minutes through our players' eyes," coach Tom Crean said. "And they were so locked in and had such great resolve to never panic and to just truly believe that they were going to win."

[+] EnlargeIndiana Hoosiers
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIndiana players celebrate their win over VCU, in which they overcame a 9-point second-half deficit.
Locking in and showing resolve. That sounds a bit like ... Indiana basketball.

Defense? VCU led 57-48 with 12:30 left. The Rams would score just four more points. Sure, some of that was poor shooting. But how can you not credit a defense for yielding that few points over that long of a stretch?

Clutch plays? Indiana scored the final seven points. Cody Zeller made two free throws that closed the gap to three. Victor Oladipo's 3-point play tied the count. And Will Sheehey's short jumper from the side gave the Hoosiers the lead for good with 14 seconds left.

Meanwhile, VCU faltered. Senior leader Bradford Burgess missed a pair of free throws with just under a minute left. Troy Daniels missed a 3 with 23 seconds left. And Rob Brandenberg missed a trey that would have won the game at the buzzer.

Defense often wins championships. But not always. Grabbing 10 steals is great, but VCU needed to be able to produce in the half court. It needed to hit more than 9 of its 30 3-point attempts. And, really, the Hoosiers still shot 52.2 percent, including making 6 of 13 3-pointers (46.2 percent).

"The shots that we got late in the game, I feel good about those looks," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "I feel good about the guys that were taking them, they just didn't go in. And that's basketball."

Indiana fans know how basketball is. It giveth and it can taketh away. And even during the rise from the ashes this season, there probably was still a pit of worry in most Hoosiers fans' stomachs.

Are we really back? How will these guys react when the screws tighten in the NCAA tournament?

The answers? Yes. And like Indiana basketball players.

Video: VCU falls apart

March, 17, 2012

Doug Gottlieb on VCU's run ending with 63-61 loss to Indiana.

Rapid Reaction: Indiana 63, VCU 61

March, 17, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Some quick thoughts from Indiana's thrilling 63-61 victory over VCU.

Overview: VCU dictated the pace for most of the game against Indiana, but the Rams scored just four points over the final 12:20 as Indiana used a three-point play from Victor Oladipo and a short jumper from Will Sheehey to advance.

Turning point: VCU led 57-48 with 12:20 remaining, but the Rams could score only four more points. After wearing out the Hoosiers with pressure and a frantic pace, the Rams faltered in the half court. And give credit to Indiana for turning up its own defensive pressure and making clutch shots down the stretch. A key moment? VCU senior leader Bradford Burgess missed two free throws with one minute left.

Key player: Oladipo produced a game-changing three-point play with 46 seconds left. He finished with nine points, six assists and five rebounds, and shot 4-of-5 from the field.

Key stat: Indiana outrebounded VCU 33-20, including a 26-14 advantage on the defensive glass.

Miscellaneous: The Rams hit just nine of 30 3-point attempts. Indiana was 6-of-13. ... VCU forced 22 turnovers, including 10 steals. ... VCU has seven wins as an 11-seed or worse since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. That is the most such wins of any team in that span, one more than Richmond. ... Indiana's Cody Zeller tied for the game high with 16 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds.

What’s next: Indiana advances to the Sweet 16 and will play the winner of Kentucky-Iowa State.

Previewing Portland: Saturday's games

March, 17, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Previewing the Round of 32 games at the Rose Garden:

No. 4 seed Indiana (26-8) vs. No. 12 VCU (29-6), 7:10 p.m. ET

VCU coach Shaka Smart enjoys inspiring, insightful quotes, and he's leaning on one that is relevant to his 2011-12 team as it prepares to face Indiana in the South Region with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line: "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."

It's from Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida," but it could just as easily be from a book on the NCAA tournament, one written as a self-help tome for a select group of so-called mid-majors: "Cinderella: The Year After (and After and After)."

You might have heard this: Smart and the Rams burst onto the scene last year with a surprising Final Four run. Yes, they agree, it was really neat. Yes, they'll tell you, the banners hanging in their home gym still give them goose bumps. But things won are done and losing's soul lies in living in the past.

Said Smart, "We've used that [quote] at times because everyone wants to talk about last year's Final Four run, but that's done, that's over. It's all about now."

The Rams' showdown with Indiana is interesting for a variety of reasons. For one, the Hoosiers are a super-elite program that's been in the dumps of late but is eager to climb back to the top of hoops' Mt. Olympus. VCU is a newbie riding high under Smart's pitch-perfect leadership.

VCU, which has won 18 of 19, is all about its full-court-pressing "Havoc" defense. Indiana is a high-scoring team that isn't afraid to run. The Hoosiers also are great from behind the 3-point line, hitting on 43.6 percent of their attempts, which ranks second in the nation. In their first game here against New Mexico State, they put on an offensive exhibition, hitting 59 percent of their shots, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range. They scored inside and outside, they ran the break, found open looks in the halfcourt and seven players contributed to 15 total assists.

The question on Saturday is whether they can break the Rams' press and again get good looks at the basket. The key, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said, is to not let the Rams dictate where the ball goes.

"You've got to do a great job of catching the ball where you want to catch it," he said. "If you catch it where they want you to catch it, it's going to be a problem."

VCU has good size, and 7-footer D.J. Haley did an outstanding job Thursday of containing Wichita State big man and leading scorer Garrett Stutz. But Indiana center Cody Zeller offers a different challenge: He's 6-11 and moves like a 3.

"He's as good as any big kid that we've played in the three years I've been at VCU," Smart said of the freshman. "You talk about him running the floor. We definitely can't give him easy baskets in transition. I would guess that one of the things that they'll try to do is get the ball in quickly after makes or, certainly on misses, get the ball outlet quickly and then look for Zeller running to the rim. If you can get the ball in extremely quickly before the press is set up, then that's one way to beat pressure defensive teams."

Against Wichita State, VCU showed it could score out of a half-court offense, which it has struggled to do this season, and make big shots when the screws tighten. And, while Indiana is the pedigreed program, it's the Rams who have been here before.

Of course, four starters are gone from the 2011 VCU team, and Indiana couldn't have looked more poised while it pounded the Aggies. The past, recent and dusty, probably won't dictate much Saturday.

Said VCU senior forward Bradford Burgess when asked to compare last year's team to this year's team, "Really, the only similarity is the name on the jersey."

No. 4 Louisville (27-9) vs. No. 5 New Mexico (28-6), 9:40 p.m. ET

Louisville has inside information on New Mexico. Cardinals assistant coach Wyking Jones was an assistant the previous two seasons for the Lobos. He was particularly close to the Lobos' two best players, forward Drew Gordon and guard Kendall Williams.

It might not matter a whit. It could, in fact, become more of a distraction, something New Mexico coach Steve Alford can anticipate and counter. But the Louisville players and coach Rick Pitino didn't hide the fact they see it as an advantage against the Lobos for Saturday's matchup.

"Well, he can't hurt, obviously, because he recruited some of their players, knows the guys, knows their personalities, when they could get down or when they could be up," Pitino said. "So we're going to have a good feel for them in abbreviated [way]. He gives us things, a feel that we wouldn't normally get."

Said guard Russ Smith, "It definitely helps because he knows their personnel very well. As far as the seniors and juniors on the team, he knows some of the calls that might be made. So Coach Jones definitely is helping us a lot, especially in practice and in film the past day."

The key in this one, however, is shooting. I know: Genius. But this game pits two of the nation's top-five field goal percentage defenses, with both hovering around 38 percent. Both defenses won the battle in their second-round victories. The Cardinals shut down a high-scoring Davidson attack, miring a team that likes to run in a half-court game, while Williams played a major role in shutting down Long Beach State point guard Casper Ware, the Big West Player of the Year, who shot 5 of 19 from the field and was 2-of-9 from 3-point range.

Williams seems most likely to take on surging Louisville point guard Peyton Siva. While Siva isn't the Cardinals' leading scorer, he won Most Outstanding Player as he and his teammates took a surprising roll through the Big East tournament. He scored 17 points -- one below his season's high -- in the win over Davidson, and has averaged 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.6 steals in five postseason games.

Not surprisingly, the uptick in Siva's play has coincided with the uptick in the Cardinals' fortunes. Pitino credited the change to Siva's late-season ability to vary the speed of his play, which came out of a meeting between the two.

Said Pitino, recalling the meeting, "'Peyton, I'm going to tell you why you're struggling, because you just play at one pace, extremely fast. And because of that, you have a lot of turnovers, because you don't know how to probe and change your pace and create things because you play at one speed.'

"And we showed him a tape of Steve Nash and how Steve always probes and gets in the lane and keeps his dribble and comes back and does something else. And that more than anything else really changed his mindset of learning how to change speeds. And he's been brilliant in the Big East tournament. Brilliant yesterday with doing that. And for someone to make that abrupt change like that and really just visualize himself doing that speaks about his basketball IQ in a big way."

So, is the Siva-Williams matchup going to happen? We'll, er, Siva. Alford wouldn't commit.

"Kendall Williams always gets the top assignment," he said. "If he's the top assignment, Kendall will get that assignment."

While there are some similarities between the teams, there also are plenty of differences. For one, New Mexico doesn't see a lot of full-court press in the Mountain West Conference. And Louisville will be much happier running and creating a frantic pace.

The biggest is this: New Mexico has never reached the Sweet 16. Louisville has been there 17 times, fifth-most in the nation.

But neither history nor Wyking Jones is likely to be the difference in this one. It's probably going to be about getting good looks against defenses that don't give many of them. And converting those looks.

Video: Is VCU ready for another run?

March, 16, 2012

Cassidy Hubbarth and Jimmy Dykes discuss the chances of VCU making another push for the Final Four.

PORTLAND -- Some quick thoughts from Indiana's 79-66 victory over New Mexico State in the South Regional second around.

Overview: Indiana played a really good game against a solid New Mexico State squad. The Aggies actually played fairly well -- at least on offense -- but the Hoosiers were just outstanding. If Indiana plays five more like this, it might win the whole enchilada. The Hoosiers, who never trailed, moved the ball well, scored from the inside and outside and had four players with 14 or more points.

Turning point: Indiana's Christian Watford made a 3-pointer to break a 2-2 tie? No, to be fair, Indiana led by only seven at the break, so the real turning point was when the Hoosiers quickly pushed their lead to double-digits after halftime and never gave the Aggies much hope for a comeback.

Key player: Jordan Hulls was 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line and finished with a team-high 22 points and four assists with just one turnover. He connected on 8-of-12 field goals.

Key stat: Indiana led 59-41 with 12 minutes left. At that point, the Hoosiers were hitting 60 percent of their shots, 24-of-40, and were 6-of-12 from 3-point range. How often is a team that is shooting better than 50 percent from the field, as the Aggies were, have no shot to win with 12 minutes left?

Miscellaneous: Indiana hit seven of 13 3-pointers (53.8 percent). The Hoosiers shot 59.3 percent from the field. The technical term for those numbers is "good." ... New Mexico State hit four of 12 treys (33 percent) and shot 55.1 percent from the field. The technical term for those numbers is "good, but not good enough."... Indiana had 12 steals and forced 16 turnovers, so the defense wasn't totally bad. ... Six Hoosiers combined for 13 assists, compared to just seven for the Aggies. ... Both teams had 42 points in the paint. ... Wendell McKines led New Mexico State with 15 points and seven rebounds.

What’s next: Indiana plays VCU on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.

A Shocker? No, just VCU ... again

March, 15, 2012

PORTLAND -- Virginia Commonwealth apparently isn't ready to yield the glass slipper.

VCU was supposed to be rebuilding, seeing that it has four new starters from a team that was just the third 11-seed to reach the Final Four. Sure, the Rams entered the NCAA tournament South Regional having won 17 of 18, but this was supposed to be Wichita State's tournament. The Shockers were everyone's favorite mid-major, with those four seasoned senior starters.

"Supposed to happen" and "actually happen," well, if you've filled out a few brackets through the years, you know there's a vast distance between the two.

Running counter to conventional wisdom, it was VCU that found the reservoir of poise at the end to hit the big shots on a big stage during another furious finish, beating the Shockers 62-59.

"This is a different team with different goals and different identity," said Rams senior leader Bradford Burgess, who added to his NCAA record by making his 145th consecutive start. "We have different guys doing different things than last year's team. We wanted to make our mark on this year's tournament."

Already done, as many brackets will attest. And, yes, VCU was plenty aware of being overlooked by pundits -- again.

"We used it this year just like we used it last year," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "We kind of put a tape together of some of the pundits making their picks. And I would say probably 95 percent of the people had Wichita State winning this game. And we play that for our guys and we let them watch."

The teams traded four 3-pointers over the final three minutes. But immediately after Toure' Murry made a trey that gave Wichita State its first lead of the second half at 59-57, old man Burgess found an opportune time to score his only points of the second half with his own 3 from the corner.

"There's no pressure," Burgess said. "It was just a wide-open shot; the ball got swung to me in the corner and I was able to knock it in."

The screws tightened and the Shockers' best player faltered. Garrett Stutz missed a go-ahead layup on the other end, and then -- after the Rams' Darius Theus hit a floater in the lane -- he ended up heaving a desperate 3, capping a poorly executed final play.

"My initial role was I was supposed to be the screener for a weak-side fake screen for a shooter," Stutz said. "I was kind of the last option at the top, when VCU read the play well."

VCU's "Havoc" defense won the evening over the Shockers' potent offense. Wichita State, held to fewer than 60 points for the first time this season, entered the game averaging 77.7 points per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, with both numbers ranking among the nation's top 15. The Shockers shot 38.7 from the field against the Rams, though they were much better in the second half as they worked their way back from a 13-point deficit.

But it was the Rams' ability to score in the half court that made the difference. The vaunted VCU press forced only 12 turnovers, just one more than the Shockers provoked. The Rams, instead, shot 42.4 percent from the field, including making 50 percent of their second-half shots.

"I was pleased with only 12 turnovers. Twelve's our goal against teams that don't press. So it wasn't that," Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said.

What was it? It was VCU pulling the, er, shocker. Again.

"These guys really made some huge plays down the stretch, which turned out to be the difference in the game," Smart said.

Video: Breaking down VCU's win

March, 15, 2012

Analyzing VCU's win over Wichita State.

PORTLAND -- Some quick thoughts from VCU's 62-59 upset over Wichita State in the second round of the South Regional in Portland.

Overview: VCU, thought to be rebuilding after a Final Four run a year ago, held off this year's supposed mid-major darling, Wichita State, building a 13-point lead in the second half and then holding on during a furious final three minutes. The surprising thing? It wasn't the Rams' "Havoc" defense that did the trick, though it did hold the Shockers to nearly 19 points below their season average. It was the Rams' proving they could score in the half court, particularly when the screws tightened late.

Turning point: Wichita State's Toure' Murry made a 3-pointer with two minutes left that gave the Shockers their first lead of the second half at 59-57. But VCU's Bradford Burgess answered with a trey on the other end to retake the lead. The Shockers wouldn't make another shot over the final 1:30.

Key player: Burgess, a senior who made his 145th start in a row -- adding to his NCAA record -- scored 13 points in the first half, but that 3-pointer was his only score of the second half. Still, he finished with a team-high 16 points with four rebounds and four assists and no turnovers. And, you know, that shot was sort of, well, important.

Key stat: The Rams hit 42.4 percent from the field, while Wichita State, which ranked 13th in the nation this year by shooting at a 48.5 percent clip, hit only 37.5 percent.

Miscellaneous: Shockers leading scorer Garrett Stutz had a fine year but a terrible game. He played only 16:48 due to foul trouble, and he hit just 2 of 11 from the field. He finished with 4 points and 6 rebounds. He also missed the Shockers' final two shots, including a layup that would have given them the lead with a minute left. ... Both teams had five steals. ... The Rams had 13 second-chance points; the Shockers had 11.

What’s next: VCU advances to play Indiana, which handled New Mexico State in the Portland South Regional nightcap.

PORTLAND -- The NCAA tournament is a showcase for college basketball stars to shine. But it's also often about them faltering at the worst moments. And lesser-known members of a team's constellation suddenly twinkling in the sport's firmament.

In the entertaining bit of theater that was New Mexico's impressive 75-68 win over a game and perhaps underseeded Long Beach State squad, the Lobos prevailed for a variety of reasons. But chief among them was their star, center Drew Gordon, playing smart and within himself and his No. 2, guard Kendall Williams, showing himself not unwilling to step to the fore.

Meanwhile, the 49ers will be wondering "what if" after point guard Casper Ware, the Big West Player of the Year, conference tournament MVP and Wooden Award nominee, flopped on a big stage. Ware scored 17 points to lead his team, but he also hit only 5 of 19 shots from the field, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range.

"We're here because of Casper Ware," Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. "So when we leave here, it's going to be because of him. He's carried us."

Gordon posted his 16th double-double of the season, scoring a team-high 18 points and grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds. But it was Williams, the Lobos' second-leading scorer, who made the biggest plays in the second half, when he scored 14 of his 16 points. He also was the Lobo who seemed to most trouble Ware, always seeming to make himself an inconvenience between Ware and the basket.

[+] EnlargeCasper Ware
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesLong Beach State's Casper Ware scored 17 points, but struggled with his shot, hitting just 5 of 19 attempts.
"[Williams has] got something that you just can't teach -- he's got that extra gear," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "He's the fastest player I've ever coached. He's very, very elusive. He can go right and left. He can go north and south. He's just got speeds to him that he's hard to catch up to."

The game turned just as the 49ers looked to be surging. New Mexico had built an 8-point lead in the second half, but a dunk from James Ennis -- wham! -- had the 49ers suddenly leading 61-59 with five minutes remaining. Their fans started to smell their first tournament win since 1973.

But, after a timeout, Williams drilled a 3-pointer that gave New Mexico a lead it would never relinquish. He hit two of his three treys in the second half, but this one was by far his biggest of the season. Or was it?

"I could probably better answer that after Saturday, because hopefully I can hit some big ones on Saturday," Williams said. "It was nice. It was nice. Good shot."

That slightly coy response refers to New Mexico's date Saturday with Louisville.

After Williams hit his shot, Ware missed the front end of a one-and-one, Gordon made a layup, Ware fouled Williams, and Williams hit a pair of free throws. So in under 1:30, a 2-point Lobos deficit became a 5-point Lobos lead. The 49ers cut the lead to two and three over the final minutes, but Ware couldn't make any plays, and the Lobos hit five of their last six free throws.

While Williams played Robin to Gordon's Batman, it wasn't as if the 49ers didn't provide support to Ware. The rest of them shot 50 percent from the floor, matching the Lobos' strong team shooting night (25-of-50). Ennis had 13 points and seven rebounds, while T.J. Robinson added 12 points and 13 boards.

But Long Beach State goes as Ware goes, and he never was able to get good looks against a Lobos defense designed to thwart him.

"We had a pretty good game plan for Cas," Williams said. "He's a great scorer, great player. But we have some athletic guys and we were able to drag out the screens a little bit. Early in the game he was able to turn the hip on some of our big men, and we made that adjustment and tried to have him be forced back into the guard and kind of contained him a little better."

By obscuring the 49ers' biggest star, Williams now burns a bit brighter. Now, what's he got planned for Saturday?

Rapid Reax: New Mexico 75, LBSU 68

March, 15, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Some quick thoughts on New Mexico's 75-68 win over Long Beach State in the West Regional second round of the NCAA tournament.

Overview: New Mexico shot 51 percent from the floor and rode four double-digit scorers to a win over Long Beach State in an entertaining, fast-paced game. While star center Drew Gordon did his thing, he got a lot of support, and 49ers star Casper Ware had a terrible afternoon shooting. The Lobos, not a particularly great 3-point shooting team, hit 4-of-10 in the second half.

Turning point: With five minutes left, Long Beach State's James Ennis gave the 49ers a 61-59 lead on a dunk. But Kendall Williams answered on the other end with a 3-pointer, and New Mexico would never trail again.

Key player: While Gordon was very good -- 18 points, 13 rebounds, 7-of-9 from the field -- it's hard to ignore Kendall Williams' second-half contribution. He scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, including a pair of key 3-pointers on three attempts. He also had six assists and three rebounds.

Key stat: Ware is a fantastic player, but he had a poor game, shooting 5-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-9 from 3-point range. He did dish seven assists. He probably could have dished a few more.

Miscellaneous: The Lobos outrebounded their opponents in 27 of 30 regular-season games, but LBSU won the rebound battle 33-30, including a 14-7 advantage on the offensive glass. ... The game featured plenty of balance. Both teams had four players in double-figures and 12 players in the game had at least five points. ... New Mexico at 19 assists vs. 13 for LBSU, and the Lobos also had fewer turnovers -- 14 to 15. ... The Lobos had seven blocked shots.

What’s next: New Mexico will play Louisville on Saturday for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Times are TBA.

Video: Breaking down Louisville's win

March, 15, 2012

Digger Phelps breaks down Louisville's 69-62 win over Davidson.