V-RECAPS | Sweet 16 | Thursday, March 27
(3) Marquette 77, (2) Pittsburgh 74 -- Wow, it was a tale of two halves for Marquette superstar Dwyane Wade. After being held to just two points in the first half, Wade went crazy in the second half, scoring 20 after intermission.
Q: Which No. 1 seed looked more impressive Thursday?
VITALE -- Clearly Arizona did. Kentucky was challenged by Wisconsin, and you have to salute the Badgers. Marquis Estill dominated inside for coach Tubby Smith's team, but he was the only Kentucky player in double figures.
Arizona coach Lute Olson clearly had his team prepared. Senior guard Jason Gardner led the way with 19 points. Channing Frye was tough inside, and I love the experience of Luke Walton and Rick Anderson. Arizona had an answer for almost every Irish possession early. Olson got bench support from Hassan Adams, who saw little time in the first two rounds.
The Gonzaga game was a survive-and-advance contest for Arizona, as Jimmy V used to say. For Kentucky, the big question is the status of Keith Bogans following his high ankle sprain.
Marquette needed Wade's prolific scoring to hold off a Pitt squad that played tenacious basketball all season long. But on this night, Wade (10-of-19 from the floor) and senior forward Robert Jackson were too much for the Big East champions. Jackson (16 points) was dominant in the first half while Wade was quiet.
The Golden Eagles also got solid 3-point shooting from freshman Steve Novak, who has quietly done damage in the tournament. He hit three trifectas Thursday night, scoring nine points.
Give credit to Pitt's senior point guard, Brandin Knight, whose brilliant passing (11 assists) helped the Panthers make a late rally that fell just short.
Pittsburgh has 57 wins over the past two seasons, but coach Ben Howland's Panthers were stopped in the Sweet 16 both years (last year, Pitt fell to Kent State 78-73).
(1) Kentucky 63, (5) Wisconsin 57 -- When it comes to controlling a game, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan couldn't have had it much better. This contest was played at the Badgers' pace, slowly and deliberately. They controlled tempo and were in position to win the game with two minutes left -- and I'm sure many observers were surprised by that.
The Badgers played phenomenal defense and moved the ball superbly, especially early. Senior sharpshooter Kirk Penney benefited from the great ball movement, hitting 5-of-7 trifectas and scoring 20 points (though the Wildcats contained him in the second half, holding him without a 3). The Badgers needed Penney's long-range scoring to hang with Kentucky.
The 'Cats found a way to get the ball inside, and the dominant force was junior forward Marquis Estill, who had a career-high 28 points on 12-of-18 shooting. Wisconsin decided to play Estill one-on-one, but it was an M&Mer (a mismatch, baby). The Badgers contained Kentucky's perimeter scorers, but Estill was the difference.
Kentucky suffered a tough blow in the first half when senior guard Keith Bogans went down with an ankle sprain and missed the rest of the game. The question is, will he be able to play in Kentucky's Elite Eight game Saturday, with the Final Four on the line? His leadership and ability is so important for the 'Cats.
Give credit to Wisconsin. The Badgers have won back-to-back Big Ten regular-season championships, but they don't seem to get the respect they deserve nationwide. And another great year for Ryan and his kids has come to an end.
With this Sweet 16 victory, Kentucky has now won 26 games in a row. After the 'Cats got blown out by Louisville in December, who would have believed they would go on such a roll? They're unblemished in 2003, baby! But the 'Cats will need a much better performance vs. Marquette to advance to New Orleans.
(2) Kansas 69, (3) Duke 65 -- Duke had no answer for the experience and interior ability of senior forward Nick Collison. He had a monster game, scoring 33 points and grabbing 19 rebounds.
I called Kansas' big win over Texas earlier this season, and I gave Collison a standing ovation then for an outstanding double-double performance. He had another fantastic outing to lead the Jayhawks past Duke on Thursday.
Kansas dominated on the boards, 47-33, and survived despite shooting a dreadful 1-of-12 on 3-pointers.
The Jayhawks did a great job defensively on Duke guard J.J. Redick. The diaper dandy was held to 2-of-16 shooting from the floor (1-of-11 on trifectas). Kansas senior guard Kirk Hinrich also struggled from beyond the arc (0-of-5). But Collison picked up his slack with a sensational presence in the paint.
Besides an Elite Eight berth, Kansas coach Roy Williams got his first career NCAA Tournament victory over Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
Next, the Jayhawks play Arizona on Saturday in a big-time Elite Eight showdown. The teams played once this season, with the Wildcats winning 91-74 on Jan. 25.
(1) Arizona 88, (5) Notre Dame, 71 -- The Wildcats were on fire right out of the gate, and the Irish nearly matched them for the first five minutes. But then it was too much Arizona -- Blowout City, baby!
Talk about a balanced attack. A Salim Stoudamire 3-pointer, Channing Frye on the inside, a baseline drive by Luke Walton, a jumper by Jason Gardner -- Arizona's offense came from all over.
Five Wildcats had eight points or more in the first half, and five were in double figures for the game (Jason Gardner led the way with 19 points). The Irish could not come up with the defensive stops that would have given them a chance to get back in the game.
It might be that the 'Cats had their tournament scare in their one-point, double-overtime over Gonzaga in the second round. Because this looked like the team many picked when the season began as the favorite for the national title. The 'Cats were dominant in every facet of the game, controlling the boards by a 43-32 margin.
If Arizona continues to play like this, it won't matter who they play. But if they struggle as they did against Gonzaga, they could stumble. On Saturday, an Arizona-Kansas matchup sounds like a national championship game, not an Elite Eight!