Late night action on Saturday led to some high-scoring, close affairs. There were 4 games Saturday night, and we’ll take a look at each one of them.
North Carolina won this game relatively easily behind 26 points from Joel Berry III. North Carolina led by 16 at halftime and while the final score looks somewhat close, it wasn’t that way. Justin Jackson added 24 and former walk-on Luke Maye provided 16 points and 12 rebounds. Butler couldn’t put the ball in the basket early on, and that hurt them for the rest of the game. Andrew Chrabascz led the Bulldogs with 21 points, with Kelan Martin adding 16 points. Every time Butler made a shot, it seemed like North Carolina had an answer. North Carolina also benefited from many clean looks and sharp shooting, as they shot 13 for 18 at one point. This is the 27th time that North Carolina has reached the Elite Eight.
South Carolina: 70
The Gamecocks keep rolling! Their stifling defense locked up Baylor, and held them to their lowest point total since 2016. While South Carolina was an underdog in its seeding, it sure didn’t look the part on the court. Sindarius Thornwell, possibly the best all-around player left in the tournament, scored 24 points, while Chris Silva and P.J. Dozier scored 12 each. Duane Notice added 11 for the Gamecocks, who hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973 before this year’s tournament. Their defense locked up star forward Johnathan Motley, who scored 18 points. However, most of those points came after South Carolina built up a 15 point lead in the second half. South Carolina led by 15 at the half, and the lead got as big as 21 in the second half. This is a huge tournament for the program, as they have never been known as a great basketball program but are changing under Frank Martin.
Revenge for Kentucky! After losing to UCLA in Rupp Arena in December, De’Aaron Fox and company dispatched the Bruins with sharp shooting. Fox recorded a career-high 39 points, while Malik Monk added 21 for the Wildcats. Fox outplayed star guard Lonzo Ball, who had just 10 points and 8 assists on the night. T.J. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton each scored 17 to lead the Bruins. UCLA, who had a season average of 90.2 points per game, were held well below that and nearly recorded their worst offensive output of the season. The score was 36-33 at halftime, but Kentucky turned it up in the second half to the tune of 50 points. Fox scored the first 8 points of the game and recorded the fourth most points by a Kentucky player in the tournament. He also had the most as a freshman in Kentucky history. Immediately after the game, Ball declared for the draft in an expected move.
What. A. Game. Florida advances to the Elite Eight in a game for the ages that featured two buzzer beaters. It was a close game throughout, but Florida received an amazing performance from KeVaughn Allen, who scored a career-high 35 points and carried the Gators for long periods of time in the game. However, it was Chris Chiozza who was the hero in this one. It wasn’t supposed to be him who was the hero, though. With 2 seconds to play in regulation, Zak Showalter hit an off-balance three to tie the game at 72, and pointed at Aaron Rodgers as he walked back. In overtime, Canyon Barry came up big with a block of Nigel Hayes. However, he made a layup with 4 seconds to play, but without hesitation, the ball was inbounded to Chiozza. He went end to end in 4 seconds, pausing at the three point line to take an awkward 3 pointer as time expired. The form didn’t matter, because the shot hit nothing but net to send the Gators to the Elite Eight. Chiozza will go down in Gator lore for this one, while Wisconsin heads home after an impressive tournament featuring a win against Villanova.