NCAA: Northern Iowa, No. 10 seed Saint Mary’s, No. 11 seed Washington bust open the bracket

By Dave Skretta, AP
Saturday, March 20, 2010

NCAA: Bracket-busting day thanks to Northern Iowa

Another eventful day at the NCAA tournament is in the books, with Northern Iowa stunning overall No. 1 seed Kansas, 10th-seeded Saint Mary’s knocking off second-seeded Villanova, and 11th-seeded Washington easily handling third-seeded New Mexico.

Talk about some bracket busting.

Also locking up a spot in the round of 16 were Tennessee, Butler, Kansas State, Baylor and No. 1 seed Kentucky, which looks like the biggest favorite still alive after a comprehensive destruction of ninth-seeded Wake Forest.

The other half of the regional semifinals will be set Sunday, beginning at 12:10 p.m. ET when No. 1 seed Syracuse take on Gonzaga. Missouri and West Virginia follow them in Buffalo, second-seeded Ohio State takes on Georgia Tech, and Michigan plays Maryland for the right to meet those scrappy Panthers.

The other four games Sunday pit Cornell against Wisconsin, Xavier against Pittsburgh, Texas A&M against Purdue, and top-seeded Duke against California.

Jacob Pullen finished with a career-high 34 points, and second-seeded Kansas State knocked off seventh-seeded BYU 84-72 to reach the West Regional semifinal.

The Wildcats will play Xavier or Pittsburgh in Salt Lake City next week.

Denis Clemente also had a big game for Kansas State, whose fans at the Ford Center will be doing the Wabash Cannonball all the way back to sleepy Manhattan, Kan. The school hasn’t been to the round of 16 since 1988, although it’s not like the Wildcats are a stranger to it. They had made 15 previous appearances in the regional semifinals.

Jimmer Fredette scored 21 points, most of that coming at the foul line, as the junior guard finished 5-for-13 from the field for BYU. He also had five assists to offset five turnovers in a quiet game.

It wasn’t much of a game in New Orleans, where Kentucky routed Wake Forest 90-60 in the second round. The Wildcats will kick back on Sunday and watch Cornell play Wisconsin to find out whom they’ll play in the round of 16.

Kansas State took its biggest lead at 73-61 on Jacob Pullen’s nifty, no-look assist to Dominique Sutton flying down the wing on a break. Jimmer Fredette came back the other way and got to the foul line, where he made two free throws to keep BYU in the game.

Pullen and backcourt mate Denis Clemente have combined for 47 points.

Noah Hartsock fouled out with eight points and seven rebounds, depriving BYU of one of their big guys the rest of the way. The foul sent none other than Pullen to the line, and he calmly dropped two more free throws for a season-high 30 points.

Frank Martin called a timeout for Kansas State with 2:48 left and the Wildcats on top 71-61 in Oklahoma City. Jacob Pullen pushed the lead back to double figures with another 3-pointer, making him 7 of 12 for the game.

He’s been an absolute nightmare for BYU, going 5-for-5 from the foul line and adding three steals. Pullen has been all over Cougars star Jimmer Fredette, too.

Fear the beard? BYU certainly does.

Kansas State hasn’t been to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament since 1988, when they made the final eight. That tournament run is still widely discussed in Kansas, because it came to an end at the hands of the rival Jayhawks, who went on to win the national title over Oklahoma at — talk about serendipity — Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

Mitch Richmond was the leader of that K-State team, and Jacob Pullen is doing his best impersonation of the former NBA star. He has the Wildcats on top of BYU 68-59.

Jacob Pullen’s physical defense against BYU’s Jimmer Fredette has landed him on the bench with four fouls with 6:20 left. He’s held Fredette in check, though, with 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting.

The Wildcats had opened a 66-54 lead, but BYU answered with four quick points to get the lead back to single digits.

The early evening games are done in the women’s NCAA tournament, and higher seeds are finding the going awfully tough. They’re 0-12 so far.

Second-seeded Texas A&M beat Portland State 84-53 in the opener to the nightcaps. Fifth-seeded Georgetown handled Marist 62-42, fourth-seeded Oklahoma State beat Chattanooga 70-63, and eighth-seeded Iowa squeaked by Rutgers 70-63.

The final series of games Saturday night has top-seeded Stanford against UC-Riverside, fifth-seeded Georgia against Tulane, No. 4 seed Baylor versus Fresno State, and seventh-seeded Gonzaga against North Carolina.

BYU scoring star Jimmer Fredette got smacked in the face as K-State’s Denis Clemente sped past midcourt. It was at least the third time Fredette’s taken a shot to the face or head from the Wildcats, who used Dominique Sutton early and Jacob Pullen more recently against him.

Fredette took a seat with under 10 minutes left, and Kansas State is trying to build its advantage. Rodney McGruder got into the act with his first 3-pointer, giving the Wildcats 10 for the game. They’re shooting better from beyond the arc (43.5 percent) than inside.

Jacob Pullen has six 3-pointers for Kansas State, but he has a ways to go before he gets into rarified air. Jeff Fryer has the NCAA tournament record with 11 for Loyola Marymount against Michigan in the second round in 1990.

Freddie Banks and Roburt Sallie are next with 10 3-pointers each in a game, and more recently, Syracuse sharpshooter Gerry McNamara hit nine of them in a first-round game in 2004.

The opponent that night? BYU.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe threw down a vicious one-handed dunk, hustled back to make a steal at the other end, then tossed in an off-balance layup to give the Wildcats a 66-37 lead.

They’re now 10 for 10 in the second half and are shooting 76 percent for the game.

BYU reserve Brandon Davies picked up his fourth foul, just 35 seconds after checking in for the first time in the second half. Starter Chris Miles and fellow reserve Jonathan Tavernari also have three fouls apiece, which could prove problematic down the stretch.

Ernie Barrett is on hand for Kansas State in Oklahoma City. He was an all-American for the Wildcats, served as athletic director and is still involved with the school after six decades as a fundraiser. He’s earned the title “Mr. K-State.”

Denis Clemente has been in double-figures scoring 17 consecutive games for Kansas State, his floater giving the Wildcats a 55-48 lead over BYU with under 12 to go. There are a lot of 5-for-18 and 4-for-15 games during that stretch for Clemente, but give him credit for never losing confidence in his stroke.

His 14 points are a nice complement to Jacob Pullen’s game-high 23, but the Wildcats still haven’t been able to shake BYU. Even with Jimmer Fredette struggling to get an open look, the Cougars are still within striking distance.

Kansas State had 10 offensive boards in the first half against BYU and already has one in the second half, with Luis Colon — whose hands usually resemble cinder blocks — showing a deft touch on the putback. The Wildcats lead by 10 with 18:46 to go in the West Regional.

Jimmer Fredette has been quiet after hitting his first two shots, going just 1 of 4 since then for eight points. He’s also turned the ball over five times as the Wildcats send multiple defenders at him whenever he gets the ball.

Ashley Judd has had plenty to root for as Kentucky blows open its second-round game against Wake Forest, building a 53-32 lead in the second half. She was asked by The Associated Press about Kentucky’s chances now that Kansas has been eliminated from the tournament:

“Our chances were good when Kansas was in,” she said.

Spoken like a true superfan.

After a review, officials nullified James Anderson’s tip-in at the buzzer for BYU. The Cougars trail No. 2 seed Kansas State 41-31 at halftime after scoring the first 10 points of the game — that’s a 41-21 run by the Wildcats.

Jacob Pullen has five 3-pointers and 20 first-half points, while Jimmer Fredette has been limited to only four shots and six points.

Kentucky is shooting 67 percent (18 of 27) and just closed the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 44-28 lead into the locker room. The Wildcats also are outrebounding Wake Forest 19-15, a surprising stat given the Demon Deacons outrebounded Texas by 25 in the first round.

Darius Miller has 16 points, John Wall nine and DeMarcus Cousins eight for Kentucky. Chas McFarland has eight points for Wake Forest, which is shooting 36 percent (12 of 33).

BYU reserves Jonathan Tavernari and Brandon Davies both have three fouls as Kansas State — which shoots more free throws per game than any team in the nation — scored seven straight at the line to go up 35-29.

Jacob Pullen shook off the bump he took on the loose ball earlier, and has knocked down five 3-pointers and has 20 first-half points. The Wildcats have opened up a 41-31 lead with under a minute to go.

Kentucky superfan Ashley Judd is in the house to watch the Wildcats take on Wake Forest in New Orleans. The actress is a 1990 Kentucky grad and attends numerous games each year in Lexington and abroad.

Love or hate John Calipari, it’s hard to argue that he’s good on the sideline.

He’s also good in the living room. His recruiting class at Kentucky this season has drawn comparison’s to Michigan’s “Fab Five.” And one of those freshmen, DeMarcus Cousins, scored twice during a 7-0 spurt to make it 26-19 over Wake Forest with 6:44 left in the first half.

Wake Forest guard Ishmael Smith went end-to-end for a dunk attempt, missed off the back rim and the rebound went past half court.

It’s starting to look like that kind of game for the Demon Deacons.

Kentucky has pushed its lead to 24-19, forcing coach Dino Gaudio to call a timeout. The Wildcat faithful are loving it, and there are plenty of them. Few teams can count on their fans to follow the team with as much zeal.

The love for Northern Iowa hasn’t subsided in Oklahoma City, even with BYU and Kansas State on the floor. Panthers coach Ben Jacobson pumped his fist on his way past the school’s cheering section and on his way to a radio interview, bringing another round of applause.

Think he’ll ever have to buy another lunch in Cedar Falls?

Kansas State is wishing it had someone like the Panthers’ Ali Farokhmanesh right now. BYU is already ahead 23-16, and Jimmer Fredette is leading the way. Who would have guessed that?

Al-Farouq Aminu is sitting dejectedly on the bench with more than 11 minutes to go, already with three fouls in his box score. The Demon Deacons need to try to keep it close the rest of the first half with one of their stars riding the padded seats.

Kentucky is shooting 9 of 14 from the field early on, but the lead was just 21-19 with under 11 to go. Part of the problem for the Wildcats are three early turnovers.

Darius Miller scored seven straight points to give Kentucky an early 12-10 lead on Wake Forest. Everybody likes to talk about the Wildcat freshmen, and for good reason, but the sophomore is one of those “glue guys” that hold everything together. He’s only been in double-figures scoring five times this season.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland are going to be responsible for keeping Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins in check inside, and so far they’re doing a fine job. Neither of the Wildcats’ big men have taken a shot, and the game was tied 19-all with under 12 to go in the first half.

Congratulations to the CBS cameramen for capturing Kansas State coach Frank Martin smiling after Jacob Pullen knocked down a 3-pointer. The Wildcats started off sluggish, falling into a 12-2 hole against hot-shooting BYU, but five quick points has it back to 12-7.

Jimmer Fredette is 2 for 2 from the field for the Cougars.

While the New Orleans Hornets are in Utah, injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul is in New Orleans. He’s in a suite with his young son on his lap to watch his former team, Wake Forest, take on Kentucky.

Tyler Haws has made 44 straight free throws after knocking down his first two against Kansas State, staking BYU to an early lead. He’s shooting 91.2 percent from the line.

Jimmer Fredette added his first basket moments later. Haws going to the line and Fredette getting hot? Sounds like a recipe for disaster for Wildcat coach Frank Martin.

What are the chances that John Calipari made sure to tell his Kentucky team about ninth-seeded Northern Iowa’s upset of No. 1 seed Kansas?

The Wildcats and Jayhawks had both lost two games coming into the NCAA tournament, had both looked dominant in their conference tournaments, and had both been widely picked to win the national title. And just like Northern Iowa, Kentucky’s second-round foe Wake Forest has a little No. 9 next to its name on the bracket.

See any similarities?

A lot will depend on which version of the Jekyll-and-Hyde Demon Deacons shows up. Wake Forest looked great in beating teams such as Gonzaga, Georgia Tech and Maryland, and were ghastly when they took the floor against William & Mary and woeful North Carolina.

Jimmer Fredette has all the ingredients to be the next out-of-nowhere star in the NCAA tournament: the catchy nickname, the sweet shot, the late-game heroics.

And after Northern Iowa upended Kansas, why shouldn’t Fredette’s BYU team believe it can do the same against second-seeded Kansas State on the same Ford Center floor? It’s a dangerous game for the Wildcats, who lost to the Jayhawks three times this season, including in the Big 12 title game in Kansas City.

Jacob Pullen and his busy beard have gotten all the pub this year for Kansas State, along with feisty, fiery and downright freaky coach Frank Martin. But keep an eye on Denis Clemente — that’s pronounced de-KNEE — who scored 17 in a first-round win over North Texas.

Washington apparently decided it had heard enough about how bad the Pac-10 was this season, how good New Mexico had been, how the Huskies’ star players never showed up when it mattered the most.

How does an 82-64 second-round rout sound?

The Huskies will play Missouri or West Virginia in the round of 16 in Syracuse.

Northern Iowa has never been in an NCAA tournament game that wasn’t decided in the closing minutes. The Panthers hadn’t won a tournament game since 1990, either, but now have won two to set up a regional semifinal with Michigan State or Maryland.

While the Panthers were celebrating at the Ford Center, Kansas senior Mario Little fell to his knees in front of the bench. He wouldn’t even get up when one of the Jayhawks’ coaches or trainers came over to attempt to console him, his title hopes coming to a crashing end far earlier than anybody would have anticipated.

Kentucky fans in New Orleans let out a roar when the Kansas score flashed in the arena.

Baylor reserve center Josh Lomers fouled out but got a huge ovation as he walked to the bench with head coach Scott Drew gesturing to a section of Baylor fans to give him a hand.

Lomers tied a career high with 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, and had eight rebounds for the Bears. They’re advancing to the round of 16 after knocking off 11th-seeded Old Dominion 76-68, and will play 10th-seeded Saint Mary’s in Houston.

Northern Iowa has upset overall No. 1 seed Kansas 69-67, sending a Missouri Valley team to the round of 16 once again.

The Panthers led almost the whole way against the Jayhawks, who might never want to play at the Ford Center again. It was in the same building in Oklahoma City where Bill Self’s team lost to 14th-seeded Bucknell five years ago.

Ali Farokhmanesh had missed six straight 3-pointers in the second half, but he never stopped shooting, knocking one down from the wing with about 36 seconds left to deflate Kansas. The gritty guard added a pair of clinching free throws with 4.8 seconds to go.

Ali Farokhmanesh shows absolutely no fear. And absolutely never gets ahead of himself.

After knocking down the 3 that sent the Panthers out of the first round, he drilled a 3-pointer from the wing when nobody came over to guard him. It didn’t matter that Northern Iowa led overall No. 1 seed Kansas by one point with 36 seconds left, or that the prudent play would be to melt down the clock as much as possible.

The Jayhawk fans were just coming to their feet in the Ford Center, too, and Tyrel Reed was called for an offensive end on Kansas’ next possession.

Northern Iowa ball with 23.4 seconds left and a 66-62 lead.

Northern Iowa made a critical mistake by tossing an inbounds pass out of bounds at the other end, giving the Jayhawks the ball under their own basket because nobody touched it. Kansas got a decent shot inside but missed, and Marcus Morris ended up at the foul line.

His two free throws with 53.8 seconds left made it 63-60, and the Panthers promptly turned it over again — their fourth turnover in the closing minutes after a mostly error-free game.

Sherron Collins scored on a move to the basket to get within 63-62, and the 6-0 spurt has the Jayhawks as close as they’ve been since the early going.

Bill Self just blew his gasket on the sideline after Sherron Collins was whistled for charging with 1:53 left and the Jayhawks trailing Northern Iowa 61-56. Self’s face was about as cherry as the red striping on the KU jerseys.

UNI used up all the shot clock at the other end, and Adam Koch pulled down an offensive board after a missed 3-pointer and stuff it home. The lead is back to 63-56 with 1:07 left, and Jordan Eglseder is pounding his chest on the Panthers’ sideline.

Northern Iowa is beginning to implode in Oklahoma City, allowing the Jayhawks to get a couple of offensive boards to get the lead down to 59-56. Their pressure generated an easy turnover, and Xavier Henry headed to the line.

He missed the free throw though, yet another sign that nothing is going to come easy for Kansas in the round of 32.

Cole Aldrich is back in the game after limping off with what looked like a mildly twisted ankle, and so is Sherron Collins, who also got a breather. Kansas had trimmed it to 56-53 before Johnny Moran drilled a 3-pointer to restore the six-point advantage.

Kansas had scored on six straight trips down floor, but misfired twice, and all that momentum the Jayhawks had built up seems to be quickly dissipating.

Ohio State just finished practice about 15 minutes ago in Milwaukee and one of the security guards said over the radio that the Buckeyes are staying in the locker room to watch the rest of the Kansas-Northern Iowa game.

The Buckeyes play Georgia Tech on Sunday, and are in the same region as the Jayhawks and Panthers. Think they have a rooting interest?

Old Dominion and Baylor are getting scrappy going after loose balls, but commend them for not getting chippy. Good, hard basketball in New Orleans, where they’re tied 58-all with 5:42 left in a game that Bears have had in hand most of the way.

Kansas is ratcheting up the pressure on Northern Iowa, and the Panthers are starting to feel the squeeze. The Jayhawks are doing a better of job of moving the ball, finding some mismatches that they can use to their advantage.

Ali Farokhmanesh, who hit the game-winning 3 for Northern Iowa in the first round, is 0 for 5 on 3s in the second half after making all three of his attempts in the first half. He missed three in quick succession as Kansas has pulled within 52-49 with 5½ left.

“Discombobulated” might a good word for New Mexico’s offense.

So is “ineffective.”

The Lobos can’t seem to solve Washington’s switching man-to-man defense, content to pass and dribble around the perimeter and then take wild shots. It has to be making coach Steve Alford, one of the best shooters in Indiana schoolboy history, positively miffed.

The Huskies have pushed the lead to 53-36 with 15:44 remaining, forcing Alford to call a timeout with things threatening to get out of hand.

___More trouble for the Jayhawks: Cole Aldrich has limped off the floor after landing awkwardly following an offensive rebound. He’s 6 of 8 from the floor and has 10 rebounds, and his ability to clog the lane would be important for the Jayhawks down the stretch.

Kansas has trimmed the lead to 52-45 with 7 minutes left, and the Panthers — disciplined all game — are starting to take some ill-advised outside shots. Ali Farokhmanesh has missed five straight from deep after a hot first half.

Kansas is starting to force the issue against Northern Iowa, with some token three-quarter court pressure and a trap once the Panthers cross the midcourt line. The Jayhawks forced a timeout, but still trail 52-41 with 9:38 remaining.

Bryce Drew is in the house to see his brother Scott coach Baylor against Old Dominion in New Orleans. Bryce still looks he could throw on a yellow Valpo jersey, knock down a 3-pointer and slide across the floor in jubilation.

After his game-winning shot to beat fourth-seeded Ole Miss in 1998, Bryce went on to a short professional career with the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets and Pamesa Valencia in Europe.

He’s now an assistant coach at Valparaiso.

Five years ago, in Oklahoma City no less, 14th-seeded Bucknell beat Kansas in what coach Bill Self called one of the most difficult things he’s ever experienced. This one wouldn’t be quite as stunning as that first-round ouster, but it would still send ripples through plenty of tournament brackets.

Of course, the Panthers must play 40 minutes to get it done. Kansas came out of a timeout and scored four quick points to trim the deficit back to single digits, forcing UNI coach Ben Jacobson to call a quick timeout of his own.

Kansas and bitter rival Kansas State are hunkered down in locker rooms just steps away from each other in Oklahoma City. They’re in different regions but both playing at the Ford Center for the first two rounds.

Don’t think that the purple-clad Wildcat fans are joining the purple-clad Panthers fans as the Jayhawks struggle against Northern Iowa, though. There was a “Let’s Go Jayhawks!” versus “Let’s Go Panthers!” back-and-forth, and the K-State fans appeared to sit it out.

Out on the floor, Jake Koch hit Northern Iowa’s seventh 3-pointer of the game to put the Jayhawks in a 47-35 bind with 12:34 to play. Timeout Kansas.

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