March 18, 2007

Columbus: Salukis Through to Regionals

With today's convincing 63-48 victory over Virginia Tech, fourth-seeded Southern Illinois is through to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last six seasons. The triumph also helped the Salukis set a new school record for wins in a single season (29), breaking the mark established by the 2001-02 team which also advanced to the regional semifinals.

Columbus: Heading to San Jose

Sections 104 and 105 -- both jam-packed with Southern Illinois fans -- have started chanting:

San Jose! San Jose!

Jamaal Tatum's sixth three-pointer of the game -- for his 19th, 20th and game-high 21st points -- sent the Carbondale crowd into hysterics and opened a 63-46 edge.

Columbus: Hold Your Head Up

Tony Young just sank the second of two free throws to put Southern Illinois up 58-44 with 2:52 to go. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg called timeout and caught Zabian Dowdell looking dejected while walking back to the bench.

"Hey!" shouted Greenberg across the court. "Don't you hang your head!"

Time is Tech's enemy at this point -- but can the team that came back from the dead against Illinois on Thursday night repeat the feat?

Columbus: Tatum Drills Coup De Grace

Tatum just canned another three-pointer -- his fifth in the last 22 minutes -- to open a 56-43 lead. The way the Salukis are playing defense, Southern Illinois might not need another point to advance to next week's West Regional semifinals in San Jose.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound combo guard is 6-for-13 from the floor (5-for-8 from beyond the arc) for a game-high 18 points to go with three rebounds and two assists.

Columbus: Hokies Undermining Themselves

Virginia Tech hasn't done much to help its cause from the line. Jamon Gordon just split a pair to pull the Hokies within 53-41 with 4:14 remaining, dropping Seth Greenberg's team to 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) from the line on the afternoon.

Columbus: Salukis Suffocating Hokies

The Salukis have used a 32-14 run spanning halftime to open a 47-34 lead with 8:02 remaining.

Close to 12 minutes have passed in the second half and Southern Illinois has limited the Hokies to four points. Chris Lowery's defense is clicking on all cylinders right now and I don't know if Virginia Tech has the willpower to get back into the game at this point. Their play seems to mirror the demeanor of their fans: demoralized.

Columbus: Still Hot

Halftime didn't cool the hot hand of Jamaal Tatum, who opened the scoring in the second half with a three-pointer from the top of the key that silenced the Tech faithful.

SIU's last four scores have been Tatum threes.

The Salukis lead the Hokies, 31-20.

Columbus: Leader of the Pack

Jamaal Tatum has taken over for the Salukis during a 13-2 run that has given his side temporary control of the action at 28-20 at the break.

The dreadlocked guard has had a hand in his team's last four scoring plays -- assisting on a Bryan Mullins fast-break lay-up before draining three straight baskets from beyond the arc (for nine of his game-high 11 points).

The Salukis have limited the Hokies to 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) shooting during the first 20 minutes while staking a narrow 17-16 rebounding advantage and creating seven turnovers.

Columbus: Salukis Nose Ahead

After missing the front end of a one-and-one, Missouri Valley player of the year Jamaal Tatum got a steal and dished an assist to Bryan Mullins, whose basket gave Southern Illinois a 19-18 lead. On SIU's next offensive possession, Tatum drilled a three-pointer to open a four-point edge.

Columbus: Tech Crawls Ahead

The Salukis opened a 13-8 lead in the early going thanks to a pair of free throws, a two and a three from Tony Young. But the Hokies have rattled off seven straight points -- a Zabian Dowdell two, a Deron Washington three and a Jamon Gordon jumper in the paint -- to take their first lead of the contest at the 8:15 mark.

Columbus: From The Horses' Mouths

I've been hyping up the Southern Illinois defense all season long. But don't take my word for it:

  • "It's going to be a physical game, it's going to be a low-scoring game. Going into playing them, you've got to understand that's just the way it's going to be. There's no sense crying about it. And you can't do much about it. Because they're so good, they're well-coached and they're so good at what they do. Their record speaks for itself." --Drake coach Dr. Tom Davis

  • "They're as good a defensive team as I've seen in the past 21 years at this level. The amazing thing is that year-in and year-out, they keep producing the same results. Every possession is such a valued commodity when you play them." --Evansville coach Steve Merfeld

  • "You have to have toughness on entries. You can't look at the bench or the officials for the foul. If a little physical-ness is going to bother you, you can't have that approach, because they'll eat you up." --Illinois State coach Porter Moser

  • "They're not going to let you run sets. You're going to watch 30 games this year, and I don't think anybody is going to run a lot of sets against Southern Illinois...They really broke our will, which they're so good at...Usually, that kind of pressure will subside a little bit as the game wears on." --Minnesota coach Dan Monson

  • "Whether it's a shot, a pass or a drive, it's not going to be open very long against their defense." --Louisiana Tech coach Keith Richard

  • "We run down to the police station, and we get all the German Shepherd attack dogs, and we just bring them onto the floor, and we rub meat juice all over our arms, and we just get ready to practice." --Missouri State coach Barry Hinson on how the Bears simulated the SIU defense in practice

  • "Sometimes, your offense doesn't look good against a great defense. Some people predict who is going to win based on the name on their jersey. Those Southern Illinois kids are tough...They're experienced. They know how to win on the road." --Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson

Continue reading "Columbus: From The Horses' Mouths" »

Columbus: Long-Distance Dysfunction

In a game that came down to the final possession, Virginia's inability to convert from beyond the arc spelled its doom. The Cavaliers were just 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from long range and a frigid 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) during the second half. Chris Lofton never got things going from the field -- finishing 4-for-16 on the afternoon -- but his 9-for-10 performance from the line helped ice the game.

Columbus: Tennessee Feeling Sweet

Lofton drained a pair of fouls to re-open a three-point lead, then Singletary was fouled before the Virginia point guard could get to the goal, hitting two more foul shots to close the deficit to 75-74. Virginia double-teamed Lofton on the inbounds pass but Bradshaw still found him. Here comes Lofton to the line for two...

First shot: nothing but net.

Second shot: buckets.

Singletary drives down the court and pulls up for a potential game-tying three that misses the mark and the Philly native collapses face down onto the hardwood near the top of the key. Leitao and his teammates come out and pick up from the floor All-ACC point guard, who still has his head down crying. Final score: Tennessee 77, Virginia 74.

It's a bitter end for Singletary, who enjoyed a breakout season in leading Virginia back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001 -- and just the second time in a decade.

Per the P.A. announcer: Virginia Tech and Southern Illinois will tip off at 3:08 p.m. ET.

Columbus: It's So Easy For Sean Singletary

Singletary just came off a high screen and coolly drained a three-pointer to close Tennessee's lead to 73-72.

The Volunteers are inbounding beneath their own basket and will try to get the ball into the hands of Chris Lofton, their best free-throw shooter (at 80.2 percent on the season).

Columbus: Tennessee Holding On

JaJuan Smith rattled homed a fallaway three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to give Tennessee some breathing room at 64-59. On the other end, Singletary used his explosive speed to the goal to draw a touch foul -- but just missed the front end of a one-and-one as Duke Crews corralled the rebound.

Tennessee's Wayne Chism is back into the game with four personal fouls.

Columbus: Stars into Black Holes

Virginia's Sean Singletary and Tennessee's Chris Lofton -- the SEC player of the year -- have struggled throughout the afternoon. Singletary is 2-for-9 with eight points while Lofton is 4-for-13 with 14 points (and only two since halftime).

The Volunteers lead, 61-55, at the eight-minute media timeout.

Columbus: Reynolds Update

Twenty-four points in the first 20 minutes. Four in the 10 since halftime.

Virginia is going to need someone else to step up besides Reynolds if the Cavaliers hope to make up this 57-50 deficit. All the momentum is Tennessee's. Not sure that guy is going to be Singletary, who is struggling through a 2-for-9 shooting performance (including 0-for-3 from downtown).

Columbus: Run Extended

Make that a 19-4 run for the Volunteers to open a 54-44 advantage. Virginia can't get a bucket to save its life.

JaJuan Smith has scored seven of his 10 points during the spurt.

Columbus: Getting Rocky For UVA

Tennessee has used a 12-2 run -- capped by JaJuan Smith's swipe-and-score of J.R. Reynolds -- to turn a five-point deficit into a 47-42 advantage. Dave Leitao wants a timeout as the Vols pep band plays "Rocky Top" to the vocal delight of the Tennessee fans.

Columbus: Shot Selection

Reynolds might be toeing the line between confidence and a fighter pilot's arrogance. The senior (who has 24 points so far) just came off a high screen and lofted a contested 23-foot jumper that landed short and wide toward the bottom of the glass. Can't blame the kid for trying to ride the hot hand but given the shooting woes of the Cavaliers since the 6:01 mark of the first half -- the last time a Virginia player made a jump shot -- a little prudence might be warranted.

Columbus: 28 Seconds Later...

It took Tennessee freshman Wayne Chism a whole 28 seconds to pick up his fourth personal foul -- the 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward was a second late in trying to pin a Tunji Soroye lay-up against the glass. Chism grimaced at the whistle and jogged in a circular pattern back to the bench before the referee had even signaled the foul to the scorer's table.

That's no small blow for the Volunteers: Chism goes to the bench with a team-high 12 points (on 3-for-5 shooting) along with two rebounds. What's more, his bulky frame helps compensate for his undersized partner in the frontcourt: 6-foot-4 forward Dane Bradshaw.

Columbus: Bunch Of Savages In This Town

The NCAA and subregional host Ohio State University said that 550 tickets for today's doubleheader were stolen earlier today. The tickets were part of a team block for Sunday's games.

All of the stolen tickets have been invalidated and will not be accepted at Nationwide Arena under any circumstance and new tickets have been printed. All fans have been cautioned that any tickets remaining must be purchased only from the participating schools directly or the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office to assure tickets will be honored.

I saw dozens of fans buying tickets from scalpers on my walk into the building today (a familiar sight at almost every other arena around the country). There are going to be some angry people at the gate.

Columbus: Hoos Ahead

Virginia missed its last seven attempts from the floor to allow Tennessee to whittle an 11-point deficit down to three -- but the Cavaliers still lead at the half, 38-35.

Three numbers that jump out from the halftime box:

  • J.R. Reynolds has 22 of his team's 38 points. Unconscious.

  • Tennessee is out-hustling the Cavaliers on the offensive glass, 6-1.

  • The game would be tied or the Volunteers would be ahead if Bruce Pearl's team had done better than 9-for-16 (56.3 percent) from the line.

Columbus: Reynolds Still Unconscious

So far, J.R. Reynolds is 6-for-8 from the floor (including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc) and is perfect in six attempts from the charity stripe. The senior from Roanoke, Va., has a game-high 22 points and counting. Not bad for a guy who couldn't throw a rock in the ocean at the end of the season. In his last three games before the NCAA Tournament, Reynolds went 3-for-15 from the floor against Virginia Tech (13 points), 3-for-14 against Wake Forest (11 points) and 3-for-15 against N.C. State (11 points) in an ACC Tournament quarterfinals ouster.

(Against Albany in the first round, Reynolds went 9-for-13 from the field and finished with a game-high 28 points.)

Columbus: Take Tat!

Virginia frosh and Nigerian native Solomon Tat deposited a lay-up at the 8:15 mark to take back the lead for the Cavaliers at 23-22.

It's a Sunday afternoon crowd at Nationwide Arena -- hardly the powder keg that Rupp was Saturday for both games -- but the Virginia fans (mostly concentrated in Section 103) have been getting more into the action as the Cavaliers have gotten acclimated to the Tennessee press and enjoyed more success scoring the basketball. One row of UVA zealots close to the rear of that section have stopped caring about the people seated behind them and are just standing the entire time.

Columbus: Orange You Glad You Came

A lot of autumnal colors in the house this afternoon. Orange is dominating the stands for the first game as Tennessee and Virginia run their track meet while the Virginia Tech's burnt orange and SIU's maroon and brown are finding their seats during the first half.

Columbus: Fast Start at Nationwide Arena

J.R. Reynolds tried (successfully, I might add) to beat Albany by himself in the first round here at Nationwide Arena.

He's doing the same thing today against Tennessee in scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes. Unfortunately, Tennessee's hot hands -- Chris Lofton, Wayne Chism and JaJuan Smith -- have been doing that much more to help the Volunteers stake a 19-13 advantage.

March 17, 2007

Columbus: Three Interesting Numbers

Three numbers that jump out from the final box:

  • Frostbitten three-point shooting percentages reflected the effectiveness of the perimeter defense from both sides. Southern Illinois was 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) from downtown while Holy Cross shot 1-for-11 (9.1 percent).

  • Jamaal Tatum didn't have his best offensive outing of the season (10 points on 2-for-9 shooting) but the Missouri Valley player of the year added a team-high four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 37 minutes.

  • The Crusaders committed 20 turnovers which the Salukis converted into 24 points. That's what they do.

Columbus: Salukis into Second Round

That a final from Columbus: Southern Illinois 61, Holy Cross 51.

More to come from the post-game pressers. I'll be back directly.

March 16, 2007

Columbus: In Need of a Prayer

Tony Boyle's reverse lay-up gives Southern Illinois a 55-46 lead -- matching its largest advantage of the game -- with 2:22 remaining.

Can Holy Cross, so resilient throughout the night, make one more push to challenge the fourth-seeded Salukis?

Columbus: 'Silient 'Saders

Every time the Salukis have strung a couple baskets together and appeared ready to blow this thing open, Holy Cross has issued a response.

Most recently, Southern Illinois scored seven straight points to open a 38-29 edge. But in the last minute, Pat Doherty has drained a three before Torey Thomas deposited a fast-break lay-up for the Crusaders. Score is 38-34 at the 12-minute media timeout. It's anyone's game.

Columbus: Keith Simmons...

... has scored just three points tonight. The Salukis have done a excellent job limiting the senior's touches throughout the night. Bear in mind: This guy was the consensus Patriot League player of the year.

The Kingston, N.Y., native is 0-for-4 from the floor (0-for-3 from beyond the arc) and 3-for-4 from the stripe.

Columbus: Potent Quotables

Some highlights from the evening session's post-game pressers:

  • "We've got a close-knit group of guys and we've been down before on the road in hostile environments and we got down 10, 12, maybe 14 at one points but I just kind of thought to myself, we're down, but this is March and this is what they tell you about. This is our first experience here, but this is what the madness is, man. And this is us getting our feet wet, but it's a great experience for the first time." Virginia Tech senior forward Coleman Collins on the team's first March experience

  • "We were out there scrapping around. We just had to respond to every basket. It was definitely a physical game. That game is the definition of a team win. It was a great team effort tonight -- we just kept fighting." --Virginia Tech senior guard Zabian Dowdell on his team's victory

  • "[This season] was definitely a struggle. We went through ups and downs but we stayed together and made it to the tournament. As you can tell, we are a good team and we had the talent to get the win, but it's just been the tale of the season. As [head coach Bruce Weber] said, it isn't fair but we kind of put ourselves in that situation and we just couldn't crawl out of it, man, and I just wish things would have gone better because I do love my team. We have some great guys. I wish things would have gone better for myself and my teammates as well, but the ball didn't bounce our way." --Illinois senior forward Warren Carter on his team's season-long struggles

  • "We guard everybody and we know how good [Holy Cross guard Keith Simmons] is, and that was the biggest thing. We really wanted to pressure everybody else and make it hard for them to do their sets that they run for him, but Tony Young was very good defensively for how we want to guard him. Tony's guarded big guys a lot for us throughout his career. We knew he was going to give up five inches but we knew Tony was going to fight and try to make him miserable and get under his skin which I thought he did." --Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery on his team's strategy for defending Patriot League player of the year Keith Simmons

  • "It wasn't. They may have been a little more physical on all of our plays, but me and Troy have been facing defenses like that the whole season. Even in our league, every team would try to focus on us and stop us. I thought I was ready for it. I had a bad day, but I thought Torey [Thomas] played well. That's something we see, we've been seeing it for 30 games." --Holy Cross senior swingman Keith Simmons on whether SIU's defensive approach was different from that of previous opponents

Columbus: Salukis Hold Five at Half

With the score knotted for the sixth time tonight at 19 apiece, the Salukis scored seven straight points -- including a pair of Matt Shaw lay-ups -- to open a 26-19 edge. But Holy Cross went blow for blow with Southern Illinois the rest of the way and closed the scoring with Eric Meister's jumper to enter the locker room trailing 30-25.

Columbus: Meister, Pow!

Holy Cross frosh Eric Meister has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Crusaders early on.

The Boalsburg, Pa., native gave CHC an 11-9 lead with a lay-up at the 10:38 mark. After Jamaal Tatum canned a pair of fouls to tie the score, Meister got three the hard way to put the 'Saders up 14-11. Randal Falker countered with a lay-up for the Salukis but Meister responded again with another lay-up.

In all, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward has scored the last seven points for the Worcester, Mass., school., which holds a 16-13 advantage at the eight-minute mark.

Columbus: Fours Early

At the first media timeout, the Salukis and Crusaders are knotted at four apiece.

These two teams are more similar than different. Both have played at two of the slowest tempos in Division I and both hang their hat on defense. Sometimes a meeting between two sides that play the same way can tell you more about a group than one that presents a contrast of styles.

Columbus: Moving On

Only the Illini's come-from-ahead defeat kept the Big Ten from closing out the first round a perfect 6-0. Take that, John Feinstein.

Next up is Southern Illinois-Holy Cross, a meeting between two of the most heralded non-BCS programs of the 2000s. Most in the building, myself included, are looking forward to the matchup between Holy Cross shooting guard Keith Simmons (the Patriot League player of the year) and Southern Illinois counterpart Jamaal Tatum (who collected Missouri Valley POY honors).

Meanwhile, in one of the more bizarre encounters of the day, a gigantic purple knight just negotiated his way down press row to get to the pep band. I can only deduce that it's the Holy Cross Crusader, who bears a striking resemblance to the hero from the Nintendo classic Wizards and Warriors.

Columbus: Tech-nical Knockout

Fifth-seeded Virginia Tech closed the game with an 11-0 run to secure a stunning 54-52 victory over No. 12-seeded Illinois.

The nightcap between No. 4 seed Southern Illinois and No. 13 seed Holy Cross will tip at 9:52 p.m. ET, with the winner meeting the Hokies on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

For the record, Holy Cross might not have brought the most fans -- but their section has been the most vocal and animated of the four in the building since midway through the first game. And they're about to watch their Crusaders try to secure the NCAA Tournament upset that has eluded three previous Ralph Willard-coached teams (in 2001, 2002 and 2003).

Columbus: Hokies Claw All The Way Back

Virginia Tech has scored 11 unanswered points over the last four minutes to take a 53-52 lead, the team's first since the 8:27 mark of the first half.

The Hokies have held the Illini scoreless since Brian Randle's jumper at the 4:27 mark. The swing has rendered the once-revelatory Illinois fan section mute.

Columbus: Hokies Still Kicking

Deron Washington's three-pointer from the top of the key -- on Jamon Gordon's sixth assist of the night -- has pulled the Hokies within 52-45 with 4:17 remaining in regulation.

The good news: The Hokies have 10 assists on their 13 field goals.

The bad news: The Hokies have made just 13 field goals.

Columbus: Illini Up Double Digits

Illinois led 41-34 when Chester Fraizer's three-pointer fell wayward but Calvin Brock corralled the offensive rebound and Bruce Weber's charges capitalized on the extra possession with Trent Meacham's made trifecta. On their next offensive possession, the Illini extended the lead to 46-34 when Warren Carter put down a jumper with 9:53 remaining in regulation.

Columbus: McFabulous

A.D. Vassallo just broke a four-minute scoring drought with a three-ball to close Tech's deficit to 39-32.

In a low-scoring game where points are coming at a premium, there has been no more important a player to the Illini cause than Rich McBride. The 6-foot-3 senior has connected on 4-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc. His 14 points represent over a third of his side's net offensive output.

Columbus: Getting Technical

Seth Greenberg's vehement objection to a questionable non-call of a backcourt violation just earned the Virginia Tech coach a technical foul. The made foul shots gave Illinois a 33-27 lead.

Meanwhile, the seating section directly to my rear is filling up with purple: the Holy Cross supporters have arrived.

Columbus: Slow and Weird

Slow-paced game unfolding here in Columbus with each side using 32 possessions apiece during the first half. Only three offensive rebounds between the two teams so not a lot of second-chance opportunities. Turnovers and rebounding are pretty even.

Indeed, this one is coming down to the shooting. Virginia Tech has been frigid from the field, putting down just 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) of its attempts from the floor. Illinois has fared significantly better in converting 12-of-25 (48.0 percent) from the floor.

Columbus: Illinois Dodges a Bullet

With Virginia Tech trailing 21-17 with possession, a foul was whistled on Illinois and the call appeared to be against Shaun Pruitt -- which would have been the junior pivotman's third of the night. But the referee signaled for Brian Randle to the protests of Tech coach Seth Greenberg as the Illinois fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, the Illini have put down nine unanswered points over the last five minutes to open a 25-17 lead.

Columbus: Crowd Commentary

Three lead changes since the last media timeout. Rich McBride nailed a three-pointer to put Illinois ahead 16-14, Deron Washington countered with another three to put the Hokies back ahead before McBride struck again from downtown to stake a 19-17 edge for the Illini.

It's my first trip to the Nationwide Arena so I don't have anything to compare tonight against -- it could just be the building's naturally unfavorable acoustics -- but tonight's crowd seems to be a little tame.

Columbus: Z-Trip

Virginia Tech ratted off eight unanswered points over a three-minute span to swing an 11-5 deficit into a three-point lead. Zabian Dowdell contributed six points during the spurt: an old-fashioned three-point play and a plain-old 20-footer. Illinois forward Marcus Arnold ended the run with a lay-up which narrowed the margin to a single point.

Columbus: The Good with the Bad

The good news for the healthy Illinois contingent that made the trip to Columbus tonight: The Illini have put down five of their first eight attempts from the floor to stake a 11-7 lead and draw first blood.

The bad news: 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior Shaun Pruitt -- one of the top post players in the Big Ten this season -- just picked up his second foul.

Columbus: Underway in the Evening Session

No. 5-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 12-seeded Illinois are underway from the Nationwide Bank Arena with the tip going to the Illini. Warren Carter deposits a lay-up to open the scoring: Illinois leads, 2-0.

Columbus: The Numbers Game

A sampling of the staggering numbers that appeared on the Tennessee-Long Beach State box score:

  • Eleven of the 12 participating players on Tennessee's roster recorded a field goal. Altogether, the Volunteers put down 43-of-73 (58.9 percent) of their attempts from the floor.

  • Five Tennessee players logged double figures and three scored 20 points or more. Chris Lofton scored a game-high 25 points while JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith finished with 24 and 22 points, respectively.

  • The Volunteers made 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc.

  • Zero ties and zero lead changes. Tennessee led from wire to wire.

  • My favorite line of the tournament to date has to be Dane Bradshaw's from today: Eight points (on 3-of-3 from the field), four rebounds, 11 assists and a steal.

Columbus: Tanner Gone Wild!

Tanner Wild squared up with four seconds remaining and lofted a 23-foot jumper that snapped through the net.

Three points!

The several hundred Tennessee fans seated behind the team's bench went berserk. After all, Wild -- a seldom-used sophomore reserve -- has logged just a handful of garbage-time minutes in nine games all season long. And those three points were his first of the entire season.

The seemingly meaningless basket -- which closed out the scoring at 121-86 -- had a historical significance as well. Tennessee's scoring total established a school record for points in a single game and were the most points in any NCAA Tournament game since Loyola Marymount hung 149 points on defending national champ Michigan in the second round of the '90 tourney.

Columbus: Potent Quotables

Some highlights from the afternoon session's post-game press conferences:

  • "All week we were excited for this matchup. It's the first time J.R. [Reynolds] and I have ever been to the tournament and we wanted to fill our team with energy and we did that. We knew they had a great player in [Jamar] Wilson but our whole team was better than their whole team today." --Virginia point guard Sean Singletary on how several major media outlets picked Albany to upset the Cavs

  • "No, we definitely weren't overconfident. We watched an awful lot of film on Virginia and have a tremendous amount of respect for them as a team and as a program. The one thing we try to do with our program is keep our guys as loose as possible. We want them to enjoy it. We want them to have fun. I think the last couple of days, everybody started picking Albany as the upset in the South Region over Virginia. And our kids are smart kids, they're in the hotel watching ESPN, watching all these shows, and I think they started thinking and put some pressure on themselves. And when we got down big early, I think they panicked a little bit. I think that's natural with young kids. But we were the 13 seed and we wanted to win in advance -- but we ran into a buzz-saw today." --Albany coach Will Brown on his team's confidence entering the game

  • "I looked at the shot clock and I actually wanted to take the violation. I thought we'd had a shot clock violation had we not shot it by some tenths of a second. In fact, the official was standing right next to me and I yelled, 'Take the shot clock violation!' [But] one of Long Beach's players started to come over and defend a little bit so Tanner kind of dribbled it and shot it. I'm not at all critical of Tanner. I'm actually glad a walk-on, a non-scholarship player, got in the books. But in that situation, the last thing you're looking to do is add to the margin." --Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl on Tanner Wild's bank three-pointer to close the scoring

  • "Chris [Lofton] is a good player. They run a lot of screens for him, he runs off a lot of screens and it's kind of hard to get through all those screens. We tried switching, we tried everything. I mean, he's a great player. You've got to tip your hats off to Tennessee and him." --Long Beach State guard Aaron Nixon on Tennessee's Chris Lofton

Columbus: All About the Benjamins

Duke Crews threw down a ferocious dunk at the 6:39 mark to give Tennessee a 101-78 lead. It's the third time that the high-scoring Vols have cracked the century mark this season.

It's looking more and more like Tennessee vs. Virginia for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday.

Columbus: Running Away With It

Chris Lofton just canned a three-pointer and Duke Crews stuffed home a dunk to extend a 23-6 run that has given the Volunteers command of this game. Tennessee has opened a 78-51 lead with 13:34 remaining in regulation.

Long Beach State is shooting a respectable 42.9 percent (6-for-14) from the floor during the second half but can't seem to keep pace with Tennessee's blistering 62.5 percent clip (on 10-for-16 shooting).

Columbus: The Fast and the Furious

Tennessee-Long Beach State has been the track meet everyone expected with both teams using 40 possessions in the first half. The Volunteers hold a 57-45 advantage at the break with four players -- Chris Lofton (12 points), Ramar Smith (11), Wayne Chism and JaJuan Smith (10 apeice) -- logging double figures.

Kejuan Johnson is pacing the 49ers with 12 points of 4-for-8 from the floor.

Columbus: Niners Chipping Away

The 49ers have ripped off a quick 10-4 run to close a 12-point deficit to 41-35. Kejuan Johnson has contributed six points to the cause: a three-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play.

Columbus: Tennessee Running Ahead

The frenetic pace between Tennessee and Long Beach in the early stages of the afternoon's second game settled down around the first media timeout and the 49ers hanging tough. But Chris Lofton swiped Kejuan Johnson at the 13:58 mark and deposited a lay-up -- then stole the inbounds pass and put down another lay-up to open a 21-10 margin. Four points in four seconds for Lofton and, just like that, the lead was double digits.

By the way, Long Beach State's pep band just earned some serious heady points with its immaculate song choice during the last media timeout: Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" -- appropriate choice for a school a half hour south of L.A.

Columbus: Cavaliers Through

Virginia shot 15-for-28 (53.6 percent) from the floor during the first half and 15-for-28 during the second half to tame Albany, 87-54, and advance to meet the winner of the afternoon's next game: No. 5-seed Tennessee vs. No. 12-seed Long Beach State.

Columbus: No Quit

There's no quit in these Danes, who have used a 10-2 spurt over the last two minutes and change to pull within 64-42. It's not panic time for Virginia just yet -- the Cavaliers could probably go scoreless over the remaining eight minutes and still advance the way Albany has been shooting -- but it's good to see the America East champs show a little pluck in the face of one of their most disappointing outings of the season.

Columbus: Drawing Iron

It's bad enough that the Great Danes could join BAC and build a house with all the bricks they've hoisted from long range -- shooting just 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) from beyond the arc -- but Albany must be approaching a record for missed lay-ups in an NCAA tournament game.

Columbus: The Rout is On

J.R. Reynolds just poured in his 24th, 25th and 26th points with a three-pointer on an assist from Philly native Sean Singletary (his seventh of the contest), prompting Albany coach Will Brown to call a timeout as Virginia's lead has ballooned to 58-30 with 15:37 remaining in regulation. Singletary practically danced his way to the bench with an ear-to-ear grin across his mug while the healthy Cavaliers fan section chanted J.R. Rey-nolds!

Columbus: Conventional Foolishness

The Cavs have staked a 45-25 halftime lead over Albany.

The Danes were a trendy upset pick this year for a number of reasons. First, they returned a number of players -- including America East player of the year Jamar Wilson -- from a conference championship team that pushed top-seeded UConn to the limit in the first round of last year's NCAAs. This year, Will Brown's charges overcame a lackluster start to rally for second place in the league before winning the conference tourney title game over Vermont in Patrick Gymnasium -- a place the Danes had never won a game before.

Then Albany drew Virginia, a team with a roster full of players who had never played in the NCAA Tournament -- and without the dominant post players that tend to give one-bid conference teams trouble in early-round games.

But those who picked the Great Danes (like me) using all that conventional wisdom didn't count on J.R. Reynolds being absolutely unconscious from the field during the first half. The 6-foot-3, 188-pound combo guard has poured in 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting at the break including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. (Virginia's 23-12 edge on the boards doesn't exactly hurt, either.)

Columbus: Albany Pulls Ahead...

...of J.R. Reynolds.

Albany has upped its team total to 21 points while the Roanoke, Va., native has 19.

Virginia continues to add to its advantage heading into the locker rooms, though. The Cavaliers hold a 40-21 edge at the four-minute TV timeout.

Columbus: Danes Tamed Early

J.R. Reynolds 18, Albany 14

While fourth-seeded Virginia hasn't necessarily scored a first-round knockout the No. 13-seeded Great Danes here at Nationwide Arena, the America East champions have hit the canvas several times in the early rounds and are scrapping just to remain within striking distance.

With 8:23 remaining in the first half, Virginia holds a commanding 31-14 lead thanks to a spectacular early-game effort from Reynolds -- the less-heralded half (along with All-ACC first team pick Sean Singletary) of the team's much-ballyhooed backcourt.

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