Saturday, April 5, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 9

Connecticut 63 - Florida 53
UConn's guard play is simply much better than everyone else's. The Huskies attack you with their guards on the offensive end, getting into the paint with relative ease. Then on the defensive end they harass your guards into turnovers, bad shots, and frustration. Lots and lots of frustration. 

Florida held teams under 40% shooting for the season. Connecticut shot over 55% for this game. But that includes the first 10 minutes of the game where the Huskies scored all of 4 points while turning the ball over 6 times. But then something clicked, as UConn immediately went on a 17-2 run on their way to taking a 25-22 halftime lead. 

After that Florida could never get back even, because they couldn't put successful offensive possessions together. A team that gobbled up assists and eschewed turnovers all season long went the other way today, with only 3 assists and 11 turnovers tonight. 

Kentucky 74 - Wisconsin 73
Wow. What. A. Game.

Kentucky overwhelms you with their size inside, and they did, out-rebounding Wisconsin 32-27 (inlcuding an 11-6 edge in offensive rebounds). That size also allowed the Wildcats to shoot 50% from the field, mainly because the bulk of their shots came from inside the paint.

Wisconsin spaces you out (all 5 of their starters can make threes), which forces the defense to either stay home on the long-range shots and give up some easy drives, or collapse on the drives and yield open threes. The Badgers hit 8/20 from downtown, allowing them to stay in the game while losing the turnover battle 8-4 and with Kentucky hitting 50% from the field.

This game came down to the final 3 possessions:

Possession 1 (71-71, 0:52 remaining)
Wisconsin sets up their offense, but Kentucky's defense is equal to the task. Finally point guard Traevon Jackson gets the ball with the shot clock winding down, pump fakes with 3 seconds left to shoot, and he gets his defender in the air, draws contact on his shot, and earns 3 free throws. Jackson makes 2/3, which includes the first (and only) Wisconsin free throw miss on the night on 20 attempts.

Possession 2 (73-71 UW, 0:16 remaining)
Aaron Harrison gets the ball on the wing, far behind the three-point arc. This is the guy who beat Louisville (Sweet 16) and Michigan (Elite 8) with three-pointers in the final minute. But Kentucky is just 1-for-4 on threes tonight.

So Harrison takes the loooong three...and drains it.

Possession 3 (74-73 UK, 0:05.7 remaining)
Jackson drives the ball into the frontcourt, releases an attempted bank-shot at the buzzer, and he misses it. A good look, he just wasn't able to make it.

And so we end up with a 7-seed playing an 8-seed for the national championship, because of course we do. 

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