Sunday’s March Madness: South Carolina Trails Early but Then Rolls

Kentucky became the latest college basketball blue-blood to be eliminated from the NCAA Men’s Tournament in the first weekend.

A day after Duke and reigning champion Kansas were eliminated in the second round, No. 6 seed Kentucky was beaten by Kansas State, 75-69. Although Kansas State was the No. 3 seed, Kentucky had been favored in the game, by 3 points.

Kentucky’s loss mirrored another on Saturday by Duke, which was seeded fifth and lost to No. 4 seed Tennessee by 13, despite odds that reflected its popularity and game support.

Markquis Nowell, Kansas State’s 5-foot-8 point guard, had a brilliant game with 27 points and nine assists, carving up the Kentucky defense with timely passes, big 3-pointers and clutch free throws.

Nowell, a Harlem native, will return home for his next game: Kansas State (24-9) will play in the round of 16 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the winner between No. 2 seed Marquette and No. 7 seed Michigan State .

Ismael Massoud and Florida transfer Keyontae Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Kansas State up 67-62 after trailing by 1. Nowell made six foul shots in the final seconds.

The loss was the latest stinging defeat for Kentucky coach John Calipari, the highest-paid coach in college basketball, and is likely to spur further unrest among the rabid Kentucky fans known as Big Blue Nation.

Calipari led Kentucky to the 2012 national championship and to three other Final Four appearances. But last year, the Wildcats were stunned as a No. 2 seed by No. 15 seed St. Peter’s in the first round, missing the tournament altogether in 2021.

Under first-year coach Jerome Tang, Kansas State has had its first winning season since 2018-19. It last reached the Round of 16 in 2018, under its previous coach, Bruce Weber, who retired after last season.

For Kentucky, Oscar Tshiebwe, the national player of the year last season, was dominant in the paint with 25 points and 18 rebounds, while freshman Cason Wallace recorded 21 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds. – Adam Zagoria

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Second-seeded Iowa and its star shooter, Caitlin Clark, are headed to the women’s Round of 16 after just holding off Georgia in a closely contested game.

The teams traded blows and traded leads nine times, but the Hawkeyes took a lead late in the third quarter that they would not relinquish. Iowa managed enough elbow room in the fourth quarter to hold off the Bulldogs, 74-66, although they pulled within 2 with just over 2 minutes left on Audrey Warren’s 3-pointer, her only basket of the game.

From there, Clark spent much of the rest of the game trying to weave between Georgia defenders as they tried to foul her, hitting the floor multiple times. Clark hit a jumper and four free throws in the final minute, perhaps her most important moment in a game in which she never left the floor and had 22 points and 12 assists despite shooting just 35 percent.

Georgia, which hasn’t reached the Round of 16 since 2013, tried to stifle Clark with quick defense, which caught the Hawkeyes off guard for much of the first half. Diamond Battles kept things close with outside shooting and finished with 21 points.

Still, there was no match for Clark’s wizardry and ball control, especially in the closing minutes.

The Hawkeyes will face the winner between Duke and Colorado, which plays Monday night, Friday in Seattle. — Remy Tumin

For some early moments, it looked like women’s college basketball was in for a seismic upset.

South Carolina, the No. 1 overall seed and the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA Tournament, trailed eighth-seeded South Florida, 16-12, after one quarter. The Gamecocks hit less than 36 percent of their shots and had committed five turnovers. South Florida played like it wasn’t afraid of the reigning champion.

But the game is 40 minutes, not 10.

After the rocky start, more of South Carolina’s shots began to fall, and the Gamecocks significantly increased the defensive pressure on the Bulls. South Carolina led by 4 points at halftime and hit the gas in the second half, running away with the 76-45 victory.

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Forward Aliyah Boston said in a televised interview after the game that the slow start was a product of South Florida’s defensive intensity.

“We were just trying to figure them out a little bit,” she said.

And they did. South Carolina moved the ball freely in the second half and committed just four turnovers, while South Florida was held to just 7 points in the third quarter and 9 in the fourth.

Elena Tsineke led the early charge for South Florida with 7 points in the first. She finished with a team-high 20.

Guard Zia Cooke paced South Carolina with 21 points. Boston added 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 81st career double-double. The team’s depth was also on display, with 14 players hitting the floor and 11 of them scoring.

The Gamecocks pushed their record to 34-0 and will play in the Round of 16 for the ninth consecutive tournament. — Sarah Ziegler

One element of the NCAA Tournament that emerges with so many teams playing simultaneously and in quick succession: No program wants to end up as a cautionary tale in their bracket, and sometimes a team takes that feeling out on its opponent.

That’s how No. 3 seed Xavier approached Pittsburgh, a No. 11 seed that had entered Sunday’s matchup looking like it had a new mandate after sneaking into the field, then winning a play-in- game and dispatched Iowa State with ease in the first round.

In the end, it was just fodder for the Musketeers, who were rattled by Kennesaw State in a first-round game early Friday afternoon and watched over the next 48 hours as so many big programs — Purdue, Duke, Kansas — faltered.

They took it out on the Panthers, running up the score by playing well down low, passing skillfully and steeling themselves for a run, much like a tennis or boxing mismatch where one side wants to dominate by outright rattling and outmaneuvering the opponent.

So when Pitt had its one good run late, to get within 8 points with less than two minutes left, it was too little too late to stop Xavier from advancing to the Round of 16, 84-73, looking strong while he was doing it. — Oskar Garcia

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Men’s tournament

19:45, TruTV

Following Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunning upset of No. 1 seed Purdue, we’ve been soaking up information on the Teaneck, NJ school. The Knights won just four games last season and did not win the conference tournament this year; they needed to win a First Four game before they even had a chance to face Purdue; they’re the shortest team in Division I. But regardless: FDU owns the second win by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed in men’s tournament history, and now has a chance to go further than any 16 seed ever has. Standing in the way is Florida Atlantic, which survived a back-and-forth game against Memphis by hitting the go-ahead basket with 2.5 seconds left.

Women’s tournament

7 p.m., ESPN2

Princeton needed nearly every second of Friday’s game to pull off the upset. The Tigers got a 3-pointer from Grace Stone with 4.7 seconds left to complete the comeback win over seventh-seeded North Carolina State, which was held scoreless for the final 5:43 of the game. Princeton has reached the Round of 32 for the second year in a row. It will face Utah, which hit the century mark Friday in a 103-77 win over Gardner-Webb. The Utes were led by forward Alissa Pilis’ 33 points, a career high for the Southern California transfer.

7:30 p.m., ESPN

It took some time for LSU to play offensively in its 73-50 win over 14th-seeded Hawaii on Friday, but even cold shooting couldn’t slow down the Tigers. Forward Angel Reese scored 34 points and added 15 rebounds for his 29th double-double of the season. Michigan was hot out of the gate in its first-round matchup against UNLV, leading 17-9 after the first quarter. Forward Emily Kiser and guard Maddie Nolan each had 18 points for the Wolverines, while guard Leigha Brown delivered 17.

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