All the talk leading up to the West Coast Conference final between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's focused on how much the Gaels would need this victory. Anywhere from "they're fine without it" to "they're in trouble with a loss" depending on which bracketologist you happened to be listening to at that particular moment. But at the end of the game at Orleans Arena there was a rather emphatic message from Randy Bennett's team:
Save that bubble talk for someone else.
Northern Iowa became the fifth team to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, beating Wichita State 67-52 to win their second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference tournament title. Trailing by three at the half, Ben Jacobson's Panthers outscored the Shockers 39-21 in the second half, holding Wichita State to 23.1% shooting in the final twenty minutes. Kwadzo Ahelegbe led the way with 24 points while Jake Koch added 13 off the bench. Koch's performance highlighted a solid effort from the UNI reserves, who helped spark the decisive 23-3 run.
Northern Iowa 71, Old Dominion 62
The Panthers won their second straight without center Jordan Egleseder, knocking off the Monarch in Cedar Falls behind a 23-point night from Ali Farokhmanesh. Farokhmanesh hit five of nine shots from behind the arc and Kwadzo Ahelegbe added ten points. Gerald Lee led the Monarchs with 19 points but it wasn't enough to prevent ODU's first loss in the BracketBusters event.
Iona 69, William & Mary 53
Jay Wright's Wildcats didn't look their best on Saturday afternoon, falling behind big early on their way to a 103-90 loss at Georgetown. But something changed between that loss at Monday night, with youngsters playing with poise and the Wildcats taking better care of the basketball, and the end result was an 82-75 win over West Virginia to move into a tie for first place in the Big East. In the first half nine different players scored for Villanova with senior Scottie Reynolds being limited by the defense of Devin Ebanks.
In order to enjoy success against the top-ranked Texas Longhorns you have to hold your own on the boards. Kansas State, hosting their first matchup of Top 10 teams in school history, may lack in sheer bulk when compared to the Longhorn front line but they had to match (or exceed) the intensity of the visitors if they were to pull off the upset. And thanks to Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly they did just that, leading the way in the Wildcats' 71-62 win in Manhattan.
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