Even though many acknowledged that the Cornell Big Red were underseeded in the aftermath of Selection Sunday, it was still a toss-up in regards to whether or not they would beat Temple. But in a game matching mentor (Fran Dunphy) and one-time assistant (Steve Donahue), it was Coach Donahue's team that took control of the game for good in the second half via the three-point shot (Ryan Wittman) on their way to the 78-65 win in Jacksonville. It was the first win for the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament since 1998 (Princeton), and more amazingly the first win for an Ancient Eight team not named Penn or Princeton in more that forty years.
Louis Dale led three Cornell players in double figures with 21 points and as a team the Big Red shot 56.3% from the field (72% on two-point shots). And when they weren't scoring from the field Cornell was doing so from the foul line, making fifteen of nineteen foul shots to just nine (making six) for the Owls. And while Cornell was very good offensively their defense shouldn't be overlooked. The Big Red alternated between man to man, 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones in order to keep Temple from getting the ball into the paint.
"I think when we're playing good defense, we're playing aggressively," said Wittman. "You know, I think when we struggle on the defensive end, it's because we're too passive. But in terms of getting on their guards and being aggressive, if you let guys like Fernandez feel comfortable, they're extremely good, not only making plays for themselves but making plays for others. I think it was just a matter of trying to make them feel uncomfortable."
Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez scored 14 points apiece but despite shooting 51.9% from the field the Owls could do little to put a dent in Cornell's lead early in the second half. Temple would go down and score...only to watch the Big Red do the same and after a while that began to weigh on the Atlantic 10 champions. "We just could never get over the hump," said Temple head coach Fran Dunphy. "Every time they needed a big basket they got it." That's what awaits Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon; Cornell's an experienced team that seems to be making up for the missed opportunities of their prior two trips to the NCAA Tournament. And that can make for an even more dangerous opponent.
Buffalo: Missouri picks up their 5th straight first round win. Going into their game against Clemson conventional wisdom was that Missouri would struggle with Clemson's size, especially that of senior Trevor Booker. But on this day even Booker was no match for "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball", a style that forced 20 turnovers (every Clemson player who saw time had at least one) and limited the big man to 11 points (5-11 FG) and 11 rebounds on the afternoon. Missouri scored 20 points off of those turnovers and outscored Clemson 42-28 in the paint thanks in large part to Keith Ramsey, who scored 20 points while also defending Booker on the other end of the floor.
"He [Ramsey] really put his stamp on the game," said J.T. Tiller. "Just being able to guard one of the best players in the ACC and hold him to 11 points, that says something about his effort. That says something about his pride, his integrity and his character." With Ramsey doing the job on Booker and both David Potter and Demontez Stitt being saddled with foul trouble, Clemson would have been in serious trouble if not for their three-point shooting (12-24) and Andre Young. Young scored 19 points for the game, getting 12 of those in the first half. But when you turn the ball over, especially in the way of live-ball turnovers, you're going to be in trouble against a team like Missouri. Mike Anderson's team is more than capable of using their defense to upset West Virginia on Sunday.
Jacksonville: Cal jumps Louisville and moves on to face Duke. As much as talent and matchups have to do with games this time of the year, the simple act of showing up ready to play can go a long way in determining which team is going home. Such was the case in the final game of the night in Jacksonville, as California got out to leads of 12-0, 22-4 and 30-12 in the first half of their game against Louisville. And while the Cardinals were able to close to within six before the half was over, Jerome Randle provided the first dagger with a runner from three-point territory as time expired to give the Golden Bears a 41-30 halftime lead. The second half provided much of the same as the Cal backcourt found open looks against the Cardinals' pressure, keeping Louisville at bay in what would eventually be a 77-62 victory.
Randle and Theo Robertson scored 21 points apiece while Patrick Christopher added 17, and Cal shot 51% from the field (53.3% from three) and assisted on seventeen of their twenty-six field goals. Instead of passing the ball around simply to get the ball across halfcourt against Louisville's pressure, Cal attacked it for good looks at the basket and trips to the foul line. Rakeem Buckles led Louisville with 20 points while Samardo Samuels added 16, but they were done in once Edgar Sosa picked up his third foul in the first half. The four starters outside of Samuels all struggled from the field and you cannot beat Cal that way unless they're cold as well. No such luck, and as a result Mike Montgomery and company get their shot at Duke on Sunday.
Milwaukee: Does Georgia Tech have a run left in them? The talent is definitely there, and despite giving up 16 points off of turnovers the Yellow Jackets did enough to beat Oklahoma State 64-59. The key: their defense on Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson, who scored 11 points while shooting just 3-for-12 from the field. Obi Muonelo wasn't much better for the Cowboys, making just four of eleven shots on his way to ten points. Meanwhile all seven Georgia Tech players who scored finished with at least six points with Gani Lawal (14 points) and Derrick Favors (12 points) leading the way. Georgia Tech, who struggled from the foul line during the regular season, even made twenty-four of twenty-five from the charity stripe. But it was their defense that earned them a date with Ohio State.
"I thought our guys did an outstanding defensive job, and that's even with giving up 50 percent from the floor," said head coach Paul Hewitt. "I thought our guys were tremendous defensively taking them out of some of their pet plays. And after playing against a guy like Anderson, who is clearly one of the top five players in the country, I thought we stayed really disciplined defensively." Next up: probable National Player of the Year Evan Turner, who will be just as much of a challenge for Georgia Tech (if not more) than Anderson. Despite their struggles during the regular season the Yellow Jackets have the physical ability to win more games in March; if they can make smart decisions on both ends of the floor look out.
Spokane: If Purdue's going to have an extended Tournament stay Keaton Grant will be key. Siena was the trendy upset pick heading into the NCAA Tournament, with most people citing Purdue's recent offensive struggles in light of Robbie Hummel being lost for the remainder of the season. Coming out of the locker room to start the second half down 32-29 the Boilermakers needed an offensive spark. And they got just that from senior Keaton Grant, who knocked down some big three-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half. scored all eleven of his points in that barrage while JaJuan Johnson led the way with 23 points and 15 rebounds in a 72-64 victory. For a player who scored just five points combined in Purdue's two games prior this could be the spark that Grant needs to be a consistent scorer in the Tournament.
"They got some run outs and then they started hitting some shots, primarily Grant, and he's done that; it's not like we weren't expecting him to do that," said Siena head coach Fran McCaffery. Lewis Jackson also made key baskets early in the second half while Chris Kramer did a good job of defending Alex Franklin. The Saints were without Clarence Jackson (sprained ankle) and the impact was noticeable on the offensive end; just like the Boilermakers replacing a player the caliber of Jackson is tough to do. "They lost a very good player and they're a little bit short handed, but obviously that's part of the game," said Purdue head coach Matt Painter. "But they're a good team. They are a very good team." If Purdue is to prove folks wrong they'll need Keaton Grant to produce offensively.
Buffalo: Missouri 86, Clemson 78 See above.
Jacksonville: Wisconsin 53, Wofford 49 In a game featuring similar styles the Badgers were able to survive the Terriers to move on to the second round in the East Region. Jon Leuer (20 points, eight rebounds) made a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds remaining to seal Wofford's fate. Jamar Diggs led the Terriers with 13 points.
Milwaukee: Georgia Tech 64, Oklahoma State 59 See above.
Spokane: Michigan State 70, New Mexico State 67 This one ended with a little controversy but the issue should have been regarding the officials not putting time back on the clock with three-tenths of a second remaining instead of the lane violation called on Troy Gillenwater. Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 25 points while Gillenwater paced the Aggies with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Buffalo: F Keith Ramsey (Missouri) 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Missouri's win over Clemson.
Jacksonville: F Kyle Singler (Duke) 22 points and 10 rebounds in the Blue Devils' 73-44 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Milwaukee: G Jordan Crawford (Xavier) 28 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Musketeers' 65-54 win over Minnesota.
Spokane: F Jordan Williams (Maryland) 21 points and 17 rebounds in the Terrapins' 89-77 win over Houston.
2)West Virginia 77, 15)Morgan State 50
10)Missouri 86, 7)Clemson 78
12)Cornell 78, 5)Temple 65
4)Wisconsin 53, 13)Wofford 49
10)Georgia Tech 64, 7)Oklahoma State 59
2)Ohio State 68, UC-Santa Barbara 51
5)Michigan State 70, 12)New Mexico State 67
4)Maryland 89, 13)Houston 77
4)Purdue 72, 13)Siena 64
5)Texas A&M 69, 12)Utah State 53
1)Duke 73, 16)Arkansas-Pine Bluff 44
8)California 77, 9)Louisville 62
6)Xavier 65, 11)Minnesota 54
3)Pittsburgh 89, 14)Oakland 66
8)Gonzaga 67, 9)Florida State 60
1)Syracuse 79, 16)Vermont 56