Temple-Penn State thriller tops Tucson action
Friday, March 18, 2011
A thriller between faraway in-state foes Temple and Penn State got the NCAA tournament action in Tucson off to a rousing start.
The rest of the day was, well, predictable.
Juan Fernandez sank an off-balance 18-footer with less than a second to play to give the Owls a wild 66-64 victory over Penn State and end coach Fran Dunphy's NCAA tournament record 11-game losing streak.
The awkward winning shot came after Talor Battle sank a game-tying 3-pointer from so far away that Reggie Miller, helping with the telecast, had to have been impressed.
The higher-seeded team won all four games at McKale Center.
The seventh-seeded Owls (26-7) advanced to Saturday's third-round matchup in the West Region against No. 2 seed San Diego State (33-2), a 68-50 winner over Northern Colorado on Thursday.
Saturday's second game sends No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8) against fifth-seeded Kansas State (23-10).
Wisconsin methodically dispatched No. 13 seed Belmont 72-58 and Kansas State held off No. 12 seed Utah State 73-68 in Thursday's evening session, part of the Southeast Region.
Fernandez's heroics, a shot off his right foot as he faded to the left with 0.4 seconds to play, ended a classic second-half that saw 10 lead changes with neither team ahead by more than four points.
Fernandez and Ramone Moore scored 23 points apiece for the Owls, who were so happy to end the drought for their coach, one of the most respected in the business.
"I think it's just something we wanted to get off our back and just get the win for Coach Dunphy," Moore said, "because he is a great coach who deserves it."
Battle, the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten, finished his college career with a 23-point performance, with his last basket one that, for an instant, brought the Nittany Lions even.
"That's what he's done his whole career," coach Ed DeChellis said. "He is just a great kid, a very competitive person."
DeChellis had Penn State in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years.
Northern Colorado, a No. 15 seed in the West, stayed with heavily favored San Diego State for a while but the bigger Aztecs eventually overpowered the Bears and their feisty leader Devon Beitzel for their first NCAA tournament victory.
The Aztecs, patiently groomed to an elite status over a dozen seasons by coach Steve Fisher, expect much more before the season is finished.
"This is a win for everybody that's been associated with San Diego State," Steve Fisher said. "And I need to go beyond our 12 years, for everybody that's put on a San Diego State uniform or walked the halls there. We've got a lot of proud Aztecs today."
Kawli Leonard had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Chase Tapley scored 14 and Billy White had 12 points and 13 rebounds. James Rahon also scored 12, including a couple of timely 3-pointers.
"We had four guys in double figures," San Diego State's D.J. Gay said. "This is our team in a nutshell. We can win on the inside. We can win on the outside."
Beitzel, who brushes off comparisons to BYU's scoring machine Jimmer Fredette, scored 25 points, including 6 of 10 3-pointers.
Wisconsin methodically dominated Belmont, mixing its patient ball-control style with the 3-point accuracy that eluded the Badgers in their previous outing, a 36-33 loss to Penn State that was the lowest-scoring game in the history of the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers made 2 of 21 3-pointers in that game. They were 12 of 22 on Thursday night.
"I never stopped believing in the team. There was never any doubts there," said coach Bo Ryan, who has brought Wisconsin to the NCAA tournament each of his 10 seasons there and has won the opener in nine of them. "It's about what they can accomplish is the job of a teacher, a coach, a parent. You put young people in positions, you try to give them what you can."
Kansas State frustrated Utah State with its size and pressure defense early, building a lead that held up throughout.
"We had just a really tough stretch in the first half where we just didn't function very well," Utah State coach Stu Morrill said. "They took us out of everything we were trying to do with their pressure and their athleticism. It's something we were concerned about. Other than about a 6 or 7-minute stretch in that first half, it was a pretty competitive game."
Jacob Pullen, who said he had a 100-degree-plus fever on Wednesday but felt fine on Thursday, led the Jayhawks with 22 points. Tai Wesley overcame first-half foul trouble to score 17 for the Aggies.
Now comes an early tournament matchup of big teams from power conferences in Wisconsin and Kansas State.
"For us, it's about trying to speed them up and getting them to play our style of basketball," said Pullen, who will be matched up against the prolific Taylor, "and containing him off the dribble and really just imposing our will."
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