Early Exit For Favorites In NCAA’s Round 16

By Bryan Mongeau-Eastmond, staff writer

GLENDALE, Ariz.(RPRN)3/28/09-The Sweet 16 is off and running with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line in the NCAA College basketball tournament.

Tigers vs Tigers in the semi finals of the West Regional

Missouri, better known as the “Show-Me” state, certainly showed up at the University of Phoenix Stadium and proved that they were no match for second-seeded Memphis.

“We came out and took the fight to Memphis early on and got some confidence in ourselves,” said Missouri coach Mike Anderson after his team won 102-91, earning a spot in the Elite 8.

From tipoff, it was obvious that this night would belong to Missouri (31-6) and point guard J.T. Tiller.

Tiller had a career performance even before the first half was over and his confidence grew with every minute. He finished with a career-high 23 points (15 more than his season average).

Tiller, who was named the Big 12 defensive player of the year, showed another dimension to his play by driving towards the basket without hesitation. He was rewarded with some easy points in traffic.

Missouri were relentless in their attack and kept Memphis’ highly rated defense on its heels and banked in 49 points at the half.

“They were even better than I thought, said Memphis coach John Calipari. “No one has done this to us before.”

The loss ended Memphis’ 27-game wining streak. Tyreke Evans put in a solid performance for Memphis and scored 33 points in a losing effort.

Missouri advances to play top-seeded Connecticut for the West title on Saturday.

Shot of the game:Mizzou freshman Marcus Denman ¾ court buzzer beater before halftime.

Fields, Pitt hold off Xavier

Winning ugly have been staples of the top-seeded Pitt throughout the entire NCAA tournament. Merely winning its two first games, expectations were high for this ball club against Xavier.

Supporters will get another chance to see Pitt (31-4) play at a high level that all are accustomed to seeing, as they make the trip to the Elite 8 after defeating Xavier 60-55 on Thursday night in a grind it out type of ball game.

Neither team was spectacular in this one and both squads struggled averaging just over 30 percent from the floor. Credit that to a combination of good defense and poor shooting.

Throughout this entire tournament, Pitt have seemed tense and they have yet to assert themselves as an elite team. Although, they are far from living up to the hype, Levance Fields and DeJuan Blair did show signs of brilliance with the game on the line.

“We’re a confident group,” Fields said. “We haven’t played our best basketball, but the good thing is we’ve found a way to make plays when we’ve needed them.”
Fields did, scoring 14 points, while Blair had 10 points and 17 rebounds. Trailing 37-29 at halftime, both players got to work and Pitt scored the first nine points of the second half as the Panthers took a 38-37 lead.

The turning point of the game came when Pitt trailed 54-52. “Give Levance the ball,” Big East co-player of the year Blair said with a laugh. He was right. Fields connected from downtown to put his team up by one.

Shortly after Blair poked the ball away from Xavier’s B.J. Raymond and Fields scored on an easy layup with time expiring. Pitt plays Saturday against Villanova for a berth in the Final Four.

Other scores from the NCAA tournament

Perdue #5 60
Connecticut #1 72

Players of the Game
PUR – R. Hummel (Pts:17, Reb:5, Ast:1)
CT – H. Thabeet (Pts:15, Reb:15, Ast:0)

Duke #2 54
Villanova #3 77

Players of the Game
NOVA – D. Cunningham (Pts:14, Reb:11, Ast:0)
DUKE – K. Singler (Pts:15, Reb:6, Ast:1)

Photo courtesy of the NCAA

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