Michigan State and Marquette fall, Syracuse survives, Ohio State late blitz

Sparty and the Golden Eagles can’t score, Orange survive 14 Wisky threes, Buckeyes big final ten minutes

The first half of the Swell 16 is in the books and the first No.1 seed has fallen as Michigan State was sent home by Louisville 57-44. The Spartans and Cards figured to be a low scoring game and that was the case as Michigane State shot just 29% (14-49) from the field while Louisville was not much better going 38% (21-55) but 9-23 from downtown. The hero for the Cards was Gorgui Dieng who blocked seven shots and altered several more. Rick Pitino is now 10-0 in Swell 16 games and will face former player and assistant Billy Donovan in the West Regional final.

Donovan’s Florida Gators overcame an early 7-2 deficit, cruising to a 68-58 win over Marquette. The Golden Eagles were 20-65 (30%) from the field and their 58 points their second lowest production this year. Bradley Beal scored 21 points on 8-10 shooting for the winners. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, the Eagles top scorers, had 15 and 14 respectively but went a combined 10-30 from the floor.

If you told Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan that his Badgers would shoot 14-27 from beyond the arc and committ just six turnovers for the game, he probably would have told you that the Badgers would have won. Right ??? Not on Thursday as Syracuse shot 55% from the field, outscoring Wisky 31-10 in the paint. Live by the three, die by the three … Wisconsin missed their last five trifectas. Syracuse advances to the Elegant Eight for the first time since the championship 2003 team. The Orangemen will Ohio State in the East Regional final.

The Buckeyes led by 12 at half, trailed Cincinnati by one with 10 minutes left, but blew out the Bearcats the rest on the way to cruise to an 81-66 win.Deshaun Thomas has been Ohio State’s go to guy down the stretch he didn’t disappoint on Thursday with 26 points. Jared Sullinger added 23/11 and limited Cinn’s big man Yancey Gated to just seven points and five rebounds. Buckeye defensive specialist Aaron Craft had a school record six steals.

Four more teams will advance to the Elegant Eight tonight as The Big Dance is down to just 11 games. The action tips tonight at 7:17 PM EST in Atlanta with No.3 Baylor facing No.10 Xaviers. The Bears are 6.5 point favorites and the total is 142. About 30 minutes after that game ends, No.1 Kentucky takes on No.4 Indiana in The Rematch. The Hoosiers handed the Wilcats a 73-72 loss back on December 10th on a long three at the buzzers. Tonight, KU gives 9.5 and the total is 147 1/2.

In the Midwest, No.1 North Carolina meets this year’s tournament Cinderella Ohio. The No.13 Bobcats have won 10 of 11 and are second in the country in forcing turnovers. Tonight, they’ll face an injury riddled Tar Heel team with just one healthy point-guard. UNC is still favored by 10.5 and the total is 143. The winner faces the winner of upstart No.11 seeded North Carolina State and the Kansas Jayhawks. The Rock Chalks are favored by eight and the total is 142. Kansas is 11-1 in it’s L12 with five wins vs Top 40 but the Wolfpack is playing with house money and nothing to lose.

In the NBA … Hornets spoil the return of CP3, Jefferson put back leads Jazz

The New Orleans Hornets snapped a five-game home losing streak by outscoring the Clippers 21-11 in the 4th quarter enroute to a 97-90 win. LA shot just 4-23 from the field in the final stanza and missed 19 threes for the game. Chris Paul was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers in his first trip back to New Orleans. The Clippers have lost three straight and things are starting to get hot for coach Vinny Del Negro. Al Jefferson’s put back with 0:9 seconds left in the game led Utah to a 103-102 win over the Kings. The Jazz almost blew a 14-point second half lead until Jefferson saved the bacon. Boston beat Milwaukee 100-91 in Monta Ellis’ Bucks debut. Milwaukee fell out of the eighth and final playoff spot behind the Knicks. Indiana, Houston, and Portland were the other winners on the abbreviated six game card.

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