10 Conference Champions Added to NCAA Field
Texas Tech and Cincinnati, ranked seventh and eighth respectively, figured all along they’d be headed to the NCAA tournament. But Texas and Marquette just didn’t make it easy for them to get there.
The Red Raiders and Bearcats earned automatic berths Saturday by winning their conference championships, leading 10 more schools into the 64-team field. Both survived close calls, Texas Tech edging Texas 75-73 for the final Southwest Conference championship and Cincinnati nipping No. 21 Marquette 85-84 for the first Conference USA crown.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Purdue’s bid for one of the NCAA tournament’s top seeds was jolted in the final game of the Big Ten season when No. 19 Iowa ended the Boilermakers’ 11-game winning streak 56-52. Jess Settles scored 18 points and Andre Woolridge added 13 for Iowa (22-8, 11-7 Big Ten). Purdue (25-5, 15-3) shot just 38.5 percent.
No. 7 Texas Tech 75, Texas 73
Cory Carr scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, and Jason Sasser had 24 as Texas Tech (28-1) won its 21st straight. The Red Raiders rallied to defeat Texas in the final game for the SWC, which is closing down after this season. Texas’ Reggie Freeman scored 32 points, and hit seven 3-pointers, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 3.2 seconds left.
No. 8 Cincinnati 85, No. 21 Marquette 84
Darnell Burton’s basket with 40.5 seconds left in overtime moved Cincinnati (25-4) past Marquette for the Conference USA tournament championship. Damon Flint followed with two free throws to make it 85-81 with 16.1 seconds left. But Marquette (22-7) didn’t go easily, and Aaron Hutchins, who had 29 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds to go. Cincinnati got the ball inbounds and ran out the clock for the victory.
Eastern Michigan (24-5) earned its ticket to the tournament by defeating Toledo 77-63 for the Mid-American Conference championship as Brad Tolbert scored 10 of his 21 points during a decisive 13-2 second-half run.
Northeast Louisiana 71, North Texas 60
Nick Dillon’s 17 points led four players in double figures Saturday as Northeast Louisiana (16-13) won the Southland Conference tournament and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
No. 1 Kentucky 95, Arkansas 75
The top-ranked Wildcats (28-1) continued their march to a perfect SEC season winning their 27th straight game in the SEC semifinals. Antoine Walker led Kentucky with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Walter McCarty scored 17, Tony Delk 14 and Ron Mercer 11. Kentucky had a 52-36 edge on the boards.
No. 25 Mississippi St. 86, Georgia 68
Darryl Wilson scored 21 points to lead four players in double figures as Mississippi State (21-9) reached the SEC championship game for the first time since 1933. State lost that first-ever SEC championship to Kentucky, and the same teams will play on Sunday in the Superdome.
No. 18 Georgia Tech 84, Maryland 79
Top-seeded Tech (22-10) ran its ACC winning streak to nine games, tying a school record, and moved into the tournament semifinals on some hot 3-point shooting. The Yellow Jackets converted nine of 14 3-point attempts, four of them in the first half by Mike Maddox. Matt Harpring led Georgia Tech with 24.
No. 12 Wake Forest 68, Clemson 60
Tim Duncan’s 22 points and 19 rebounds carried defending champion Wake Forest (22-5) past Clemson and into the ACC title game. The Demon Deacons will be seeking consecutive conference titles for the first time in 14 years.
No. 5 Kansas 61, Kansas St. 55
Raef LaFrentz led Kansas past K-State in the semifinals of the Big Eight tournament, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. The Jayhawks (26-3) scored only two points in the last 3:42, but held on for an eighth straight victory against State.
No. 23 Iowa St. 57, Missouri 53
Dedric Willoughby scored 25 points, including two free throws with 21 seconds left that pushed Iowa State past Missouri in the Big Eight semifinals. The Cyclones meet No. 5 Kansas for the final title in the conference which is closing down after this season.
No. 16 Penn St. 86, Ohio St. 70
The Nittany Lions (21-6, 12-6) ended a two-game losing streak as Glenn Sekunda scored 21 points.