Big Fun

It’s time to let the fun commence as three of the four No. 1 seeded teams in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament reached the Sweet 16 after this past weekend’s games.

Louisville (31-5) is the No. 1 overall seed and smothered No. 8 Colorado State, 82-56, in the Midwest Regional behind junior shooting guard Russ Smith’s game-high 27 points on Saturday, while Indiana edged Temple, 58-52, in the East Regional, and Kansas used a 49-point second half to fend off North Carolina, 70-58, in the South Regional on Sunday.

Gonzaga (32-3) was the only casualty when it fell to No. 9 Wichita State, 76-70, in the West Regional on Saturday.

No shot was bigger than Victor Oladipo’s three-point dagger from the top of the key with 14 seconds left which gave the Hoosiers a 56-52 lead.

“I had to make that shot,’’ said Oladipo, a junior shooting guard who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. “Coach [Tom] Crean has confidence in me.”

Temple senior shooting guard Khalif Wyatt did everything in his power to save the day.

Wyatt was coming off a 31-point outing in a 76-72 win over No. 8 North Carolina State, and he duplicated the total against Indiana after pouring in 20 first-half points as the Owls (24-10) led, 29-26.

When junior small forward Will Sheehey (10 points) nailed one of two free throws with 11:09 showing, the Hoosiers (29-6) pulled ahead 18-9, but with Wyatt’s help, No. 9 Temple outscored Indiana, 20-8, to close out the half.

“We had some good looks at the end, but Oladipo made that shot,’’ said Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy.

The Owls led 33-28 with 15:40 left, and were ahead 43-40 with 7:15 remaining on the clock before the Hoosiers went on an 18-9 spurt to end the game, and a 10-0 run over the final two minutes and 56 seconds.

“Temple is one of the most physical and mentally tough teams we’ve played,’’ said Crean, “and we play in the Big Ten, which I think is the best conference.”

It seemed the Jayhawks, who had 12 turnovers in the opening half, were playing in quicksand against the No. 8 Tar Heels, who pulled in front 25-17 on a basket from sophomore shooting guard P. J. Hairston (15 points and nine rebounds) and 2:06 left, then led 28-19 on a three-pointer from freshman point guard Marcus Paige (nine points with five steals), and finished the 20-minute stanza on a 14-4 spurt for a 30-21 lead.

When Kansas (31-5) walked onto the floor for the second half, it’s as though a switch was turned on as senior shooting guard Travis Releford (game-best 22 points and eight caroms), senior center Jeff Withey (16 points and 16 boards) and senior power forward Kevin Young (10 points with nine rebounds) all decided to go to work.

Releford’s follow up hoop and 16:05 remaining sliced North Carolina’s cushion to 33-32, while a trey from senior shooting guard Elijah Johnson (five points) tied it at 35-35.

From there, Kansas outscored the Tar Heels, 12-3, with Releford’s basket and 11:38 left giving the Jayhawks a 47-38 lead.

It swelled to 54-40 on Young’s hoop as 8:35 was left, but Hairston’s trey with 2:31 showing drew North Carolina (25-11) within 63-52.

Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at richsports5@sbcglobal.net.

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