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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Kansas, the reigning Champion, is out. But Princeton made the Sweet 16

March 18, 2023 Updated Sat., March 18, 2023 at 9:54 p.m.

Princeton forward Tosan Evbuomwan passes around Missouri’s DeAndre Gholston (4) and Noah Carter during their NCAA Tournament game Saturday in Sacramento, Calif.  (Tribune News Service)
Princeton forward Tosan Evbuomwan passes around Missouri’s DeAndre Gholston (4) and Noah Carter during their NCAA Tournament game Saturday in Sacramento, Calif. (Tribune News Service)
From New York Times and Staff reports

From New York Times and staff reports

Kansas, the reigning national men’s champion, is out of the NCAA Tournament.

Playing without their head coach, Bill Self, for a second straight game, the top-seeded Jayhawks were stunned by No. 8 seed Arkansas 72-71 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

Kansas was bidding to become first the repeat men’s champion since Florida won the tournament in 2006 and 2007. Instead, the Razorbacks advanced to the Sweet 16 in Las Vegas against the winner of Sunday’s game between Connecticut and Saint Mary’s in Albany, New York. Arkansas (22-13) finished tied for ninth in the Southeastern Conference, while Kansas (28-8) was the Big 12 regular-season champion.

The Jayhawks became the second No. 1 seed to get bounced from the tournament in less than 24 hours after No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson toppled No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday night.

Just two No. 1 seeds remained after the loss: Alabama in the South and Houston in the West. Both teams won Saturday night.

The last time only two No. 1 seeds made the Sweet 16 was in 2018; it also happened in 2004, 2000 and 1981.

After the upset, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman climbed on a table and pulled off his shirt to celebrate in front of Razorbacks fans.

“That’s just an unbelievable win for our program,” Musselman said in a television interview. “I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better this time of year. I’ve never been prouder of a team like tonight.”

The game came down to the wire, and Arkansas took a 67-65 lead with 47 seconds left on a putback by Kamani Johnson. Jalen Wilson of Kansas made two free throws to tie it at 67, but then teammate Kevin McCullar Jr. fouled out on the other end.

Ricky Council IV then made 3 of 4 free throws to push Arkansas ahead for good, following a back-and-forth trade of free throws and tightly contested shots. Council finished with 11 of the last 15 points for Arkansas, including seven of the last nine.

Kansas, which led by eight at halftime, lost for the first time this season after leading at halftime.

Davonte Davis, who scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half for the Razorbacks, fouled out with 1:56 remaining. He was emotional after the win.

“I’m glad we came out with the win,” he said as he teared up during a television interview. “We put in the work. This team has struggled, and we figured it out.”

Wilson, the Big 12 Player of the Year, led Kansas with 20 points.

Princeton strolls to Sweet 16

Blake Peters, a sophomore guard for Princeton, plays Spanish classical guitar, speaks fluent Mandarin and, it turns out, is tough as nails when his Tigers have a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.

After playing only 2 minutes of the first half, Peters came off the bench to torch Missouri on Saturday, swishing five 3-pointers to stem every bit of momentum Missouri appeared to muster during Princeton’s 78-63 win.

Peters finished with a season-high 17 points, teammate Ryan Langborg had a game-high 22 and the Tigers did not have to work to the game’s final horn, unlike their astounding unseating of second-seeded Arizona on Thursday.

Instead, as Princeton put the final flourishes on its commanding performance, the chant coming from the Tigers’ cheering section in Golden 1 Center was loud and clear: “Sweet 16! Sweet 16!”

From underdogs seeded 15th to the bullies on the block in two days, Princeton dominated No. 7 seed Missouri for most of the 40 minutes played in their second-round game. The school advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967.

The rare opportunity was made real by dazzling shooting, especially in comparison with the struggles Princeton overcame against Arizona. The Tigers tripled their 3-point output from that game – making 12 total against Missouri, compared with four against Arizona – and played with poise and presence throughout the game.

Princeton outrebounded (44-30) and outshot (44% to 41%) Missouri. Princeton matched its 3-point total from the Arizona game well within the confines of the first half.

Princeton’s players, wearing bow-tie patches on their uniforms to honor the late Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril, whose spirit the Tigers still carry, opened a 14-point lead at one point in the first half and continually blunted Missouri’s full-court pressure.

Then, in the second half, just when Missouri threatened, Peters took over. His first four 3-pointers of the second half helped Princeton push its lead to 62-45.

UCLA outlasts Northwestern

Second-seeded UCLA saw a double-digit halftime lead disappear down the stretch.

Northwestern fought back to tie the score midway through the second half, but could never take the lead, as the Bruins held on for a 68-63 win at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. led UCLA with 24 points. Tyger Campbell iced it with four free throws in the final minute.

The Bruins (31-5) advance to the Sweet 16 where they await Sunday’s winner between Gonzaga and Texas Christian.

Saturday’s results

West Region

(8) Arkansas 72, (1) Kansas 71

(2) UCLA 68, (7) Northwestern 63

East Region

(4) Tennessee 65, (5) Duke 52

South Region

(5) San Diego State 75, (13) Furman 52

(15) Princeton 78, (7) Missouri 63

(1) Alabama 73, (8) Maryland 51

Midwest Region

(1) Houston 81, (9) Auburn 64

(2) Texas 71, (1) Penn State 66

Sunday’s games

West Region

(4) UConn vs. (5) Saint Mary’s, 3:10 p.m.

(3) Gonzaga vs. (6) TCU, 6:40 p.m.

East Region

(3) Kansas State vs. (6) Kentucky, 11:40 a.m.

(2) Marquette vs. (7) Michigan State, 2:15 p.m.

(9) Florida Atlantic vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson, 4:45 p.m.

South Region

(3) Baylor vs. (6) Creighton, 4:10 p.m.

Midwest Region

(3) Xavier vs. (11) Pittsburgh, 9:10 a.m.

(4) Indiana vs. (5) Miami, 5:40 p.m.

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