Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Florida Gulf Coast upsets SDSU, makes NCAA Sweet 16


PHILADELPHIA — Florida Gulf Coast became the first 15th seed to reach the Sweet 16, and the Eagles not only made it look easy Sunday night, they made it look fun.

Little-known FGCU beat San Diego State 81-71, its second NCAA Tournament upset of the weekend. Just like in an opening win over No. 2 seed Georgetown on Friday — the Eagles' calling card to the nation — there were plenty of laughs, dunks and dances.

"We don't take ourselves too seriously," said coach Andy Enfield, whose players tossed him in the air and doused him with water in a raucous celebration. "We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.

"Our goal was to make history, and we did it."

With its campus in Estero near Fort Myers, FGCU opened in 1997. The university only became eligible for postseason play last year. Now the upstart school faces the Sunshine State's flagship university, No. 3 seed Florida, on Friday night in the South Region semifinals in Dallas.

"We tried to scrimmage them early in the season in the preseason," Enfield said. "Now we get our shot."

FGCU, which at 2-0 remains the only undefeated team in NCAA Tournament history, is the first to win at least two games in its first NCAA appearance since Florida in 1987, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"They play with a swagger, and they have a right to do that," said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who knows about players with attitude, having led the Fab Five to consecutive national championship games at Michigan. "You can have that look and feel, but you have to compete and play to earn your spurs, and they've done that."

Bernard Thompson had 23 points and Sherwood Brown added 17 for FGCU.

On Friday, the 15th-seeded Eagles busted brackets everywhere with a win over Georgetown, taking control with a 21-2 run in the second half.

It went much the same way against seventh-seeded San Diego State (23-11).

This time the run was 17-0, and the Eagles led 71-52 with 4:19 to play.

Even when the game was tight, the Eagles waved their arms and played along with a lively crowd that came to see an upset. There were big smiles, high-fives and joy that's often missing from high-stakes, high-drama games in March.

"We're all about having fun and also playing really hard, and that's something we like to do, we like to get the crowd involved," said Brown. "The whole crowd got behind us even if they are not from Fort Myers, or as I like to say, 'Dunk City.' "

It turns out a rap video called "Dunk City" sprang up overnight in praise of the Eagles.

Tough Philly fans jumped on the bandwagon, too. One seated behind the FGCU bench held a sign — "Fly, Eagles, Fly!" — the motto of the NFL team that plays across the street from the Wells Fargo Center.

After the game, the whole team joined in a bird dance.

"I know I can say for all the players, this was the biggest game for us. None of us have played on this stage," point guard Brett Comer said. "We are blessed to be here."

Kansas rallies past North Carolina 70-58

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Behind the impassioned play of Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, top-seeded Kansas shook off a first-half slumber and blitzed No. 8 seed North Carolina down the stretch for a 70-58 victory in the third round.

Withey had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Releford finished with 22 points for the Jayhawks (31-5), who also knocked former KU coach Roy Williams' team out of the tournament in 2008 and again last season.

The Tar Heels (25-11) forced 12 turnovers and one of their worst shooting performances of the season in taking a 30-21 halftime lead. But Kansas, playing 40 miles from its campus in Lawrence, outscored UNC 49-28 in the second half.

"We made some bonehead plays, especially me. I had six turnovers myself," Withey said. "But in the second half we got a better feel for them, what they were going to do."

Asked about what must have been a blistering halftime talk, Jayhawks coach Bill Self grinned and said: "I told them, 'Hey, just keep doing what we're doing, we'll be fine.' ... Our basketball IQ in the first half wasn't very good. In the second half, we were a better team."

P.J. Hairston scored 15 for the Tar Heels (25-11).

Williams, who coached the Jayhawks for 15 seasons and led them to four Final Fours, heard a mix of polite cheers and loud boos from the pro-Kansas crowd during pregame introductions, and barbs continued during the game.

"We lost to another basketball team," Williams said. "The fact that I coached here for 15 years is extremely important to me, but it doesn't add anything to today.''

Williams said of the Kansas turnaround: "They were phenomenal in the second half. We didn't have the same energy, and they picked theirs up a little bit more. They started making shots, and we couldn't stop them."

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Niederreiter stays hot for Wild in win

Niederreiter stays hot for Wild in win

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund each scored two goals to lead the Wild to a 5-4 victory over the Sabres on Wednesday night. Tyler Ennis also scored, and Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter each had two assists as the Wild snapped a two-g...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Stitches don’t cool off LeBron

Stitches don’t cool off LeBron

CLEVELAND — LeBron James shook off a blow to the face and scored 23 in the fourth quarter — including 18 straight for Cleveland — as the Cavaliers won their sixth straight, 119-109 over the Nets on Wednesday. James needed stitches in the third quarte...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.A 17-1 run late in the first half helped the Bulls to a 75-52 win Wednesday before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,080. USF (3-2) he...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Thanksgiving Day NFL previews: Vikings-Lions, Chargers-Cowboys, Giants-Redskins

Updated: 4 hours ago

Sports in Brief

GYMNASTICSEx-Olympic team doctor pleads guilty to abuseLANSING, Mich. — Former doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sex...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Updated: 4 hours ago