Men's basketball roundup

Gonzaga's Zach Norvell Jr. raises his hands to the crowd during the first half of Tuesday's West Coast Conference tournament championship game against BYU in Las Vegas. Gonzaga won, 74-54. (Isaac Brekken/AP Photo)
Gonzaga's Zach Norvell Jr. raises his hands to the crowd during the first half of Tuesday's West Coast Conference tournament championship game against BYU in Las Vegas. Gonzaga won, 74-54. (Isaac Brekken/AP Photo)

No. 6 Gonzaga 74, BYU 54

Gonzaga seemed headed for a dog fight with BYU to get a sixth straight West Coast Conference title. Once the Bulldogs started soaring, there was no stopping them.

Racing out for dunks and 3-pointers in transition, Gonzaga overwhelmed BYU during a massive run to blow out the Cougars on Tuesday night for its sixth straight WCC tournament title.

"That's probably as good a run I've been a part of in 28 years at Gonzaga, definitely in 19 years as head coach," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "Fantastic defense that led to great offense. It was just a thing of beauty to see."

Gonzaga (30-4), the regular-season champion, locked into a defensive battle with BYU (24-10) for most of the first half. The Zags revved it up at both ends and turned it into a title-game rout, reeling off a halftime-spanning 36-6 run to win their 17th WCC overall title.

Killian Tillie had 22 points, Zach Norvell Jr. added 17 and the Bulldogs held BYU to 35 percent shooting to win their 17th straight conference tournament game.

The dominant title performance should boost Gonzaga's chances for a high NCAA Tournament seed and possibly a go-out-on-top end to the Zags' dominance in the WCC - Gonzaga is in talks to join the Mountain West Conference, possibly next season.

"Tonight, they were a handful for us," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It's tough when things get that lopsided. It's really tough when they get it going like that."

Yoeli Childs had 20 points to cap a stellar tournament for BYU.

Heading into the tournament, Gonzaga appeared to be on course for another showdown with No. 22 Saint Mary's in the WCC title game.

The Zags, the tournament's top seed, did their part, beating Loyola Marymount and San Francisco to reach the title game for the 21st straight season.

BYU got in the way of the No. 2-seeded Gaels. The Cougars shot 61 percent and Childs had a career-high 33 points, lifting them to an 85-72 victory and into the title game for the first time since 2015.

Gonzaga won both meetings during the regular season, by eight in Spokane and 14 in Provo.

BYU was able to match Gonzaga shot for shot for most of a first half dominated by defense. The Zags found a little more room to operate offensively late in the half, closing on an 11-2 run to go up 38-29.

"For the first 17, 18 minutes, it was a real battle," said BYU's Payton Dastrup, who had 11 points. "They seemed to flip a switch and create some havoc."

Childs had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the first half, making all three of his 3-point attempts. The rest of the Cougars: 5 for 20.

Gonzaga continued its surge to open the second half, holding BYU without a field goal the opening 5 minutes while going on a 11-1 run. The Zags kept pouring it on, pushing the lead to 57-31.

"It was a thing of beauty to see," Few said.

BYU seemed worn out in its third game in four days, unable to keep up with the flying Bulldogs.

If this is Gonzaga's final WCC tournament appearance, it went out with a flourish.

Childs had a superb first half on the heels of his career-best game in the semifinals. Gonzaga made it much tougher for the sophomore forward in the second half, holding him to four points on 1-of-6 shooting.

"He got the ball in some pretty tough spots," Rice said. "We didn't get the ball to him in angles where he's really good. The made some really good adjustments on him, making it tougher for him to get an angle to score."

Killian, who is French, was asked to describe Gonzaga's performance in one word in his native language.

"Ensemble," he said. "It means together, as a group. We were all sharing the ball, it was great."

BYU has slim NCAA tournament chances and could end up in one of the smaller postseason tournaments.

"We played most of the season with eight scholarship players and they kept fighting and kept battling," Rose said. "It's hard to win one game, let along 24 in a season. I'll go to a battle with these guys anytime."

Gonzaga could be up for a top-2 seed when the NCAA Tournament field is revealed Sunday.

LIU Brooklyn 71, Wagner 61

LIU Brooklyn's two best players raised their game. Wagner couldn't buy a basket. And the Blackbirds are NCAA Tournament-bound after shocking their New York City rival.

Joel Hernandez had 32 points and seven rebounds, Raiquan Clark had 20 points and eight rebounds and LIU Brooklyn beat Wagner to win the Northeast Conference Tournament title and earn its first NCAA Tournament bid in five years.

The fourth-seeded Blackbirds (18-16) handed top-seeded Wagner (23-9) its first loss this season on its Staten Island campus as the Seahawks struggled from the field all night, shooting 30 percent.

"We couldn't throw a ball in the ocean," Wagner coach Bashir Mason said. "I thought my guys battled. They played extremely hard and to the game plan. You have to give LIU Brooklyn a lot of credit. They prepared. Their two best players stepped up. It's a tough pill to swallow, but I told our guys this is something that's going to help us get better. We'll learn from this, grow from this and get better from this moment."

Romone Saunders had 17 points and Devin Liggeons had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Seahawks.

LIU Brooklyn never trailed after Hernandez converted a three-point play with 12:05 left in the first half, and the Blackbirds went on a 15-2 run to take a 34-19 lead into halftime.

"I thought he put us on his back in the first half," first-year LIU Brooklyn coach Derek Kellog said of Hernandez "I thought he gave us a nice cushion that we needed, and then every time Wagner made a run he came up with a big basket or a big play. I told him all along that's what a fifth-year senior is supposed to do if he wants to elongate his career and give himself an opportunity to play at the highest level in the NCAA Tournament."

Wagner cut the deficit to seven three times in the final six minutes, the last time with 59 seconds left, but the Seahawks didn't score again.

Hernandez made two free throws with 38 seconds left to seal it as "MVP" chants rained down from the LIU Brooklyn fans. He was officially named the tournament MVP after the game, and he gets to play at least one more time.

"I was thinking about that, especially coming into the game," Hernandez said. "I wanted to make sure I played my hardest and I left everything out on the floor. Even if we lost, I didn't want to have any regrets after the game, so I just wanted to make sure I played hard for my brothers on the court and I feel like I did that."

The Blackbirds made the NCAA Tournament three straight years from 2011-13 and are headed back for the first time since then.

This was just the second time two New York City teams faced off in the NEC title game. The previous time was also at Spiro Center in 2003, when Wagner beat St. Francis Brooklyn.

College of Charleston 83, Northeastern 76 (OT)

College of Charleston coach Earl Grant never doubted his team would cut down the nets at the Colonial Athletic Association championship and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 19 years.

“We didn’t realize we’d have that much adversity” on the way to the title, a smiling, relieved Grant said.

Joe Chealey had 32 points as the top-seeded Cougars rallied from 17 points down in the second half to win the CAA title with an overtime win against Northeastern.

“Amazing grit by the players, amazing toughness, amazing belief,” he marveled.

It certainly was an amazing comeback for a team that looked cooked early in the second half, down 42-25 with less than 18 minutes left and struggling to find any offensive rhythm. Yet an hour later, fans mobbed the Cougars at the North Charleston Coliseum in celebration.

“I was crying my eyes out so I didn’t really get to see it,” said Chealey, a fifth-year senior

Now, it’s off to the NCAAs, where Charleston hasn’t been since 1999 when then-coach John Kresse built the Cougars into a yearly mid-major threat with four trips to the Big Dance from 1994-99. The school’s most successful run came in 1997 when it knocked off then-ACC power Maryland before falling to eventual champion Arizona.

Grant believes his team might have another such run in them.

“I think this team’s got some destiny,” he said. “March is just starting. The madness is just starting.”

After rallying to tie, the Cougars caught fire in the extra period. They hit their first four shots, including a pair of 3-pointers by Marquise Pointer to take a 75-69 lead. Northeastern (23-10) could not come back.

The Cougars (26-7) appeared done early in the second half, trailing 42-25 after Vasa Pusica’s 3-pointer with 17:27 to go. That’s when Charleston ramped up the pressure — it forced 14 turnovers the second half — and tied it at 65-all on Chealey’s layup with 10.1 seconds to go.

Charleston got the ball back with the chance to win in regulation, but Chealey’s long 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

Jerrell Brantley gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, 67-65, in overtime before Pointer’s first 3 gave Charleston the lead for good. Two minutes later, Pointer did it again as the large, loud crowd at the North Charleston Coliseum exploded in delight.

Northeastern’s last chance disappeared when Pusica lost the ball out of bounds on a drive with 40 seconds to go.

“I can’t imagine a tougher” loss, Northeastern coach Bill Coen said.

“I thought we had a winning effort,” he continued. “We had our chances. We lost our composure a little bit at a couple of key moments. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of emotional players in the locker room.”

Pusica had 30 points to lead the Huskies, who saw their nine-game winning streak ended. Shawn Occeus added 19 points.

Grant Riller scored 20 points for Charleston, 14 of those after halftime. Brantley finished with 18.

The Huskies were poised and prepared in the opening half, but fell apart after the break. They turned the ball over 15 times in the second half and overtime to fuel Charleston’s rally.

The Cougars finally closed the deal after missing out a year ago in their first CAA Tournament finals in their home city. A team that appeared flustered and out of sync the first 22 minutes turned up the pace and ran past Northeastern.

Wright State 74, Cleveland State 57

Grant Benzinger grew up watching the NCAA Tournament, looking up old highlights and locking in for “One Shining Moment,” with his dad, hoping to play in it someday.

His dream is about to come true.

Benzinger had 19 points and nine rebounds to help second-seeded Wright State beat eighth-seeded Cleveland State to win the Horizon League Tournament title and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

“It’s great to be a part of it now,” he said.

The Raiders (25-9) will play in the NCAAs for the third time in school history and the first since 2007.

“I’m sure we’ll probably have a pretty high seed and we’ll play one of the top nine or 12 teams in the country,” coach Scott Nagy said.

The Vikings (12-23) took their last lead with 7:36 left in the first half and seemed to wear down, playing their fourth game in five days.

Wright State took control late in the first half with a 13-2 run, taking an eight-point lead at halftime. The Raiders outscored Cleveland State 10-2 early in the second half to pull away.

“There’s no excuse about being tired,” Cleveland State guard Kenny Carpenter said.

Loudon Love made his first field goal with 14:42 left to put the Raiders up 44-33. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound center finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, setting the school’s freshman scoring record and its single-season mark for rebounds. Wright State’s Cole Gentry and Jaylon Hall scored 11 points apiece.

“Love displaced us all game,” Cleveland State coach Dennis Felton said. “We did a very, very good job establishing position, but he was just very persistent and very physical.”

Carpenter, playing in his hometown, had 18 points and Tyree Appleby scored 15 for the Raiders.

“To play in front of family, it’s just special,” Carpenter said. “It was a great experience and I’ll never forget it.”

Nagy led South Dakota State to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 for third time in five years. The Horizon League Coach of the Year can use that experience to help his players, who were young kids the last time the Raiders were in the NCAA Tournament 11 years ago.

“Coach knows what it takes to get there and what to do when you’re there, so we’ll just follow his lead,” Benzinger said.

Wright State’s postgame celebration included giving Ryan Custer a championship cap. Custer had spinal cord surgery after an accident 11 months ago, putting the 6-foot-7 former Raiders forward in a wheelchair.

“To have him here this weekend was wonderful,” Nagy said. “I know it was good for him and his family.”

South Dakota State 97, South Dakota 87

The Jackrabbits are tourney bound again.

David Jenkins Jr. scored 29 points, Mike Daum had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and South Dakota State beat South Dakota to win the Summit League Tournament championship, clinching the Jackrabbits a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Daum was the Summit League Player of the Year, but was limited to 27 minutes because of foul trouble. Jenkins stepped up in his place in the first half with 16 points - he came in averaging 15.8 points per game.

"I made sure I stayed aggressive at all times," Jenkins Jr. said. "I just took what the defense gave me."

The Jackrabbits went on a 30-17 run with Daum on the bench. The first half featured 11 lead changes before SDSU opened things up.

SDSU took a 47-35 lead into halftime, with Daum getting just six points in seven minutes. He entered the game averaging 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

"We're not often times forced to play that many minutes in a half without Mike," SDSU coach T.J. Otzelberger said. "If you look at our team night in and night out, different guys step up. If you're a great team, that's what you do."

Reed Tellinghuisen added 18 points and 11 rebounds for SDSU (28-6), which has won 11 straight. The Jackrabbits shot 48 percent from the field, including 14 for 28 from the 3-point line.

SDSU built the lead to 20 in the second half before South Dakota mounted a challenge midway through the half. Brandon Key's basket for the Jackrabbits made it 57-37 with just under 16 minutes to play. At that point, South Dakota was just 2 for 12 from the field in the second half.

"We really struggled guarding them, and they were cooking on all cylinders," South Dakota coach Craig Smith said. "I just didn't put our guys in a good enough position to win, especially during that run in the first half."

The Coyotes chipped away at the lead. Nate Fuller came off the bench and scored five straight to cut it to 40-28 with 13:07 to play. It was the first time South Dakota had been within 12 since 40-28 late in the second half.

Tyler Hagedorn scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half for the Coyotes (26-8) to help fuel the run, which dwindled SDSU's lead to six with just under three minutes to play.

Jenkins' 3-pointer with 1:38 to play pushed the lead back to 11 at 90-79.

South Dakota's leading scorer, Matt Mooney, led the Coyotes with 30 points but was 9 for 26 from the field, including 3 for 11 from the 3-point line.

"To Coyotes fans: I know it doesn't help, but I'm sorry, Mooney said. "I played really bad and I'm sorry I didn't come through."

Tyler Peterson had 15 points and six rebounds for South Dakota.

The 28 wins is an SDSU team record.

The 97 points allowed by South Dakota is the most this season for the Coyotes.

Wagner's JoJo Cooper (10) guards LIU Brooklyn's Joel Hernandez during Tuesday's Northeast Conference tournament championship game in New York. Hernandez had 32 points and seven rebounds as LIU Brooklyn won, 71-61. (Derek Alvez/Staten Island Advance/AP Photo)
Wagner's JoJo Cooper (10) guards LIU Brooklyn's Joel Hernandez during Tuesday's Northeast Conference tournament championship game in New York. Hernandez had 32 points and seven rebounds as LIU Brooklyn won, 71-61. (Derek Alvez/Staten Island Advance/AP Photo)
College of Charleston's Joe Chealey, at right, shows his emotions after the Cougars rallied from a 17-point deficit and beat Northeastern in overtime on Tuesday, 83-76, to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in North Charleston, S.C. (Mic Smith/AP Photo)
College of Charleston's Joe Chealey, at right, shows his emotions after the Cougars rallied from a 17-point deficit and beat Northeastern in overtime on Tuesday, 83-76, to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in North Charleston, S.C. (Mic Smith/AP Photo)


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