NCAA

Superb Gaels season marred by tournament showing

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Superb Gaels season marred by tournament showing

Maybe Norfolk State just vibed the NCAA Tournament off its natural axis for every favorite, but as the slight favorite Saint Marys Galloping Gaels reflect on their own one-and-done, the inscription on the dagger will read, Made No Shots Until It Was Too Late.

After the 15-seed Spartans set in motion a bizarre chain of upsets in the second afternoon game here at CenturyLink Center by beating Missouri, the Gaels faced Purdue, and were face-down before they knew what to do about it.

In losing, 72-69, the Gaels can speak in glowing terms of the frantic comeback they waged to close a game they persistently trailed by double-digits, but they wont.

RECAP: Saint Mary's falls to Purdue 72-69

Rather, they will remember their horrific shooting, their difficulties guarding Terone Johnson and then Lewis Jackson of the Boilermakers, and the crushing errors they made in the last minute that could have rendered the second-guessing moot.

If it didnt sting, it wouldnt be any fun, a fun-deficient head coach Randy Bennett said afterward. Theres not many things you can pour your heart into with a bunch of guys your age and invest so much time and care so much, and thats why it hurts, because when its over, its gone.

But it also hurts because in a game the Gaels were predominantly outplayed, they had a lead in the final minute and could easily have protected it, thus cheating an upset-engorged crowd from yet another. Indeed, as the Gaels were scratching desperately to get back into the game, 13-seed Ohio was beating Michigan and 15-seed Lehigh was smiting Duke, marking the first time ever that two 15s had advanced and only the fifth time ever that even one had done it.

Not that that will amuse the Gaels. They played too poorly to win, played just well enough to position themselves to win, and then failed in the crunch to lose anyway. This, in short, will be a profoundly unpleasant memory for them all.

The macro view takes you immediately to the Gaels 4-for-25 shooting from three-point range, including 2-for-10 from forward Rob Jones, 1-for-6 from Jorden Page and 1-for-5 from Matthew Dellavedova, and to Johnson and Jackson, who combined for 39 points on 15-of-27 to shape Purdues attack.

But the game that went so badly for Saint Marys for so long turned with 4:16 to go when Dellavedova, who had been guarded essentially out of the offensive flow, forced his way to the basket for a three-point-play that sparked a 14-2 run. That run was Saint Marys best work of the night by far, capped as it was by Pages open 22-footer with 44.2 to play to put the Gaels ahead, 69-68.

The problem was, it was their last gasp. After forcing a walk by Johnson, they returned the ball immediately when Clint Steindl ran on the end line during the inbound rather than remaining stationary. Jackson took the ensuing Boilermaker possession and drew a foul from Dellavedova with 22.8 to play, converting both shots.

The ref said it was on the spot, Steindl said, referring to official Scott Thornley, who did as he is supposed and told Steindl to keep his place when inbounding. All I was thinking was trying to get the ball inbounds.

Then, on the Gaels next possession, Page settled for a premature 25-footer that missed the rim by a fair bit, and Robbie Hummels two free throws after being fouled by Stephen Holt on the rebound put the Makers up by three.

And in keeping with the evening as a whole, Jones buzzer-beating trey hit the rim and fell away, ending a season that had been so good for them all.

I thought momentarily it had a chance, he said, but you cant really do anything about it now.

Jones performance (23 and 14, despite going 2-for-10 from three-point range) spoke to his eagerness to fill the offensive void left by Dellavedova, who forced some threes early, then went 15 minutes without taking any shots at all. He pressed early against a Purdue defense keen to monitor him above all others, then became a passer almost exclusively before his charge to the basket at 4:16 to prevent the game from remaining a drudgery.

They played good defense, a red-eyed Dellavedova said afterward, and I rushed a couple of shots. We had some good looks too that we didnt knock down, so thats the way it goes.

Not all the time, of course. There was Norfolk State, after all.

Leon Powe-doppelganger Kyle OQuinn, the Spartan senior center whose 26 points and 14 rebounds would have been noticeable under any conditions, put the final boot in with 34 seconds left by tipping in a Chris McEachin jumper and converting the ensuing free throw to propel Norfolk State into Tournament annals as only the fourth 15-seed in history to win a game. The other three were Santa Clara (1993, over Arizona), Coppin State (1997, over South Carolina) and Hampton (2001, over Iowa State).
RECAP: No. 15 seed Norfolk St. stuns No. 2 Missouri

And to cap off his best day ever, OQuinn laughed at the result he had helped engineer and said, We even messed up my bracket.

And then the Gaels went and messed up their own. A superb season took a dent in the final lap, and if there is time to be philosophical, it wont happen until they return to Moraga and reflect not on the 36 minutes they couldnt find Friday night, but on the 1,300-some-odd when they had the time of their collective lives.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

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AP

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.