NCAA Talk

Late tip-in gives Notre Dame 76-75 win over Stephen F. Austin

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Late tip-in gives Notre Dame 76-75 win over Stephen F. Austin

NEW YORK (AP) — Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin went shot-for-shot in an NCAA Tournament game that was about as good as it gets. The power school against the unflinching underdog. The lead never was more than seven for either team.

That it came down to the last shot was no surprise. The hero, though, might have been the most unlikely player on the floor to make a game-winner.

Rex Pflueger tapped in a rebound with 1.5 seconds left and Notre Dame survived 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin 76-75 on Sunday to reach the NCAA round of 16 for the second consecutive season.

Down one with 17.5 seconds left, sixth-seed Notre Dame grabbed an SFA rebound and put the ball in the hands of Demetrius Jackson. The point guard drove to the basket and missed. Zach Auguste followed for the Irish (23-11) but could not convert. The ball slipped off the rim and with one hand Pflueger flipped it in.

Not only had Pflueger not scored in the game to that point, he hadn't had a field goal since March 5.

"I just crashed the board," Pflueger said. "I thought Zach was going to make that last layup, but coach always emphasizes going to the board hard, especially in situations like that, and it just turned out for the best for us."

A long heave from Stephen F. Austin (28-6) went wide and Notre Dame celebrated by swarming Pflueger.

"Are you kidding me? Are you freakin' kidding me? That was unbelievable," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

The Irish advance to play either Wisconsin or Xavier Friday in the East Regional at Philadelphia.

The Irish and Lumberjacks put on a show to match Beyonce at Barclays Center, with Brey's longtime friend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, sitting not far behind the Notre Dame bench.

"I've been watching them all year, and they're very tough-minded so they were going to battle right to the very end," said Christie, whose daughter Sarah is a team manager. "But was I nervous? Yeah, absolutely."

Thomas Walkup, the hero of Stephen F. Austin's first-round upset of West Virginia, scored 21 in his last college game.

"It's something I've been afraid of for a while," Walkup said of his SFA career coming to a close. "It hurts."

After it was over, Walkup had his arm around senior point guard Trey Pinkney, friends since their days playing AAU in Houston, as they walked back to the locker room.

"I told him I loved him and hugged him for a couple minutes," Walkup said. "He'll be my best friend for life, but we'll never get to do this together. That's what hurts the most."

The loss snapped a 21-game winning streak for Stephen F. Austin that was the longest in the country. No mid-major has been as dominant in its conference lately as the Southland Conference champions. This is the Lumberjacks' third straight NCAA appearance and the second time they won a first-round game. Their goal all year was Sweet 16.

"They've set a new standard for SFA basketball," coach Brad Underwood said of his seniors.

Jackson had 18 points, helping the Irish erase a five-point lead in the last two minutes with a driving layup and two free throws. Auguste had 16 points and 15 boards, but it was the freshman from California who made the biggest play.

"We took punches and kept fighting and Rex made a great play at the end," Jackson said. "Like coach says (Pflueger) plays volleyball in the summertime. So this counts as volleyball on the backboards."

Walkup picked up his third foul with 17:53 left in the second half. He stayed in and dropped in a jumper a few moments later, but Underwood had to sit his star for a chunk of the second half. The Lumberjacks showed they could pick up for the two-time conference player of the year, getting offense from T.J. Holyfield (15 points) and Demetrious Floyd (16).

When Floyd made a 3 in transition with 3:31 left, it gave SFA a 73-70 lead. SFA forced turnovers on Notre Dame's next two possessions — the Lumberjacks lead the nation in taking it away — and Walkup made two from the line to up the lead to five. It was the last points of the tournament for Stephen F. Austin.

NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

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USA TODAY

NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

Bulls rookie guard Coby White has talent, an infectious smile and an afro that makes him stand out on the court. It’s a fair bet he could have made some money off his likeness while he played at North Carolina if the rules allowed it.

The NCAA is taking steps towards allowing its athletes to do so, but there’s still a long way to go in the process. The organization’s Board of Governors unanimously voted to start the process. That vote moves things to the NCAA’s three divisions “to consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies,” as it was worded in the NCAA's press release.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, the chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The board asked each division (Division I, Division II, Division III) to make any new rules immediately and no later than January 2021.

It’s important to note that none of the changes are final, or even imminent. It’s still relevant that the NCAA is going through the process at all, after being so strongly in favor of amateurism across the board for its student-athletes.

The potential changes would not allow for compensation based on performance or participation in a sport. Of course, the natural grey area is that higher performing athletes will be more marketable so they would be compensated on performance indirectly.

This comes after California passed legislation to allow college athletes to receive endorsement/sponsorship money and other states are pursuing similar.

This is still far from being official or finalized, but it will continue to be a major story in college sports over the next couple years.

Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

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USA TODAY

Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

The DePaul men's basketball team has been placed on three-year probation and head coach Dave Leitao has been suspended three games for the 2019-20 season, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

The program was found guilty of "failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance while Leitao did not "prevent violations from occurring in his program."

A Division I Committee on Infractions panel concluded that a "former DePaul associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he knowingly directed the former assistant director of basketball operations to provide impermissible recruiting benefits to a recruit."

The NCAA found that three coaches knew about the situation but failed to report the infractions. DePaul will vacate all wins earned while the ineligible player competed and suffer recruiting restrictions. They were also fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget.

In 2019, DePaul had their first winning season since 2007 by going 19-17.