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Championship Week recap: Day 13’s best game, top player

Kentucky Wildcats Teague is fouled by Florida Gators Beal during SEC men's NCAA basketball tournament in New Orleans

Kentucky Wildcats guard Marquis Teague (L) is fouled by Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal during the semi-final round of the SEC men’s NCAA basketball tournament in New Orleans, Louisiana March 10, 2012. Kentucky won the game 74-71. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11, this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Game of the Night: Kentucky 74, Florida 71
The Gators gave Kentucky everything they could handle. Florida led for most of the first half, but the ‘Cats came storming back to take the lead early in the second. Florida fought back after trailing by nine, and held Kentucky scoreless for a four-minute stretch towards the end of the game. But Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb were able to connect on a crucial set of free throws, and the Wildcats were able to escape with the victory. Bradley Beal had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Florida, and Erik Murphy chipped in with 24 points. All five Kentucky starters scored in double-digits.

- They were good too: Ohio 64, Akron 63
Thanks to a stellar performance from D.J. Cooper the Ohio Bobcats were able to upset the top-seeded Zips of Akron in the MAC finals 64-63. Cooper scored 23 points and had six assists and four steals. Ohio led by eight with three minutes to play, but the Zips came storming back thanks to the gutsy play of Alex Abreu. Sophomore guard went to the foul line with a chance to cut the lead with-in one, and after making his first, he tried to intentionally miss the second in order to get a tip-in. Unfortunately, the ball danced on the rim and fell through, and the Zips didn’t get another chance to close the gap.

Player of the Night: Casper Ware, Long Beach State
The senior guard made sure that the 49ers would make it to the NCAA Tournament this season. After being bounced prematurely in each of the previous two Big West Tournaments, the 49ers defeated UC-Santa Barbara due in large part to Ware’s 33 points, five assists and three rebounds. Ware was 10-of-23 from the field, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. Over the past three games, he has scored 66 points and only committed five turnovers. For his efforts, he was named Big West Tournament MVP.

- He was good too: Demitrius Conger, St. Bonaventure’s
The junior forward was two assists shy of recording the first and only triple-double of Championship Week. He finished with 22 points, ten rebounds and eight assists and the Bonnies 84-80 win over Massachusetts in the Atlantic-10 semifinals. He was 7-of-12 from the field and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. This was just his fourth double-double of the season.

Team of the Night: Lamar Cardinals
Two weeks ago, Lamar players were getting verbally abused by head coach Pat Knight during a post-game press conference. But clearly the motivation worked, as the No.3-seed Cardinals steamrolled the Cowboys of McNeese State 70-49 in the Southland Conference finals. Mike James led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds. This was the six consecutive victory for Lamar since the head coach’s tirade following an ugly loss to Stephen F. Austin.

- They were good too: Missouri Tigers
The Tigers last game as members of the Big-XII Conference was an impressive one, as they ran through a hot Baylor team in the tournament finals, 90-75. The Tigers led by as many as 15 points and shot 53 percent from the field. Phil Pressey had 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Kim English, the Tournament MVP, scored 19 points while fighting through a deep thigh contusion. English left the stadium in style, donning a SEC t-shirt while holding the Tournament trophy.

Saturday Results:

America East Conference Finals
#2 Vermont 51, #1 Stony Brook 43

Atlantic Coast Conference Semifinals
#3 Florida State 62, #2 Duke 59
#1 North Carolina 69, #5 North Carolina State 67

Atlantic-10 Conference Semifinals
#4 St. Bonaventure’s 84, #8 Massachusetts 80
#3 Xavier 71, #2 Saint Louis 64

Big-Ten Conference Semifinals
#2 Ohio State 77, #3 Michigan 55
#1 Michigan State 65, #4 Wisconsin 52

Big-XII Conference Finals
#2 Missouri 90, #4 Baylor 75

Big West Conference Finals
#1 Long Beach State 77, #3 Santa Barbara 64

Conference-USA Finals
#1 Memphis 83, #5 Marshall 57

Mid-American Conference Finals
#3 Ohio 64, #1 Akron 63

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Finals
#2 Norfolk State 73, #4 Bethune-Cookman 70

Mountain West Conference Finals
#2 New Mexico 68, #1 San Diego State 59

Pac-12 Conference Finals
#6 Colorado 53 #4 Arizona 51

Southeastern Conference Semifinals
#3 Vanderbilt 65, #7 Ole Miss 53
#1 Kentucky 74, #4 Florida 71

Southland Conference Finals
#3 Lamar 70, #4 McNeese State 49

Southeastern Athletic Conference Finals
#1 Mississippi Valley State 71, #2 Texas Southern 69

Western Athletic Conference Finals
#2 New Mexico State 82, #5 Louisiana Tech 57