No. 1 Florida holds off Kentucky in SEC
ATLANTA (AP) -- Top-ranked Florida capped a perfect run through the Southeastern Conference when Kentucky failed to get off a shot on its final possession, allowing the Gators to escape with a 61-60 victory in the league championship game Sunday.
Florida (32-2) built a 16-point lead early in the second half, but Kentucky nearly pulled off an improbable comeback to hand the Gators their first loss since early December. Two missed free throws gave the Wildcats (24-10) a final possession, but James Young slipped trying to drive into the lane.
The Gators extended their school-record winning streak to 26 games and awaited a sure No. 1 seed when the NCAA pairings are announced Sunday evening. Patric Young and Michael Frazier II led Florida with 14 points apiece, while Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather had 11 each.
Kentucky, also headed for the NCAAs, was paced by Aaron Harrison with 16 points.
Michigan St. 69, Michigan 55
INDIANAPOLIS -- Adreian Payne scored 18 points and Gary Harris and Branden Dawson added 15 each to lead No. 22 Michigan State to its second Big Ten tournament title in three years with a 69-55 upset of No. 8 Michigan on Sunday.
The third-seeded Spartans (26-8) are getting healthy and will have some momentum entering the NCAA tournament with four wins in five games.
Top-seeded Michigan (25-8) was led by Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas with 17 points and Derrick Walton Jr. had 11, but the Big Ten regular season champs had their seven-game winning streak come to an end.
It was never really close.
Michigan State took control with an early 12-0 run, led 38-29 at halftime and opened the second half with an 8-0 spurt to make it 46-29.
Michigan never got closer than 10 points again.
The Spartans had lost their previous two meetings with Michigan this season but weren’t about to lose again Sunday.
For the first time all season, Michigan State started the same five players for a fifth straight game. Harris, who hurt his left shoulder early in the second half, returned later.
Harris, an Indiana native who never got to play for a state basketball title at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, took advantage of this opportunity. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Dawson, another Indiana native who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half.
Michigan State has four tournament titles since the Big Ten started the event in 1998.
Michigan, meanwhile, will be waiting to see if this ugly loss could cost it a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines, who narrowly escaped with wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals, were not their usually strong shooting selves as they played for the third time in three days. They avoided matching their season-low point total when Zak Irvin hit a 3 with 15.9 seconds to go and their shooting percentage (31.5) nearly matched a season low, too. Michigan shot 31.1 percent from the field in a 63-61 loss to Charlotte on Nov. 24. And they were outrebounded 38-28.
Michigan’s problems started early.
The Spartans went on a 12-0 run to take a 16-9 lead -- and never gave it up.
They led by as much as 25-14 in the first half, getting Michigan’s top two big men -- Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford -- into early foul trouble. Coach John Beilein even was called for a technical foul midway through a dreadful half.
Harris finished it off emphatically by taking a pass at midcourt and driving right through Michigan’s defense for a one-handed dunk to make it 38-29.
Things didn’t get any better for Michigan in the second half.
Michigan State scored the first eight points to make it 46-29, then closed it out with a late 10-4 run that extended the lead to 69-52.
Saint Joseph’s 65, VCU 61
NEW YORK -- Langston Galloway’s legs should have been aching after playing three games in three days and every minute against VCU’s press.
The only thing the Saint Joseph’s senior could feel was how close he was to winning an Atlantic 10 tournament championship. Galloway stepped back to hit yet another huge 3-pointer, giving the Hawks the lead for good in their 65-61 win over the 23rd-ranked Rams in Sunday’s final.
Fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s (24-9) arrived in Brooklyn on the NCAA tournament bubble. The Hawks all but clinched an at-large berth with a victory over fellow bubble team Dayton in Friday’s quarterfinals on Galloway’s go-ahead 3 with 17.9 seconds left. Then they made that moot by capturing the conference’s automatic bid for the first time since 1997.
Galloway scored 19 points Sunday and broke a 54-54 tie with a 3 with more than two minutes left.
All five St. Joe’s starters played at least 37 minutes -- including the entire second half. Coach Phil Martelli made a note to himself before the game to get his subs some time in the first, but when they struggled in brief action, he knew riding his regulars gave Saint Joseph’s its best chance to win a championship.
It helps that the media timeouts in the tournament seem to last forever, offering players some extra rest -- Martelli quipped Saturday that "I got engaged in less time."
Ronald Roberts, the Hawks’ third senior starter, had 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 11 rebounds.
The Rams (26-8) have reached the A-10 tourney finals in both years in the league, losing each time. Rob Brandenberg led VCU with 18 points, but Galloway got just enough separation on him to make the go-ahead 3. Galloway used his forearm to create some space on the shot against Dayton; this time, he simply faked a drive and stepped back.
Georgia St. 81
NEW ORLEANS -- There’s no dodging this now. Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin is getting a tattoo.
Before the season, he promised his Ragin’ Cajuns he would get some ink if they made the NCAA tournament. And on Sunday, Xavian Rimmer scored a career-high 27 points, and Louisiana-Lafayette rallied from a 9-point deficit in the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime and beat Georgia State 82-81 in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
The third-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns (23-11) earned an automatic bid to their first NCAA tournament since 2005.
They were due to find out the date and time of their first-round game during the NCAA selection show later Sunday afternoon. The date for Marlin’s trip to the tattoo parlor has not been determined.
Ryan Harrow scored a career-high 37 points for Georgia State but missed an off-balance, driving bank shot in the final seconds. The top-seeded Panthers (25-7) had won 22 of their last 23 games, but were relegated to the NIT with the heartbreaking loss.
After tying the score on a putback with 1.4 seconds left in regulation, Lafayette, which grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, took the lead for good, 80-77, with a 6-0 run in overtime that Payton capped off with a layup off a turnover.
Rimmer hit seven 3-pointers to keep the Cajuns within range until its final comeback.
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