Thirteenth-seeded UC Irvine validated its coachs big talk on Friday afternoon in San Jose with the most significant win in program history. The Big West champion Anteaters secured their schools first-ever NCAA tournament victory, a 70-64 upset over fourth-seeded Kansas State.
Max Hazzard, the son of former UCLA legend Walt Hazzard, scored a game-high 19 points and buried five 3-pointers, the last of which gave UC Irvine a five-point lead with 90 seconds to play. Kansas State had the ball down two in the final minute, but a miscommunication between Barry Brown and Cartier Diarra resulted in a costly turnover, enabling Evan Leonard to ice the game for the Anteaters with four free throws in the final 18 seconds.
Weber deserves ample praise for overcoming injuries to guide Kansas State to a share of a Big 12 title this season, but his inflexibility handling Browns foul trouble Friday afternoon was a costly mistake. Fear of Brown picking up a third first-half foul isnt sufficient reason to bench him for that long given the seniors foul history, Kansas States reliance on him and the quality of the Wildcats opponent.
We came into the game confident with belief that we could win, and I think that belief showed throughout the game, especially when we were down early, Turner told reporters in San Jose. We made some defensive adjustments and changes and made the plays to come out on top.
UC Irvine Anteaters vs. Kansas State Wildcats 3/22/19, Predictions & Odds
That UC Irvine was able to compete with Kansas State was not a huge surprise despite the gap in their NCAA tournament seedings. The Anteaters were a popular upset pick because they not only entered the NCAA tournament with a 30-5 record, they also matched up very well against the Wildcats.
Kansas State men ousted by UC Irvine
A big, experienced team led by frontcourt standouts Jonathan Galloway and Tommy Rutherford, UC Irvine was built to give Kansas State fits. The Anteaters lead the nation in two-point percentage defense and excel at giving up nothing easy at the rim.
Video: Final 8 minutes of UC Irvines upset over Kansas State
UC Irvine guard Robert Cartwright (3) and forward Jonathan Galloway (5) celebrate against Kansas State during the second half of a first round mens college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)MoreThats a good formula against Kansas State, a poor outside shooting team that was playing without maybe its best 3-point shooting threat. Injured forward Dean Wade shoots 41.8 percent from behind the arc and excels at freeing up driving lanes for his teammates by forcing opposing big men to guard him on the perimeter.
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With Wade out and co-star Barry Brown mired in first-half foul trouble and unable to generate any rhythm after halftime, Kansas State struggled offensively and could never put any distance between itself and UC Irvine. The Wildcats shot 8-for-27 from behind the arc and 37.3 percent overall from the field, disastrous numbers that not even their offensive rebounding advantage or their always-solid defense could overcome.
Unhappy with Henrys effort in the second half of a tight first-round game with Bradley in Des Moines, during a timeout Izzo approached Henry on the court, yelled at him and pointed a finger toward his face. Henry appeared puzzled, unsure what Izzo was angry about. Guard Cassius Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, jumped between his teammate and his coach and gently guided Izzo away. Later in the timeout, with players seated around him, Izzo lurched toward Henry again. Multiple players eased Izzo back to his seat.
Falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament is a huge disappointment for a Kansas State team that reached the Elite Eight last March. The Wildcats claimed a share of the Big 12 title despite lingering injuries to Wade and several other key players, but their postseason was a disappointment.
Henry responded in the final three minutes with a key basket in the lane and two foul shots as Michigan State, the East Regions No. 2 seed, held off Bradley, 76-65. Afterward, Henry and his teammates shrugged off Izzos tirade. But the video of the incident had created a stir on social media by then, sparking conversation about the behavior of Izzo, who has coached the Spartans to 22 consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament appearances and seven Final Fours.
UC Irvine advances to face 12th-seeded Oregon on Sunday with a berth in the Sweet 16 at stake. With Saint Marys having lost to Villanova on Thursday night, the Anteaters are the only California team left in the NCAA tournament, shining further spotlight on a topic Turner has been highlighting for awhile.
I spoke about it a few weeks ago because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that we were succeeding at the level we were, and I knew that was a gamble, because you could easily fall flat, Turner said. And we could have easily lost in the Big West tournament like we did a year ago. Or we could have easily come out here tonight against a Big 12 team like a lot of other 13 seeds did and get blown out.
But we seemed to gain momentum with this group off of our confidence, and I think thats because weve earned it. And so thats fun, you know. It aint bragging if youre doing it, Yogi Berra said.
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