PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Arizona insists it needs to address its defense before it can be ready for Ohio State.
Even though the second-seeded Wildcats (32-3) rolled over No. 15 seed Texas Southern 93-72 in their NCAA Tournament opener on Thursday, no one seemed pleased with the defensive effort.
“It’s not that the roof’s caving in on us, but I think the point that we made is this tournament is unforgiving. When you don’t do the things that you do well, you’re not in the tournament very long,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said after the game. “So what I’m hoping is that we learned a few things we can move toward Saturday and be both: The offensive team we were here today, but also the great defensive team which I think we’ve represented all season long.”
Arizona and Ohio State also met in the 2013 Sweet 16, with the Buckeyes emerging with a 73-70 victory in Los Angeles.
The 10th-seeded Buckeyes (24-10) beat seventh-seeded Virginia Commonwealth 75-72 in overtime Thursday at Portland’s Moda Center. D’Angelo Russell had 26 points.
The round of 32 will reunite more than just former foes. Miller and Ohio State coach Thad Matta have a friendship that spans two decades — back to when both were assistants at Miami-Ohio.
In Arizona’s West region opener, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led the Wildcats with 23 points — 16 in the first half — and 10 rebounds. Pac-12 freshman of the year Stanley Johnson added 22 points Arizona led Texas Southern by as many as 27 points.
The Wildcats, making their third straight trip to the tournament and 32nd appearance overall, advanced all the way to the Elite Eight last year, with victories over Weber State, Gonzaga and San Diego State before falling to Wisconsin.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The Tigers (22-12), who won their second Southwestern Athletic Conference title for a tournament berth, were led by SWAC Player of the Year Madarious Gibbs with 15 points.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of this basketball team. We won 22 games this year,” Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. “Next year we’ll be back. We’ll definitely be back next year here in the tournament.”
CAN’T RECAPTURE THAT MAGIC: VCU (26-10) went home after a loss in its opener for the second straight season. Doug Brooks had 14 points and Treveon Graham added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Atlantic 10 champions, who haven’t been able to recapture the magic that pushed them to the 2011 Final Four.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: In the South region, Utah (25-8) held off a late rally by Stephen F. Austin (29-5) to survive 57-50. The Utes were led by 7-foot freshman Jakob Poeltl with 18 points and eight rebounds. They’ll face fourth-seeded Georgetown, which defeated No. 13 Eastern Washington 84-74.
The Utes, who won the national championship in 1944, are making their first appearance in the tournament since 2009.
After the victory, coach Larry Krystkowiak had to remind his players not to be too pumped about the victory — Saturday would come before they know it.
“I want our guys to understand that it’s a great accomplishment to win a game, but that wasn’t the goal of our season,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s important for us to stay really humble and hungry here in the next 48 hours.”
Stephen F. Austin, the Southland Conference Tournament champions, came within 54-50 with 30 seconds left but ultimately couldn’t catch the Utes.
BACK TO WINNING: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 25 points while Mikael Hopkins added had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Hoyas (22-10). After losing four of their last five tournament games — all to teams seeded 10th or worse — Georgetown fell behind by seven in the first half against the Eagles (26-9) but rebounded for the win.
“We felt like we had something to prove just in general, just because last year we didn’t make the tournament,” said Jabril Trawick, who finished with 10 points. “This year we just felt like we had a chip on our shoulder. Regardless of who we were playing, we just wanted to come out and get a win. That’s what we did tonight.”
Even with the win, however, Georgetown may not have silenced the critics. A victory over the Utes might.
“You keep doing your business, you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, eventually people will be quiet,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “To tell you the truth, we’re Georgetown. Even if we do so, people may not be quiet. We’re used to that.”
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