Sunday’s March Madness: South Carolina Trails Early but Then Rolls

Kentucky became the latest college basketball blue blood to be ousted from the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament in its first weekend.

One day after Duke and Kansas, the reigning champion, were knocked out in the second round, No. 6 seed Kentucky was beaten by Kansas State, 75-69. Though Kansas State was seeded No. 3, Kentucky had been favored in the game, by 3 points.

Kentucky’s loss mirrored another on Saturday by Duke, which was seeded fifth and lost to No. 4 seed Tennessee by 13, despite odds that reflected its popularity and betting support.

Markquis Nowell, Kansas State’s 5-foot-8 point guard, had a brilliant game with 27 points and nine assists, carving up the Kentucky defense with timely passes, big 3-point shots and clutch free throws.

Nowell, a Harlem native, will return home for his next game: Kansas State (24-9) will play in the round of 16 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the winner between No. 2 seed Marquette and No. 7 seed Michigan State.

Ismael Massoud and Florida transfer Keyontae Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Kansas State up 67-62 after it trailed by 1. Nowell made six foul shots in the final seconds.

The loss was the latest stinging defeat for Kentucky Coach John Calipari, the highest-paid coach in college basketball, and is likely to spur further unrest among the rabid Kentucky fans known as Big Blue Nation.

Calipari led Kentucky to the national championship in 2012 and to three other Final Four appearances. But last year, the Wildcats were stunned as a No. 2 by No. 15 seed St. Peter’s in the first round, and they missed the tournament altogether in 2021.

Under its first-year coach, Jerome Tang, Kansas State has enjoyed its first winning season since 2018-19. It last made the round of 16 in 2018, under its previous coach, Bruce Weber, who retired after last season.

For Kentucky, Oscar Tshiebwe, the national player of the year last season, was dominant in the paint with 25 points and 18 rebounds, while freshman Cason Wallace notched 21 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds. — Adam Zagoria

Second-seeded Iowa and its star shooter, Caitlin Clark, are heading to the women’s round of 16 after just holding off Georgia in a tightly contested game.

The teams traded blows and exchanged the lead nine times, but the Hawkeyes took a lead at the end of the third quarter that they wouldn’t relinquish. Iowa managed enough elbow room in the fourth quarter to hold off the Bulldogs, 74-66, even as they pulled within 2 with just over 2 minutes left on Audrey Warren’s 3-pointer, her only basket of the game.

From there, Clark spent much of the rest of the game trying to weave between Georgia defenders as they attempted to foul her, hitting the floor several times. Clark hit a jumper and four free throws in the final minute, perhaps her most important moments in a game in which she never left the floor and tallied 22 points and 12 assists despite shooting only 35 percent.

Georgia, which hasn’t made the round of 16 since 2013, tried to stifle Clark with quick defense, which caught the Hawkeyes off guard for much of the first half. Diamond Battles kept things close with her outside shooting and finished with 21 points.

Still, it was no match for Clark’s wizardry and ball control, especially in the final minutes.

The Hawkeyes will meet the winner between Duke and Colorado, which play Monday night, on Friday in Seattle. — Remy Tumin

It looked, for a few early moments, like women’s college basketball was in for a seismic upset.

South Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed and odds-on favorite to win the N.C.A.A. tournament, was trailing eighth-seeded South Florida, 16-12, after one quarter. The Gamecocks were hitting less than 36 percent of their shots and had committed five turnovers. South Florida was playing like it wasn’t afraid of the reigning champion.

But the game is 40 minutes, not 10.

After the rocky start, more of South Carolina’s shots started falling, and the Gamecocks raised the defensive pressure considerably on the Bulls. South Carolina pulled ahead by 4 points at halftime and then hit the gas in the second half, running away with the 76-45 victory.

Forward Aliyah Boston said in a postgame TV interview that the slow start was a product of South Florida’s defensive intensity.

“We were just trying to figure them out a little bit,” she said.

And they did. South Carolina moved the ball freely in the second half and committed just four turnovers, while holding South Florida to just 7 points in the third quarter and 9 in the fourth.

Elena Tsineke led the early charge for South Florida with 7 points in the first. She finished with a team-high 20.

Guard Zia Cooke paced South Carolina with 21 points. Boston added 11 points and 11 rebounds for her 81st career double-double. The team’s depth was also on display, with 14 players hitting the floor and 11 of them scoring.

The Gamecocks pushed their record to 34-0 and will play in the round of 16 for the ninth consecutive tournament. — Sara Ziegler

One element of the N.C.A.A. tournaments that emerges with so many teams playing simultaneously and in rapid succession: No program wants to end up a cautionary example in their bracket, and sometimes a team takes out that sentiment on its opponent.

That was how No. 3 seed Xavier approached Pittsburgh, a No. 11 seed that had come into the Sunday matchup looking like it had a fresh mandate after sneaking into the field, then winning a play-in game and dispatching Iowa State with ease in the first round.

Ultimately that was all just fodder for the Musketeers, who got spooked by Kennesaw State in a first-round game early Friday afternoon and then watched over the next 48 hours as so many big programs — Purdue, Duke, Kansas — faltered.

They took that out on the Panthers, running up the score by playing well down low, passing skillfully and steeling themselves for a run, much like a tennis or boxing mismatch in which one side wants to dominate by directly rattling and outmaneuvering their opponent.

So when Pitt had its one good run late, to get within 8 points with less than two minutes left, it was too little too late to stop Xavier from advancing to the round of 16, 84-73, and looking strong while doing it. — Oskar Garcia

Men’s Tournament

7:45 p.m., TruTV

After Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunning upset of Purdue, a No. 1 seed, we’ve been soaking up information about the school in Teaneck, N.J. The Knights won only four games last season and didn’t win their conference tournament this year; they needed to win a First Four game before they even had a chance to face Purdue; they’re the shortest team in Division I. But no matter: F.D.U. owns the second win by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed in men’s tournament history, and now it has a chance to get further than any 16 seed ever has. Standing in its way is Florida Atlantic, which survived a back-and-forth game against Memphis by hitting the go-ahead basket with 2.5 seconds left.

Women’s Tournament

7 p.m., ESPN2

Princeton needed nearly every second of Friday’s game to pull off the upset. The Tigers got a 3-pointer from Grace Stone with 4.7 seconds left to complete their comeback win over seventh-seeded North Carolina State, which was held without a point for the final 5:43 of the game. Princeton has made the round of 32 for the second consecutive year. It will face Utah, which hit the century mark Friday in a 103-77 win over Gardner-Webb. The Utes were led by forward Alissa Pili’s 33 points, a career high for the transfer from Southern California.

7:30 p.m., ESPN

L.S.U. took a while to jell offensively in its 73-50 win over 14th-seeded Hawaii on Friday, but even cold shooting couldn’t slow down the Tigers. Forward Angel Reese scored 34 points and added 15 rebounds for her 29th double-double on the season. Michigan was hot out of the gate in its first-round game against U.N.L.V., leading 17-9 after the first quarter. Forward Emily Kiser and guard Maddie Nolan each had 18 points for the Wolverines, while guard Leigha Brown poured in 17.

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