Last year's Final Four darling does it again

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Last year's Final Four darling does it again

From Comcast SportsNet
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Shaka Smart and Co. pulled off the first major surprise of the NCAA tournament. Yep, VCU is back again. Bradford Burgess hit a key 3-pointer with 1:33 left and the 12th-seeded Rams held off Wichita State 62-59 on Thursday night. Smart was one of the tournament's biggest stars last year when he coached VCU to victories over Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas, making the Rams just the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four. The run ended when they lost to Butler in Houston. This VCU team moves on to a matchup with fourth-seeded Indiana (26-8), which advanced to Saturday's game with a 79-66 victory over New Mexico State at the Rose Garden. "We have different guys doing different things than last year's team," Burgess said. "We want to make our own mark on this year's tournament." Still, there are already similarities to last year's run. Just take a look at the last few frantic minutes of this one. With 12 seconds left and the Rams clinging to a 62-59 lead, Smart was so animated during a timeout that he swooped down on his team at midcourt and started strategizing. The intense huddle was eventually brushed back to near the bench by the referees, but the Rams (29-6) came out of the timeout and buckled down defensively, hurrying Wichita State center Garrett Stutz's errant 3-point attempt before the final buzzer. "Our guys did a good job executing our defensive plan," Smart said of those final seconds. "They didn't get a good look at a 3, and that's what won it for us." The Rams led by as many as 13 in the second half, but Wichita State (26-6) closed to 54-53 on Stutz's layup with 5:39 left. Troy Daniels hit a 3-pointer for the Rams, and Joe Ragland answered with his own for the Shockers. Toure Murry made a 3 that gave Wichita State the lead, but Burgess came back with his big shot to give the Rams a 60-59 edge. Darius Theus then tacked on a runner before Stutz's last-chance attempt was off. "I was kind of the last option on top, and VCU read the play well," Stutz said. "By the time I got the ball I knew there wasn't enough time to go for a two. Couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 seconds left." Said VCU guard Rob Brandenberg: "Everybody was on the same page that last (defensive) play." Burgess finished with 16 points, and Theus and Daniels had 10 points apiece for the Rams, who edged Drexel 59-56 in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament final to make it to the NCAAs. Because of their unexpected run last season, the Rams were expected to give the Shockers trouble. Even President Barack Obama picked them to advance. Ragland finished with 15 points after getting off to a slow start. "They obviously pressured the ball and the first half we didn't handle it as well as we should have," Ragland said. "The second half we handled it pretty well and had a chance to win the game." Wichita State was ranked No. 18 in the final The Associated Press poll. The Shockers won the regular-season title in the Missouri Valley Conference, but lost to Illinois State in the semifinals of the conference tournament. It was the first NCAA tournament appearance for Wichita State since 2006, when it advanced to the regional semifinals. There were lots of missed shots on both sides early, but Rob Brandenberg hit a 3-pointer to put VCU in front 17-13 midway through the first half. Wichita State put together an 11-0 run to make it 24-21 with 5:27 left. Carl Hall capped the surge with a layup. Treveon Graham broke the VCU scoring drought with a jumper and Burgess added a 3-pointer, sparking a 13-1 run that lifted the Rams to a 34-25 lead at the break. Burgess scored 13 points during a dominating first half, except for an errant 3-pointer that fell far short of the basket. Virginia Commonwealth stretched the lead to 41-29 after Brandenberg's layup. His jumper a short time later gave the Rams a 46-33 lead, but Ben Smith had a layup before David Kyles scored five quick points to trim VCU's lead to 46-40. Ragland, who was quiet most of the first half, made a 3-pointer with 7:23 left and Stutz tapped in a shot to get Wichita State within one at 54-53. "They came at us with kind of a dose of our own medicine and pressed us," Smart said. "I thought it gave us troubles for part of the second half but we hung in there and made all the big plays in the end."

NBA Gameday: Draymond Green vs Blake Griffin

NBA Gameday: Draymond Green vs Blake Griffin

OAKLAND -- Once upon a time, for a few fleeting seasons, there was a rivalry between the Warriors and the Clippers. These days, however, it’s more like an exhibition of domination.

The Warriors will be trying to sweep LA for the second consecutive season when the teams meet Thursday night at Oracle Arena.

While the Warriors (47-9) open the post-All-Star break trying to solidify their status as the No. 1 overall seed, the Clippers (35-21) are scrambling to hang onto the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. LA has won its last four games, but is 6-7 since Chris Paul went down with a thumb injury on Jan. 18.

Paul was originally expected to miss at least six weeks and still is listed as out. He has, however, received medical clearance and Clippers coach Doc Rivers on Thursday morning left open the possibility of Paul’s return.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 13

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Draymond Green vs. Blake Griffin: The rise of the Warriors can be traced back to Green’s stifling of Griffin in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. It’s a classic battle between a defensive ace and a spectacular offensive star. With Paul expected to miss his 14th consecutive game, it’s up to Griffin to make plays while also carrying the bulk of the scoring load. In three games against the Warriors this season, he is averaging 21.0 points on 45.3-percent (24-of-53) shooting.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: C Zaza Pachulia (R rotator cuff strain) and C David West (L thumb fracture) are listed as questionable.

Clippers: F Brice Johnson (herniated disk) and G Chris Paul (L thumb ligament tear) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2. Clippers: 5-5.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors have won the last nine regular-season meetings and 17 of the last 22. They have won 10 in a row in Oakland and 20 of the last 22.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

POST-BREAK BLUES: The first game after the break is treacherous for most teams, and the Warriors are no exception. Coming off the break last season, they went to Portland and lost by 32 -- still their most lopsided loss since Steve Kerr arrived before the 2014-15 season. Early intensity may be hard to muster, but it’s necessary.

PARK ON THE ARC: The Clippers are a team of launchers, relying largely on jumpers from the perimeter, often 3-point distance, where they rank fourth in field-goal percentage. They rank 27th in points in the paint and 24th in second-chance points, so the Warriors would be wise to force contested jump shots, no matter who is taking them.

BALL VALUE: The Warriors over the last five games are averaging a very manageable 10.8 turnovers. If they continue this trend, it pretty much closes off any avenue for the Clippers to crank up their offense.

Mum at deadline, Warriors ineligible to re-sign Andrew Bogut

Mum at deadline, Warriors ineligible to re-sign Andrew Bogut

OAKLAND -- The Warriors, as expected, mostly observed from the sideline as the NBA trade deadline came and went on Thursday.

That does not mean they were inactive.

While other teams shopped around with an eye on matching up with them, the Warriors, according to multiple sources, were constantly studying the market -- and will continue to do so with the knowledge that a number of veteran players will be bought out and, therefore, become available on the cheap.

Ex-Warriors center Andrew Bogut, for example, likely will be on the market after the 76ers acquired him in a trade with the Mavericks. But because the Warriors traded Bogut within the last 12 months, they are not eligible to re-sign him, even if they were so inclined, which they are not.

Any move the Warriors make in the coming weeks likely will bring in a wing to play behind the likes of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson. They place a high value on such players largely because they tend to be relatively seamless fits into their defensive concepts.