No. 16 Saint Mary's bounces back with win over Broncos

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No. 16 Saint Mary's bounces back with win over Broncos

BOX SCORE
MORAGA -- The stars that faded against Gonzaga two nights earlier shined bright again for Saint Mary's when it mattered most. While that 12-game winning streak is gone, the Gaels' dominance in the West Coast Conference still seems alive and well.Same goes for the program's leaders, too.Rob Jones had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Matthew Dellavedova added 16 points and 10 assists, and No. 16 Saint Mary's rebounded from a loss at Gonzaga with an 82-67 victory over cross-bay rival Santa Clara on Saturday night."Our guys who needed to step up, our leaders, did. And that was the key," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said.Stephen Holt scored 11 points to help Saint Mary's (23-3, 12-1) overcome a slow start and pull away in the second half. The Gaels improved to 16-0 at home with only two games left at McKeon Pavilion this season."I think it just proves how tough a team we are. You can't be proven this tough if you face adversity," said Jones, who was held to eight points and seven rebounds against the Bulldogs on Thursday in a rare off night. "So after last game, I prepared to prove to myself and everyone else that I'm still here with this team."Consider it done.Denzel Johnson scored 17 points and Niyi Harrison added 12 points for the Broncos (8-17, 0-12), swept for the third straight year in the series and still winless in conference play this season.Santa Clara junior guard Kevin Foster, the WCC's leading scorer at 17.8 points a game, was held out for the seventh straight game. He has not played since being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Jan. 21."We can only use the bullets we have, and the ones we got are getting better," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "For us, this whole season's been hard. We haven't won a road game all year. We dealt with a lot of adversity in the very beginning, and certainly in the last three weeks it's changed and been even more adverse."The first setback in weeks did little to quiet the Saint Mary's faithful.Patrons packed in the aisles and up to the rafters at standing-room-only McKeon Pavilion, where the capacity is 3,500. With the 73-59 loss to the Bulldogs two nights earlier still fresh, the program's rival tried to make it sting even worse.Harrison provided an immediate burst, finishing with a three-point play over Jordan Page that gave the Broncos a 19-16 lead. Santa Clara withstood every momentum swing - keeping most brief - and never let the Gaels pull away.At least for a half.The Gaels galloped past the Broncos with a strong finish to the half and a stronger start to the second, bringing fans roaring to their feet after Brad Waldow's put-back tip at the buzzer. Two big plays in the first minutes following the break sent Santa Clara home for good.Holt converted a difficult layup while getting draped by Cowels and Rob Jones made a short jumper as Cowels fouled him moments later. Both missed the free throw that followed.The 22-7 run between the first and second half put Saint Mary's ahead 54-40, and all the Gaels had to do was hold on against an inferior opponent the rest of the way - something they've done plenty of this year.Santa Clara chopped the deficit to three with 8:51 remaining with some surprisingly streaking shooting before Saint Mary's took control again. Dellavedova had a layup and also fed Waldow for a dunk that helped put the Gaels back in front 71-61.The victory kept Saint Mary's in prime position to end Gonzaga's streak of 11 straight seasons with at least a share of the WCC crown - and likely the high NCAA tournament seeding that comes with it.But as last season showed, one loss can change plans quickly.The Bulldogs beat Saint Mary's in the last year's regular-season finale to split the title and again won in the league championship game. The two losses kept the Gaels out of the NCAA tournament.Saint Mary's is one of eight teams in Division I - along with WCC rival Gonzaga and newcomer BYU - to win at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons. The ranking this week in the AP poll is the highest for Saint Mary's since the 1958-59 season."We're not really focused on that," Dellavedova said. "But one game can turn around a season."

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

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AP

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's OK, Carolina, you can open your eyes.

An unwatchable game turned into a beautiful night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate.

Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead 3-point play with 1:40 left Monday and North Carolina pulled away for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga that washed away a year's worth of heartache.

It was, in North Carolina's words, a redemption tour - filled with extra time on the practice court and the weight room, all fueled by a devastating loss in last year's title game on Kris Jenkins' 3-point dagger at the buzzer for Villanova.

"Just unreal that we get a second chance at this," junior Theo Pinson said, recounting a pre-game conversation with teammate Joel Berry II. "Not a lot of people can say they can do that. I told him, `We're about to take this thing. I'm about to give everything I got.' I knew he would, too, We just didn't want to come up short again."

But to say everything went right for Roy Williams' team at this Final Four would be less than the truth.

The Tar Heels (33-7) followed a terrible-shooting night in the semifinal with an equally ice-cold performance in the final - going 4 for 27 from 3-point land and 26 for 73 overall.

Gonzaga, helped by 8 straight points from Nigel Williams-Goss, took a 2-point lead with 1:52 left, but the next possession was the game-changer.

Jackson took a zinger of a pass under the basket from Pinson and converted the shot, then the ensuing free throw to take the lead for good. Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted an ankle and could not elevate for a jumper that would've given the Bulldogs the lead.

Isaiah Hicks made a basket to push the lead to 3, then Kennedy Meeks, in foul trouble all night (who wasn't?), blocked Williams-Goss' shot and Jackson got a slam on the other end to put some icing on title No. 6 for the Tar Heels.

Williams got his third championship, putting him one ahead of his mentor, Dean Smith, and now behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp.

"I think of Coach Smith, there's no question," Williams said. "I don't think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. But we got three because I've got these guys with me and that's all I care about right now - my guys."

Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. Jackson had 16 but went 0 for 9 from 3. Overall, the Tar Heels actually shot a percentage point worse than they did in Saturday night's win over Oregon.

Thank goodness for free throws.

They went 15 for 26 from the line and, in many corners, this game will be remembered for these three men: Michael Stephens, Verne Harris and Mike Eades, the referees who called 27 fouls in the second half, completely busted up the flow of the game and sent Meeks, Gonzaga's 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, and a host of others to the bench in foul trouble.

The game "featured" 52 free throws. Both teams were in the bonus with 13 minutes left. Somehow, Collins was the only player to foul out.

Most bizarre sequence: With 8:02 left, Berry got called for a foul for (maybe) making contact with Karnowski and stripping the ball from the big man's hands. But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he inadvertently grabbed Berry around the neck. After a long delay, the refs called Karnowski for a flagrant foul of his own.

"I'm not going to talk about refs," Karnowski said. "It was just a physical game."

Zags coach Mark Few handled it with class, calling the refs "three of the best officials in the entire country," and insisting they did a fine job.

He might have wanted further review on the scrum with 50 seconds left. The refs were taking heat on social media for calling a held ball, which gave possession to the Tar Heels, on a pile-up underneath the Carolina basket. It set up the Hicks layup to put Carolina ahead by 3. One problem: Meeks' right hand looks to be very much touching out of bounds while he's trying to rip away the ball.

"That was probably on me," Few said. "From my angle, it didn't look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review. That's tough to hear."

The Bulldogs (37-2), the Cinderella-turned-Godzilla team from the small school in the West Coast Conference, tried to keep the big picture in mind. Twenty years ago, this sort of run at that sort of place looked virtually impossible. With less than 2 minutes left, they had the lead in the national title game.

"We broke the glass ceiling everyone said we couldn't break," junior forward Johnathan Williams said.

And North Carolina got over a hump that, at times this season, felt like a mountain.

"They wanted redemption," Williams said. "I put it on the locker room up on the board - one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. I think this group was tough enough tonight."