Stanford survives in 3OT thriller at USC

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Stanford survives in 3OT thriller at USC

BOX SCORE
LOS ANGELES -- A few minutes after his Stanford teammates left the field, Andrew Luck sprinted toward the Coliseum tunnel with both arms thrust triumphantly skyward, his heart still pounding from 56 points, three overtimes and a season's worth of drama packed into one crazy night.

After nearly a full calendar year of blowout victories, Luck and the Cardinal (No. 6 BCS, No. 4 AP) might have forgotten what a thriller feels like.

Luck loved it all, right down to the final Southern California fumble that ended Stanford's 56-48 triple-overtime victory over the 20th-ranked Trojans on Saturday night.

"I might need a couple minutes to digest it, but it's definitely up there," Luck said when asked where the night ranked among his football memories. "More than anything, I'm just happy to get a win."

Stepfan Taylor ran for the tying touchdown with 38 seconds left in regulation and the go-ahead score in the third overtime, and Stanford's defense preserved its 16-game winning streak by forcing Curtis McNeal's fumble into the end zone to finish it.

Luck burnished his Heisman Trophy credentials by engineering four late scoring drives for No. 4 Stanford (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12), coolly keeping it together after he nearly cost the Cardinal the game by throwing a crucial interception late in the fourth quarter.

"I was very disappointed in myself," Luck said. "For a couple of seconds, I wanted to go dig a hole and bury myself in it, but guys believed in me. I was so happy to still see time on the game clock. It was another chance to get out there."

Four years after Stanford stunned USC (6-2, 3-2) with a one-point victory as a 41-point underdog, the schools played another classic on a cool Coliseum night -- and once again, the Cardinal ruled.

Both teams scored in the first two overtimes, compounding the tension in the sold-out Coliseum. After Taylor's run in the third OT, Coby Fleener caught the 2-point conversion pass.

USC quickly got to first-and-goal at the 4, but Terrence Stephens forced the ball from McNeal. It squirted into the end zone and A.J. Tarpley jumped on it.

"No excuse, I just fumbled," said McNeal, who rushed for 145 yards and made second-half touchdown runs of 61 and 25 yards to keep USC in it. "I feel like beating myself up, but I've just got to keep pushing. I'm going to face worse things in life. I just have to keep my head up."

Luck passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a key score, but the Cardinal were in serious trouble after he made a rare mistake on his fourth interception of the season, just the second that wasn't off a tipped pass.

Nickell Robey sneaked in front of Chris Owusu and returned it 33 yards for a score to make it 34-27 with 3:08 left in regulation, but Luck swiftly engineered a 76-yard drive capped by Taylor's short score.

"He was so mad at himself," said David Shaw, who's still perfect as Stanford's coach. "He wasn't going to let that play lose the game for us. ... We put the ball in our quarterback's hands, put it on his shoulders, and the kid came through."

Matt Barkley passed for 284 yards and three scores for the bowl-banned Trojans in his third straight loss to Luck. He got the Trojans into Stanford territory in the final seconds of regulation, but Robert Woods used up the final 9 seconds running to the sideline, preventing USC from trying a long field goal.

USC coach Lane Kiffin said he was "really disappointed in the officials" when they didn't allow him to call a timeout before it ended.

The Cardinal were truly tested for the first time since the middle of last season, which ended with an Orange Bowl victory. USC nearly pulled off another upset last season at Stanford Stadium, sticking with the Cardinal until Luck engineered a last-minute drive ending in a field goal for a two-point victory.

"It's a great rivalry," Kiffin said. "We've had two great games with them that we haven't been able to finish off."

Although the Trojans fell agonizingly short of the biggest win in Kiffin's two seasons, USC chipped away much of Stanford's dominant aura accumulated during the nation's longest winning streak.

Stanford fell behind by 10 points in the third quarter, and the Cardinal won by fewer than 25 points for the first time in 11 games since last November. Stanford had limited its last 13 opponents to 21 points or fewer, the school's longest stretch since 1939-41, before USC scored 34 points in regulation.

Stanford had gone three-and-out on offense just four times all season before USC forced three more three-and-outs. Luck had been sacked just twice all season before the Trojans put him down twice, including a huge third-down sack by Devon Kennard that knocked Stanford out of range for a potential tying field goal with less than 9 minutes to play.

"We talked about fighting adversity," Shaw said. "I didn't know there was going to be this much adversity, but the kids fought through, and I love them to death for it."

USC took a 20-10 lead shortly after halftime, but Luck rushed for a go-ahead score in the third quarter. The Trojans pushed back ahead on Marqise Lee's 28-yard TD catch with 13:04 to play.

After Robey's TD, the Coliseum announcer warned fans in the sold-out stadium against rushing the field after the final gun.

Turns out, that gun was still about an hour away.

Luck threw early TD passes to Tyler Gaffney and Ryan Hewitt, but he was at his best on the Cardinal's final drive of regulation. He completed 10 straight passes down the stretch, yet still got help after throwing an incompletion on third down near midfield when USC safety T.J. McDonald needlessly leveled Owusu, keeping the drive alive with a personal foul.

Jeremy Stewart scored on a dive over the line to cap Stanford's first possession of overtime, but Barkley hit Woods in the corner for a 15-yard score to even it. Freshman tight end Randall Telfer turned a short pass from Barkley into a TD to start the second OT, but Luck found Levine Toilolo with a cross-field TD pass moments later, and Whitaker knuckled home the extra point.

Stanford is USC's oldest rival, and the schools have an eventful recent history during the Cardinal's improbable rise as a football power. Stanford posted one of the most shocking upsets in recent college football history here four years ago before a 55-21 rout of USC in 2009 that included the most points allowed in USC history -- until the latest unforgettable night at the Coliseum.

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."