Saint Mary's, Purdue with something to prove

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Saint Mary's, Purdue with something to prove

NCAA scoreboard

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- No one is more excited about Purdue's NCAA tournament game against Saint Mary's than Robbie Hummel.

The Boilermakers' star is right back where he wants to be after missing the tournament the past two years because of two anterior cruciate ligament tears in his right knee.

No. 10-seeded Purdue (21-12) meets the No. 7 Gaels (27-5) on Friday in the Midwest Regional. Hummel is looking for a big finish to his career after returning to average 16.7 points and 7.1 rebounds this season while making first-team all-Big Ten.

"Sitting out the last two years, it's been frustrating," Hummel said Thursday. "It's made this time all the more special for me. When you miss something like that - where you've grown up watching the tournament and always wanting to play in it - it's disappointing to not be with your team."

RATTO: Saint Mary's no longer a Cinderella

Hummel and the Boilermakers are playing some of their best ball lately. The 6-foot-8 senior forward scored better than 21 points per game last month and the Boilermakers won six of eight before losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

"He's had a long road and didn't get into rhythm shooting the basketball until February," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "You see all his hard work paying off and you feel good about him. He deserves to have this opportunity."

Hummel and his teammates will be facing a motivated Saint Mary's team. The Gaels reached the round of 16 two years ago but had to settle for an NIT bid last season.

"Our guys took that pretty hard," coach Randy Bennett said.

The Gaels, who swept the West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles, are among only five teams to have won at least 25 games each of the last five years. They still have seven players from the 2009-10 team that put the school on the college basketball map.

"I think that experience will definitely help us down the stretch," senior forward Rob Jones said. "We need leadership, and also when it comes down to a tight game, we will have a lot of confidence in ourselves."

Purdue and Saint Mary's have never met. The Gaels, in fact, haven't played an opponent from the Big Ten since 1976.

RATTO: No 'chip' on shoulder of Gaels

Hummel earned all-Big Ten honors his freshman and sophomore seasons and was averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds as a junior before he tore his ACL the first time on Feb. 24, 2010. Purdue still made it to the regional semifinals.

The Boilermakers figured to be a national-title contender in 2010-11, but Hummel tore the ACL again and missed the entire season.

Bennett gushed at his news conference Thursday when Hummel's name was brought up.

"First of all, he's a legend," Bennett said. "He must have a big heart. I don't know him that well. I just watch him compete. For him to come back and get his team back in the NCAA tournament ... he's got what you want and what it takes to be a special guy. I've heard about him for years and to finally see him up close is kind of fun, until tomorrow."

There were times earlier this season when Hummel let doubts creep into his mind about whether he would be as effective as he used to be.

"Will I be able to play at a high level again? Will I be able to just shoot the ball?" he said. "There were times that I was asking myself if I'll be on the court, or will our team be in (the NCAA tournament)?"

Hummel scored a season-high 29 points against Nebraska on Feb. 22, three nights after grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds against Michigan State.

There was no doubt Hummel had made it all the way back.
RATTO: NCAA Tourney denies SMC, Cal a Bay Area showcase

"Most guys will quit," Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson said. "You had to guess if he's going to be the same player, or does he want to get back out there? When I'm tired, if I'm nicked up, I look at what he's been through and tell myself you need to be out there giving your heart just because he's out there giving his, too."

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."