NCAA Latest: Press Virginia poses problems for Villanova

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NCAA Latest: Press Virginia poses problems for Villanova
NCAA Latest: Press Virginia poses problems for Villanova

The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):

8:15 p.m.

Press Virginia is causing all kinds of problems for Villanova.

The Mountaineers have applied full-court pressure after every basket, and it helped them open a 35-33 lead with 3:30 left in the first half of the regional semifinal. The press caused three Villanova turnovers in a stretch of 65 seconds that helped West Virginia run off eight points in a row.

In all, the Wildcats had nine turnovers and West Virginia had five steals late in the first half.

Bob Huggins said on Thursday he thinks his team would benefit from a fast-paced game.

This one’s on its way.

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8:10 p.m.

It’s a tight game so far in the East Region semifinal between Villanova and West Virginia.

The top-seeded Wildcats are being tested by the fifth-seeded Mountaineers’ pressure defense. Each team had six turnovers with about 5 minutes left.

The Mountaineers then went on an 8-0 run to take a 33-30 lead.

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8:05 p.m.

Top-seeded Kansas is capitalizing on its mismatch in the post with Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa and leads fifth-seeded Clemson 40-27 at halftime of their Midwest Region semifinal.

The two Jayhawks have combined for 16 points, with four dunks, on 7-of-9 shooting. They scored six points as the Jayhawks closed on a 15-5 run and held Clemson without a field goal for 6 minutes.

Clemson’s season scoring leader, Marcquise Reed, didn’t make his first basket until a minute was left in the half. A flagrant-1 foul was called on the play on Clemson’s Elijah Thomas, who pushed his left forearm into Silvio De Sousa’s head under the basket as Reed was shooting.

De Sousa made the free throws and Lagerald Vick followed with a 3-pointer to put the Jayhawks up 13 at the break.

The Clemson-Kansas winner plays in the regional final Sunday against the winner of Friday night’s other semifinal between second-seeded Duke and 11th-seeded Syracuse.

– Eric Olson reporting from Omaha, Nebraska

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7:50 p.m.

Clemson has gone cold in the Midwest Region semifinal against top-seeded Kansas.

Kansas leads 33-22 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half after the Tigers have missed 8 of their last 9 shots.

The Jayhawks have hit 6 of 8 after opening the game 8 for 20.

The 7-foot, 280-pound Udoka Azubuike is controlling the inside against Clemson’s 6-9, 237-pound Elijah Thomas and 6-9, 232-pound Mark Donnal.

Azubuike and his backup, Silvio De Sousa, have combined for 14 points and four dunks on 7-of-9 shooting.

Clemson is shooting 36 percent and has committed eight turnovers.

– Eric Olson reporting from Omaha, Nebraska

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7:36 p.m.

Svi Mykhailiuk’s 3-pointer and Silvio De Sousa’s dunk off a lob from Devonte Graham has helped Kansas create some separation after Clemson pulled within a point of the Jayhawks in the Midwest Region semifinal.

Clemson erased most of an early 11-4 deficit to pull to 20-19. Mykhailiuk hit a 3 from the wing, and after Mark Donnal missed a jumper on the other end, Graham led De Sousa perfectly for the Jayhawks’ third dunk of the game. There’s about 7 minutes left in the first half.

Malik Newman leads the Jayhawks with seven points, and Donnal has seven for the Tigers.

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7:35 p.m.

Villanova is off to a fast start in the Sweet 16.

The top-seeded Wildcats opened their regional semifinal matchup against fifth-seeded West Virginia by hitting their first six field-goal attempts for a 14-11 lead with about 15 minutes left in the first half.

Purdue and Texas Tech face off in the other East Region semifinal in Boston.

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7:15 p.m.

The CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, looks like Allen Fieldhouse North as top-seeded Kansas faces fifth-seeded Clemson in the Midwest Region semifinals.

The upper and lower bowls of the 17,500-seat arena are mostly blue. One section of the lower bowl is filled with fans in the orange of Clemson.

Omaha is a 3 1/2-hour drive from the Jayhawks’ campus in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Clemson-Kansas winner will go to the Elite Eight and face the winner of Friday night’s second Midwest semifinal between No. 2 seed Duke and 11th-seeded Syracuse.

Kansas had an 11-6 lead with 14:45 left in the first half.

-Eric Olson reporting from Omaha, Nebraska.

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6:55 p.m.

The NCAA has tweaked its interpretation of a rule that allows padding to cover braces worn on the elbow, wrist or forearm.

The change could allow Purdue center Isaac Haas to play in Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Texas Tech, though it still remains a long shot. The star center has been sidelined since he fractured his right elbow in the Boilermakers’ first-round NCAA Tournament win.

An initial version of a protective brace for Haas was ruled ineligible for the NCAAs because of a rigid metal component that it felt was a safety hazard to other players. Graduate engineering students at Purdue constructed a softer version using carbon fiber and shipped it to Haas on Tuesday.

But one of Purdue coach Matt Painter’s markers for considering whether Haas would be able to play was if he could rebound using both hands and be able to shoot with it as well. Haas practiced Thursday, but displayed very limited mobility in the injured elbow, keeping it mostly at a 90-degree angle during the workout.

He performed a right-handed layup, but never attempted a jump shot during the 15-minute portion open to the media.

– Kyle Hightower, reporting from Boston

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6:30 p.m.

Move over underdog darlings: It’s time for some of college basketball’s blue bloods to take the stage in the Sweet 16.

Villanova, Kansas, Duke and Syracuse all tip off their regional semifinal games Friday night. All four schools have national titles.

The action tips off with Clemson taking on Kansas in the Midwest. Four teams will join West finalists Florida State and Michigan, and East finalists Kansas State and Loyola-Chicago to round out the Elite Eight.

Power names in action means Friday night might actually be good for some wins for your long-busted bracket (if you haven’t given up on it just yet).

Unlike the South region, where one-tenth of 1 percent of ESPN bracketeers correctly selected Loyola-Chicago and Kansas State to make it this far, teams like Purdue, Villanova and Kansas are highly popular picks to reach the regional final.

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6 p.m.

The second half of the Sweet 16 is rife with compelling matchups.

Villanova’s Jalen Brunson vs. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter. Duke’s athletes trying to solve Syracuse’s zone. The athleticism of Kansas and Clemson.

Should make for some more drama in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

The marquee matchup comes in the East Region Friday in Boston, where Villanova, one of two No. 1 seeds remaining, faces the team nicknamed Press Virginia.

The Wildcats have been on a tear, making 31 combined 3-pointers in lopsided opening NCAA Tournament wins over Radford and Alabama. Villanova (32-4) has been even better on defense, holding its first two opponents to 37 percent shooting and less than 60 points per game.

West Virginia (26-10) is known for its defense, but rode its hot-shooting offense into the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.

Syracuse (23-13) faces its toughest test yet against the Blue Devils (28-7) in Omaha. Duke has a superb inside-out game with super frosh Marvin Bagley III in the middle and is averaging 85 points per game in the tournament.

Purdue’s 7-foot-2 standout Isaac Haas is hoping to get in the game against Texas Tech, thanks to an arm brace quickly engineered by grad students in hopes of meeting NCAA safety standards.

And Kansas (29-7), the top seed in the Midwest, faces fifth-seeded Clemson (25-9) on a roll after a 31-point rout of Auburn.

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More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events

West Virginia’s Wesley Harris (21) and Jevon Carter (2) defend as Villanova’s Phil Booth (5) tries to inbound the ball during the first half of an NCAA men’s college basketball tournament regional semifinal Friday, March 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Villanova’s Omari Spellman, left, and Donte DiVincenzo, right, defend against West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate, center, during the first half of an NCAA men’s college basketball tournament regional semifinal Friday, March 23, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell, center, heads to the basket as Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham, left, and Marcus Garrett defend during the first half of a regional semifinal game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) dribbles as Clemson’s David Skara watches during the first half of a regional semifinal game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Clemson’s David Skara (24) reaches for a rebound as Kansas’ Malik Newman (14) watches during the first half of a regional semifinal game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Purdue’s Isaac Haas, wearing an arm brace, awaits a pass during practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Boston, Thursday, March 22, 2018. Purdue faces Texas Tech in a regional semifinal on Friday night. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
West Virginia’s Jevon Carter shoots during practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Boston, Thursday, March 22, 2018. West Virginia faces Villanova in a regional semifinal on Friday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Villanova’s Jalen Brunson passes the ball during practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Boston, Thursday, March 22, 2018. Villanova faces West Virginia in a regional semifinal on Friday night. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Duke players warm up at the beginning of practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, March 22, 2018. Duke faces Syracuse in a regional semifinal on Friday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Syracuse’s Tyus Battle (25) shoots during practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, March 22, 2018. Syracuse faces Duke in a regional semifinal on Friday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)