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March 24, 2012
UK Hits 100
Kentucky Wins a Shootout

by Corey Schmidt

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SOUTH

(3) Baylor 75, (10) Xavier 70 [67 possessions]
For a team that is often talked about in terms of the number of McDonald's All Americans and future first round draft picks it possesses, it's interesting that Baylor's most important players in March have been Brady Heslip, Pierre Jackson, and Quincy Acy. While Heslip's scorching three-point shooting took center stage last weekend, against Xavier it was Acy who stole the show. The big man grabbed 15 rebounds and scored 20 points on 8-of-11 two-point shooting. Acy's efficiency from inside the arc set the tone for the Bears as they made 24-of-42 twos, which stands in stark contrast to the 42 percent they averaged last weekend. Meanwhile, Jackson contributed double-digit assists for the second consecutive tournament game. Baylor's D allowed more than a point per trip for the first time in the tournament, due in no small part to the fact they sent the Musketeers to the free throw line at a 43 percent rate.

(1) Kentucky 102, (4) Indiana 90 [72]
For the last month John Gasaway has been touting that Kentucky's offense is better than its defense, and and if that movement needed a signature game, this one would have done the job. At the end of the first half, both of these teams had scored over 1.20 points per possession. Defense didn't figure prominently in this one, which allowed us to see once and for all that UK's offense is indeed better than its defense. The Wildcats achieved such offensive efficiency in much the same manner as they've done all season: making a high percentage of their shots, specifically their infrequent threes; collecting offensive boards; and limiting turnovers. They also far surpassed their season average free throw rate and made all but two of their 37 attempts at the line. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the team's premier free throw shooter in the game (10-for-10), and perhaps also the game's overall premier player. The freshman had 24 points and 10 rebounds.

MIDWEST

(1) North Carolina 73, (13) Ohio 65 [80 possessions, OT]
After 40 minutes of play the Bobcats were equal to the Tar Heels. Defying the odds, they hit 12 three-pointers in the first two halves, and almost all of those were made by the hot-shooting duo of Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg. The one player who regressed to the mean from beyond the arc was D.J. Cooper. Typically a below-average shooter, Cooper entered the game having made 44 percent of his postseason threes, but last night he was 1-of-10. Perhaps the costliest miss of the nine was his half-court heave at the end of regulation. Had it not clanked off the rim, the Bobcats would have taken down North Carolina. Alas, the game was extended for another five minutes, and Ohio was unable to connect on a single field goal in overtime. Credit for that goes to the UNC defense, which was staunch tonight when not giving up gobs of threes. The Tar Heels held Ohio to 28 percent two-point shooting and rebounded 87 percent of the Bobcats' misses. You'll find Tyler Zeller's influence in both of those numbers: the senior had 14 defensive rebounds (22 total) and five blocks by himself.

While the North Carolina offense wasn't operating at peak level due to the loss of Kendall Marshall, it's worth noting that stand-in Stillman White had six assists to zero turnovers. That said, the team as a whole had a miserable turnover rate (30 percent). I'd wager that Ohio had at least a small part in creating that particular statistic: the Bobcats were No. 2 in the nation in defensive turnover rate this season.

(2) Kansas 60, (11) NC State 57 [68]
The Jayhawks are in the Elite Eight, but they sure haven't made it easy on themselves to get there. After trailing for much of their round of 32 game versus Purdue, they used a late push to win the game in the closing minutes. That script was flipped in their Sweet 16 game. They were up by eight with 3:48 remaining, only to see NC State crawl its way back into the game. Kansas scored just two more points after that point in time -- an Elijah Johnson lay-up on an in-bounds play -- but it proved to be the only basket needed for the team to advance. While Bill Self's squad may have struggled offensively, it did not disappoint on the defensive side. The Wolfpack made just 28 percent of their twos and 29 percent of their threes. Jeff Withey blocked 10 shots and affected dozens more. When the Jayhawks force misses at such a rate then they're awfully tough to overcome, but they'd certainly appear mightier if Tyshawn Taylor can break out of whatever funk has ailed him over the last three games. The senior guard made 45 percent of his threes this season but has yet to hit a single one in the tournament (0-for-12).

Follow Corey Schmidt on Twitter: @cjschmidt1. This free article is an example of the content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.

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