'Cuse knocks off No. 1 Louisville

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'Cuse knocks off No. 1 Louisville

From Comcast SportsNetLOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams wasn't fazed by a shaky first half, nor two missed free throws in the final minute that gave No. 1 Louisville chances to win on Saturday.The sophomore just knew he had to redeem himself, and his second-half recovery in several areas helped the sixth-ranked Orange rally for the 70-68 upset.It was the second straight Saturday that No. 1 went down. Duke lost to then-No. 20 North Carolina State 84-76 a week ago.A record crowd of 22,814 at the KFC Yum! Center saw Syracuse beat a No. 1 team for fourth time, all Big East teams.Carter-Williams' most important contributions were a go-ahead 3-pointer with 5:28 remaining, followed by a steal and go-ahead dunk with 23 seconds left as he scored 11 of his team's final 13 points, including the last four.He added a rebound and another steal at the end to cap a 16-point, seven-assist game that made it easy for Carter-Williams to forget a five-point first half and those two missed free throws."I wasn't going to go out without a fight," said Carter-Williams, who finished with four assists and four steals. "They were pressuring us, coming at us in the first half. Things were going their way. The second half, I tried to fight back the best I could. I had two or three turnovers but I just kept flipping the page, flipping the page and ended up winning the game, which was great. ..."Those free throws, I just had to have faith in myself and just try to do anything to get the win."Brandon Triche was 9 of 13 from the field, including five of Syracuse's seven 3-pointers, to finish with 23 points as the Orange (17-1, 5-0 Big East) took control of the Big East Conference. He credited Carter-Williams for getting the win."Michael was the reason we won the game, getting the dunk," Triche said. "I might have kept us in the game, but he's the reason we won the game getting the two steals. That's winning stuff."Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair both had 10 points for the Orange, who won their seventh straight and beat the Cardinals for the third time in a row.Russ Smith's 25 points led Louisville (16-2, 4-1), which had its 11-game winning streak stopped. The Cardinals shot 41 percent (24 of 59) including 29 percent in the second half.After taking a 68-66 lead on Smith's two free throws with 1:58 remaining, Louisville missed two shots and committed two turnovers."That was a great college basketball game and they made some really terrific defensive plays down the stretch," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They made the plays, they made the shots when it counted and we didn't."Louisville's final chance to tie ended with a pass inside around Gorgui Dieng's knees in the final seconds which Syracuse recovered to seal the victory.For the Cardinals, it was disappointing end to a week that began with their second No. 1 ranking in school history."I'd rather have the No. 1 ranking at the end of the year," Louisville guard Peyton Siva said. "I really don't mind having the No. 1 ranking at all. We're going to work our way back up to that spot and hopefully get it at the end of the year."Syracuse was 24 of 49 from the field (49 percent) and the Orange outrebounded the Cardinals 36-31.More impressive, Syracuse didn't wilt each time Louisville seemed to get the momentum in a back-and-forth game."I thought both teams played incredibly hard," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "There were opportunities where we could've gotten discouraged. Michael turned it over for a layup. He made some mistakes, but he is a big-time player."It was great, but now we can forget about it and try to get ready for Cincinnati on Monday night."The game pitted Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone defense against Louisville's signature pressure, which last year produced two games in which neither team shot above 35 percent in either game.And while both teams got some results from their defensive strengths, the first half featured impressive offensive performances by both.Syracuse made seven of its first nine shots and hit 14 of 23 overall (61 percent) thanks to Triche, who made all four 3-point attempts and all seven overall for 18 points by halftime. His accuracy helped put the Orange ahead early and then rally late in the half to forge a 38-all tie."I got comfortable," Triche said. "I didn't miss a shot in the first half. I was just letting the game come to me. I was going to get open spots and once I got open I just concentrated on following through. The guys got me the ball when I was open and it was pretty easy to move shots because of the movement we had. I wasn't going to force anything."Louisville hit 54 percent (15 of 28) with huge contributions from its bench. Montrezl Harrell was a big factor in the Cardinals outscoring Syracuse's reserves 15-4, hitting all four of his shots for eight points one game after playing 4 scoreless minutes and being limited by an illness.Smith led the way for the Cardinals' starters after a shaky start in which they missed their first three shots against the zone -- including two from beyond the arc -- before he hit a 3-pointer to bring Louisville within 6-3.Syracuse quickly raised it to an 11-3 lead with help from Triche's first two baskets while his teammates added easy inside shots against Louisville's matchup zone. The Orange dominated on the boards as well with a 9-2 lead en route to 15-8 edge through 20 minutes.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: South Carolina headed to Final Four, beats Florida 77-70

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: South Carolina headed to Final Four, beats Florida 77-70

NEW YORK - It's only right that South Carolina's first trip to Final Four was earned through its defense.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

South Carolina will face Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed from the West Regional, in the Final Four on Saturday at Glendale, Arizona.

"Gamecock Nation, we heard you loud and clear," coach Frank Martin roared as the team prepared to cut down the nets. "We'll see you in Phoenix."

The game was as close as expected until the final minute. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Florida managed just three field goals over the final 3:55.

Thornwell, the regional MVP, followed the deciding free throws with a nice assist to Maik Kotsar for a 4-point lead. It seemed Thornwell, who scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, was always where he needed to be including making a steal with 40 seconds left that turned into a 73-68 lead.

"I just made plays," Thornwell said. "Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays."

"Thornwell was just being Thornwell," Florida coach Mike White said of the SEC player of the year. "He's one of the best players in the country."

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

It all totaled to a Final Four trip for Martin, he of the booming voice and terrifying faces.

Justin Leon had 18 points for the Gators who managed a 40-33 halftime lead on 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. But that was it. Florida was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in the second half, a lot like the 0-for-17 effort the Gators had in their first meeting with South Carolina this season.

South Carolina, which forced Florida into 16 turnovers, finished 23 for 31 from the free throw line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Thornwell.

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.