Both of these teams are famous for making Mick Cronin’s emotions go haywire, so there is a really good chance that if these dudes all sat down for a meal, it would be all laughs and good times. However, they met on the (virtual) hardwood tonight and it was an absolute slugfest of a game, one worthy of the Sweet Sixteen.
In the early going, 2012 was all over the offensive glass and Andre Walker (10/6/1) and Kenny Frease (6/6/2) combined for 10 points in the first 7 minutes. Indeed when Tu Holloway (19/3/8) his his first field goal of the night to make the score 18-14 with 12 minutes left in the first half, it felt like 2012 was taking over. At that point JP Macura (17/6/2) had 5 points and he would add 6 more in 2018’s 22-5 run, with which they wrenched back the early momentum and built a double digit lead over the span of almost 9 minutes.
With their backs now to the wall, 2012 would respond. Travis Taylor (9/4/0) would throw down a monstrous dunk off a Holloway feed. Tu would next set up Mark Lyons (10/3/2) on a back door cut before leaving another off the drive for Taylor to gather and finger roll in. A pair of Quentin Goodin (6/6/4) free throws were offset by a Walker floater and the margin stood at 7, 38-31 after a back and forth first half.
Out of the break, 2012 would immediately grab the momentum to set up the a wild final 20 minutes. Frease would tip back his own miss on the first possession and Holloway, held to just 4 in the first half, would complete a three point play to whittle what had been a 13 point margin down to 2. Trevon Bluiett (22/10/7) would respond with a reverse layup and, after a Brad Redford (7/0/0) scoop shot (?) and 4 straight from Kaiser Gates (10/6/0), drill a corner three to push the lead back to 9. Holloway responded by scoring 2012’s next 8, including a pair of threes, but buckets from Paul Scruggs (4/0/3), Naji Marshall (12/5/2), and Tyrique Jones (8/6/0) kept Holloway from being on a one man run, and Marshall’s three with off a Bluiett assist pushed the lead back out to 10.
2012 would have another response as Taylor reminded everyone that Jones was not the only monster dunker the in building, Brad Redford drilled a three (duh) and Dez Wells (11/5/2) hit a pair from the line to make it a one possession game with 12 minutes to play. From there, 4 straight from Kerem Kanter (6/2/0) would spark a 10-3 run to take it back to double digits. A pair of free throws from Redford and back to back threes from Lyons and Justin Martin (3/2/1) would make it a 2 point game again. Eventually, Kaiser Gates would his second three of the night from straight on to make the score 74-67 with 7 minutes left. If 2012 was going to have a last stand, it would have to be now.
It looked for all the world like a game where 2012, underdogs that they were, would hang around but never get over the hump. That was, in fact, not the case because with 2:12 left Jeff Robinson (6/1/1) would bank home from in the lane off another Holloway feed to put 2012 up 78-77 and cap an 11-4 run. Immidiately Paul Scruggs would cash out from the line on a couple of attempts, but Dez Wells’ runner with 1:45 left would put all the pressure back on the now embattled 3 seed. Their next trip down, they would turn it over, but Holloway would see his tear drop rim out and 2018 would have another chance to take the lead. They fed it in to Tyrique Jones, but his shot clanged off the backboard and out. However, Kaiser Gates would emerge from the scrum to tap the ball out to Trevon Bluiett who would fake a shot and draw the defense to set up Jones for an 18 foot jumper which he nailed to regain the lead with 52 tick left.
When Mark Lyons’ three fell short, it became a game of free throws and Bluiett and Macura delivered by going 8-8 as 2012 was unable to buy a basket in the final minute. With a single second left on the clock, Dee Davis (3/1/0) knocked down a three with no impact on anything but the betting lines and the horn sounded on a breathless second half with an 89-84 victory for 2018.