Some big stars are gracing area in second round of NCAA tournament

Three basketball players, one with the ball

Miami’s Isaiah Wong goes between Drake’s D.J. Wilkins, left, and Roman Penn during Friday’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament game at MVP Arena.

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ALBANY — Some of college basketball’s biggest stars will be shining down on MVP Arena on Sunday for the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Three of the four teams that advanced to Sunday’s games feature one of the sport’s best players, including Adama Sanogo of UConn, Isaiah Wong of Miami and Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana.

Sanogo put up the best performance of the day, scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in UConn’s 87-63 win against Iona. He did that in a span of just under 25 minutes played in the win. According to CBS Sports, Sanogo played the fewest minutes of any player in a 25-point, 10-rebound performance in the NCAA tournament since 1984. He was one of four Huskies in double figures in Friday’s win. He will attempt to replicate the performance for the second-round game.

“I feel like I just need to be a good leader for my team and just play hard. Every time I try to play hard, everything is going to be fine after that,” Sanogo said. “My mind going to every game is to be a great player and just play really hard and be there for my team.”

Sanogo, who is 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, will certainly be a lot to handle for Saint Mary’s and head coach Randy Bennett.

“I haven’t watched him much. We’ve watched, in the last 20 hours, some film to try to get a handle on them and him,” Bennett said. “Obviously, they play through him a lot.”

Bennett likened it to preparing for Gonzaga’s two-time All-American center Drew Timme. The Gaels are used to facing Timme and Gonzaga three times per season, as the two squads did this season.

“It absolutely helps us. We know what one of those feels like. I think Timme is the best center in the country and has been for two or three years now. We get a good test every year when we play those guys,” Bennett said. “It helps to prepare us for the NCAA tournament. You’re going to see teams like that that have a Sanogo, that have other good bigs or are good offensively.”

The second game of the evening is set to feature an intriguing matchup between Wong and Jackson-Davis.

Wong, who was voted as the ACC Player of the Year earlier this month, was very much limited in Miami’s 63-56 win against Drake on Friday night, scoring just five points on 1-of-10 shooting from the field. Wong comes into Sunday’s game averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game. It’s worth noting that Wong has only had single-digit point totals in back-to-back games just one time this season, which dates back to nine points against Syracuse on Jan. 16, followed by seven points against Duke on Jan. 21.

“He just shows up every single day in practice and every single game and gives it his best effort. There are games where he’s been held under double figures, but he was ACC Player of the Year for a reason. He had a sensational year,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Great players don’t always have great games, but I’m very, very confident that he’ll have a great game tomorrow.”

In Miami’s win, it was Nijel Pack stepping up in a big way, scoring 21 points on 7-of-15 from the field, while Wooga Poplar dropped in 15 on 5-of-10.

The Hurricanes will be tasked with going up against Hoosiers forward Jackson-Davis, who has been one of the best players in the Big Ten all season. In Friday night’s 71-60 victory against Kent State, Jackson-Davis scored 24 points on 10-of-17 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. He also showed his prowess on the defensive end, swatting five blocks.

“I’ve seen a lot, but really the focus is Trayce Jackson-Davis and not letting him be so comfortable at what he does so great,” Hurricanes guard Bensley Joseph said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve battled teams like this. So I feel like it’s just another day, another game to battle as hard as we can and try to advance.”

With Miami having a reputation as one of the best offensive teams in the country and Indiana as one of the best defensive teams in the nation, Sunday’s nightcap is set to be a game of two contrasting styles of play.

“They’re not a one-man show,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “They got four guys that are averaging double figures, so there’s key matchups all over the floor. We really have to focus in and concentrate for 40 minutes.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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