Bahamians advance in NCAA basketball tournaments

|Sports|Let the madness begin!Sports

Let the madness begin!

Sheldon LongleySend an emailMarch 20, 2023 239 3 minute readFacebookTwitterLinkedInShare via Email

 Bryan Clarke, left, and the University of Houston Cougars men’s basketball team, are the top seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Bahamian Bryan Clarke and the University of Houston Cougars are rolling right along in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) Men’s Basketball Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 over the weekend at the Legacy Arena inside the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Alabama.

Listed as the number one seed in the Midwest Region, the Cougars had their share of struggles in both rounds so far, but turned it up when they needed to, to win two games and book their ticket into the Sweet 16.

Clarke, a former standout athlete at St. John’s College and Texas Southern University (TSU), sits on the Cougars’ bench as the sports performance assistant coach.

On Thursday, the Cougars took down the number 16 seeded Northern Kentucky Norse, 63-52, pulling away in the second half for the double digit win. The game was close throughout the first half, and after the upset-minded Norse pulled even at 34 early in the second, the Cougars went on a 19-9 scoring run to open their first double digit lead of the game and they never looked back. The Norse got to within five at 55-50, but the Cougars sensed the danger and closed the game on an 8-2 run.

As expected, the Cougars faced an even tougher task in the second round, having to battle back from a 10-point halftime deficit against the Auburn Tigers. They more than doubled up the Tigers in the second half, 50-23, to win comfortably, 81-64. The Cougars trailed 41-31 at the half, but scored five quick points at the start of the second half to trim the deficit in half.

They took their first lead since the 5:33 mark of the first half on a three-point shot from Marcus Sasser with 12:57 left to go in the game. Houston took the lead for good on two free shots from Jamal Shead with 9:32 left in the game, going up 52-50. They outscored the Tigers 29-14 the rest of the way.

The Cougars are into the Sweet 16 for the 14th time in program history and are trying to reach the Final Four for a third consecutive season. If they make it through their next two opponents, the Cougars will play in the Final Four at home in Houston, Texas.

They earned their number one seed in the Midwest Region after one of their best seasons in program history, posting a 31-3 overall win/loss record and capturing a third straight American Athletic Conference regular-season title, and fourth in the last five years. They will take on either the Miami Hurricanes or the Indiana Hoosiers in their Sweet 16 game next weekend. The Hurricanes led that game, 40-35, at the half, up to press time, last night.

Fredrick King and the Creighton University Bluejays took out the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, 72-63, in their first round game at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, on Friday.

King, a 6’10” post player weighing 234 pounds, experienced just two minutes on the floor in that game and finished with just one rebound on the statistics sheet. He and the Bluejays took on the third-seeded Baylor Bears in the round of 32 last night, and came out on top, 85-76, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.

King again finished with a rebound. For the season, he is averaging 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game. He is shooting 60.5 percent from the floor. His season-high in points and rebounds are 16 points against Marquette back in December and 11 rebounds against Arizona State, also in December. He also had five blocks in that game against Arizona State.

King, who hails from Andros, is looking for more playing time as the tournament progresses. The Bluejays are coming off a third-place finish in the Big East Conference and are listed as the sixth seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament. King and the Bluejays will take on the ‘Cinderella’ team of the tournament so far, the 15th seeded Princeton Tigers, in their Sweet 16 game on Friday. That game will be played at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

On the women’s side, Bahamian head coach of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Lady Rebels women’s basketball program Yolett McPhee-McCuin and her team experienced action in the round of 32 last night, but the result of their game was unavailable up to press time.

In their opening game, they relied heavily on their defense, taking out the ninth seeded Gonzaga University Bulldogs, 71-48, inside the Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California. The Lady Rebels led by as much as 28 points in the game, winning comfortably on Friday night.

They were scheduled to take on the number one seeded Stanford Cardinal last night, but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time. The winner of that game advances to the Sweet 16. The Rebels earned an at-large bid for the tournament and are listed as the eighth seed in Seattle 4 Region.

McPhee-McCuin is making her second trip to the NCAA DI women’s tournament as the head coach of the Rebels. They advanced to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament for the past two years and were 11-5 in conference play this year. They finished with an overall record of 23-8. It is the second consecutive season in which they have won 20-plus games and 10-plus in the SEC.

March Madness continues with the Sweet 16 in both the men and the women next weekend.

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