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The Elite 8 produced an array of great games this past weekend. As good as the young talent has been this season, the upperclassmen owned the weekend. Experience won out in a big way, all the remaining four teams are littered with pivotal older players.
Best Game of the Elite 8
The best of the Elite 8 belonged to Auburn Tigers against the Kentucky Wildcats. Auburn overcame losing it’s best player, forward Chuma Okeke, to beat the Wildcats in a thriller. The last time these two teams met, the Wildcats blew out the Tigers by almost 40 points.
The game came down to one possession with the Tigers down two points with the ball, that’s when guard Jared Harper scored in the closing seconds to send the game to overtime. Auburn closed out the extra session hitting all of their free throws to secure the win. Despite being outshot and outrebounded, the Tigers simply wouldn’t be denied reaching their first Final Four in school history.
Upset of the Elite 8
Easily, the Michigan State Spartans beating the tournament favorite Duke Blue Devils was the upset of the weekend. It was a mere formality for the Blue Devils, so most thought. The only problem was Michigan State didn’t get that memo and played with their trademark toughness.
The Blue Devils tried to take control of the game by jumping on the Spartans in the second half. This is the point where most teams would fold allowing Duke to extend their lead and win in a laugher. Not a Tom Izzo coached team, Michigan State played with poise and determination down the stretch to stun the Blue Devils.
Most Unexpected Result of the Elite 8
Texas Tech Red Raiders put on a defensive clinic in defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bulldogs led the nation in scoring offense at just under 89 points per game, Gonzaga scoring only 69 points was eye popping. Texas Tech’s ball pressure made it tough for Gonzaga to run their offense, caused a higher number of turnovers and held them 10 points lower in percentage shooting.
In a close contest with 11 seconds remaining and the Bulldogs down by two points, Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins reached over the end line and knocked the ball out of Texas Tech guard Matt Mooney’s hands. That play resulted in two technical free throws for the Red Raiders and possession of the ball. Texas Tech guard Davide Moretti calmly knocked down both free throws to put the game away.
Best Individual Performance of the Elite Eight
This award goes to Purdue Boilermakers guard Cardenas Edwards. In Purdue’s overtime loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, the quick, diminutive Edwards scored 42 points (10 three pointers). Even Virginia’s stout defense couldn’t stop him. It was a virtuoso performance that even Cavalier fans had to tip their hats to.