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NCAA Tournament notes: Coach says Belmont overachieved

Published March 21, 2013 9:30 pm

Tournament notes • Rebuilding year turns out far better than expected.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After being eliminated by Arizona, Belmont coach RickByrd admitted that the Bruins probably accomplished more than he thought they would during the 2012-13 season.

"We lost three all-conference players," he said. "I thought we could be a pretty good basketball team. But I wouldn't have given them a chance to win the Ohio Valley regular season and tournament, be seeded 11th in this tournament and get votes the last six or eight weeks for the top-25."

Still, losing in the first round to Arizona "is hard. … We thought we could be more competitive that we were tonight. It's just not any fun in that locker room after a game like that."

Free safety? Strong safety

Wichita State sophomore Tekele Cotton isn't overly talented, according to his coach Gregg Marshall.

But he's tough. Tough as nails.

Senior guard MalcolmArmstead called Cotton, who pestered Pitt guard TrayWoodall into having one of his worst games of his career, a "free safety."

"He got a big heart," Armstead said. "He can guard positions 1 through 4."

But Marshall looks at his defensive stopper Cotton, who finished with 6 points, 5 steals, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, as a strong safety.

"I think he's going to come up and help in run support," he said.

Life of Riley

Miami Heat president PatRiley was at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday, taking in the second-round action.

Riley, who watched Arizona-Belmont and New Mexico-Harvard, took photos with fans during the games. But the NBA legend wasn't just in Salt Lake on vacation. Riley was reportedly scouting for his team.

Tough night for Harris

EliasHarris is usually one of the better big men in the country and a complement to KellyOlynyk. He usually is an NBA prospect in his own right.

That wasn't the case against Southern on Thursday.

He scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds against the Jaguars. More concerning, Harris shot 2 of 10 from the field and struggled mightily against Southern's length and athleticism. He had three of his shots blocked and faded out of the offense in the second half. That has to change if the Bulldogs are to survive Wichita State in Saturday's third round.

"We're just going to have to make a few adjustments," Gonzaga coach MarkFew said. "Southern was well-coached and had a good scheme. You have to give them credit for great defense."

Lesson learned?

Arizona's SolomonHill was hit with a technical foul only 3:14 into the Wildcats' 81-64 win over Belmont.

Hill made a three-point jumper that gave Arizona a 7-2 lead when the officials suddenly stopped play and called him — apparently — for trash-talking.

"I don't know," said Wildcat coach SeanMiller. "He may have turned and said something after the shot. This is a tournament. You have to dot your I's and cross your T's and be on it. I'm sure he learned his lesson."

Asked if he was disappointed in Hill, Miller shook his head and said, "No, I don't think he did it intentionally. He was emotionally charged up. That was the first shot he made."

Tough goodbye

TrayWoodall sat at the podium in a complete daze. The first question of the postgame presser was sent his way and the Pitt senior wasn't listening.

He was heartbroken. He shot 1 of 12 from the field, had five turnovers and fouled out with 4 minutes, 5 seconds left in the second half.

He later showed his emotion and apologized to his teammates for the performance.

A few minutes later, Pitt coach JamieDixon was asked about his future with the Panthers.

The Pitt staple suddenly choked up.

"I just had my point guard break down here," he said. "It's the farthest thing from my mind."

Quick turnaround

There was a lot of green visible in EnergySolutions Arena when Arizona and Belmont tipped off Thursday night.

With about a 35-minute turnaround between the NCAA Tournament's first and second sessions of the day, many of the fans were left waiting in line as the evening's first second-round game got underway.

"It went about as we expected," tournament manager StevePyne said. "It's a ticketed event, so we can't let fans in until the first session is out."

Pyne said he expected — and saw — about 2,000 fans in their seats at the start of the game.

What could have been

After DerickBeltran hit a jumper to tie the score at 56-56, Southern had three possessions to take the lead and wasn't able to do so. If it had, things could've gotten even more interesting for Gonzaga.

"It was an exciting feeling when we tied it," Jaguars point guard JameelGrace said. "We thought we had a chance to win it. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get it done."

Reporters Chris Kamrani, Steve Luhm, Tony Jones and Aaron Falk contributed to this story —