Two third round games are in the books as the NCAA Tournament heads toward the Sweet Sixteen at full steam. Saturday’s schedule began slow, in stark contrast to the first two days of March Madness, which featured four games at a time. What the NCAA Tournament lacked in quantity early on Saturday, it made up for in quality.
Kentucky and West Virginia went toe-to-toe in the morning session, going down to the wire before the Wildcats pulled out a 71-63 win to advance. West Virginia used a late first half run to take an eight-point lead into the break. Kentucky came storming back in the second, taking the lead back just five minutes into the half. West Virginia hung around for the rest of the half before Kentucky used a quick spurt with under a minute to go to secure the eight-point win.
Florida and UCLA played one of the more entertaining games of the tournament in the second matchup of the day. The Bruins and Gators went at it for all 40 minutes in a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle, playing to a tie at the half.
In a game of runs and answers, Florida was able to make the last, most crucial run, using a quick spurt in the final minute to pull away. After UCLA closed the deficit to one with just over a minute to go, Erving Walker stopped the breathing with a deep three to push the lead back up to four. Tyler Honeycutt’s three on the other end rimmed out, forcing the Bruins to foul after Florida came down with the rebound. Walker hit both free throws on the other end and the Gators hung on for a 73-65 win.
Kentucky will face the winner of Sunday’s Ohio State-George Mason game while Florida gets the winner of BYU-Gonzaga.
Here’s a look at the East and Southeast regions of the bracket as they stand after Saturday’s first two games. The full 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket can be found at SB Nation.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 George Mason
No. 4 Kentucky def No. 5 WVU, 71-63
No. 2 UNC vs. No. 7 Washington
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Marquette
No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
No. 2 Florida def. No. 7 UCLA, 73-65