With conference races tightening and seeding for the upcoming NCAA Tournament on the line, there was plenty at stake during Saturday’s loaded slate of games.
And the lineup sure delivered.
In the Big Ten, a top-10 matchup between No. 4 Illinois and No. 7 Ohio State took place with the Illini fighting for first place in the conference.
And on the West Coast, there was a rivalry game between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins with first place in the Pac-12 on the line.
To cap it all off, we had the biggest rivalry in college basketball with the Duke Blue Devils traveling up Tobacco Road to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Here is a recap of the action:
Fighting Illini survive in Columbus
Three straight ranked opponents? No problem for the Fighting Illini.
No. 4 Illinois defeated the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes 73-68 for their third straight road win over a top 25 Big Ten opponent, following wins at No. 25 Wisconsin and No. 2 Michigan over the past week.
After defeating Michigan without their leading scorer and National Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu, the senior guard rejoined his team and made the ultimate difference down the stretch against the Buckeyes. Dosunmu scored 19 points and scored the go-ahead bucket with less than a minute remaining to give the Illini a 71-68 lead that they would not relinquish. It also gave Illinois a season sweep of the Buckeyes.
It’s easy to see why FOX Sports bracket forecaster Mike DeCourcy has Illinois as a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, as the Illini are certainly trending in the right direction.
The Buckeyes, on the other hand, are not. This loss marked their fourth-straight loss, with three of them coming to ranked conference opponents.
USC roars back to take down UCLA
March Madness was officially underway in Westwood on Saturday, but the UCLA Bruins were on the wrong side of it on their home court.
USC senior guard Tahj Eaddy made a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to secure a 64-63 win and complete the season sweep of the Bruins.
And while Eaddy will get the attention thanks to his heroics, the story for the Trojans was their depth, as they had four different players score in double figures, led by freshman forward Evan Mobley. Mobley scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, which has become the norm for the Wooden Award finalist.
After losing two straight games at the end of February, the Trojans have opened up March with consecutive victories. They even have a chance to win the Pac-12 regular season crown if Oregon loses to Oregon State on Sunday. Regardless, USC seems to have its mojo back heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.
UNC completes the sweep
After being swept in two games against Duke last season, North Carolina returned the favor in 2021.
The Tar Heels were in control from the opening tip on Saturday, taking down the Blue Devils 91-73 on Senior Night.
The win likely punched the Heels’ ticket to the NCAA Tournament, while Duke faces the real possibility of being on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.
Sophomore forward Armando Bacot, as well as freshmen guards Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton each scored 18 points for the Tar Heels.
They were complemented by Garrison Brooks‘ 14-point outing in the senior’s last game at the Dean E. Smith Center.
The story for the Heels against Duke this season has been the play of Love, who has averaged 21.5 points and seven assists in both wins.
With the regular season coming to an end for both, they will now prepare for the ACC Tournament, where the Tar Heels will enter as the sixth seed and the Blue Devils coming in at No. 11.
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