After Friday’s first-round action in the 2019 NCAA tournament reinforced the Big Ten’s status as college basketball’s deepest conference, Saturday’s second-round games revealed that the top of the SEC is full of contenders with the tools to make a deep March run. LSU, Kentucky and Auburn grabbed three of the first eight Sweet 16 spots in dramatically different fashions, while Big Ten titans Michigan and Michigan State held serve in Des Moines.
Below, we recapped every game of the first day of second-round action before the Sweet Sixteen field is filled out on Sunday.
No. 5 Auburn 89, No. 4 Kansas 75
The Tigers got off to a fast start against Kansas and never looked back in an 89–75 win to reach their first Sweet 16 since 2003. Auburn did what it does best, forcing turnovers and knocking down threes, and kept the Jayhawks from getting into any sort of rhythm en route to a commanding 51–26 halftime lead by the Tigers. Bryce Brown made seven of his first eight three-point attempts, and he and fellow guard Jared Harper combined for 43 points and eight assists. Dedric Lawson scored 25 to lead the Jayhawks, who failed to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015.
No. 3 Purdue 87, No. 6 Villanova 61
Not. Even. Close. Purdue started hot and just kept shooting, hitting 16 threes and dispatching the defending national champions in style with a 87–61 win over Villanova in Hartford. The Wildcats took the business end of a vintage Carsen Edwards night, as Purdue’s sharpshooter made nine three-pointers en route to 42 points—the most any player has scored against Villanova this season. The Wildcats’ own streaky shooting never showed up to pull them back in the game. For a stretch of 10:45 of game time split up by the halftime break, Villanova scored a grand total of two points as the Purdue lead stretched to 35. Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall combined for 34 points, but the Wildcats’ complementary players were nowhere to be found.
No. 2 Michigan State 70, No. 10 Minnesota 50
These two conference foes’ second meeting of the year was just as lopsided as the first, in favor of the Big Ten champions. Michigan State used 9–0 and 14–0 runs in the first half to build a comfortable lead and cruised to a 70–50 win over Minnesota to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015, when it made the Final Four. It was not Minnesota’s night: Star forward Jordan Murphy was largely sidelined by back spasms, and the hot shooting that lifted the Golden Gophers past Louisville was nowhere to be found. Minnesota finished 2-for-22 from three-point range, and junior guard Amir Coffey outscored the rest of his team combined with 27 points on his own. A late 8–0 Gophers run was all that kept this one from ending up truly ugly.
No. 1 Gonzaga 83, No. 9 Baylor 71
Brandon Clarke put on an impressive display to lift top-seeded Gonzaga over Baylor, 83–71, and into the Sweet 16. Clarke made 15 of his 18 shots from the field to finish with a Gonzaga tournament record 36 points, adding eight rebounds and five blocks to boot. One of college basketball’s most underrated players, Clarke helped quell multiple Bears attempts at a comeback run in the second half, becoming the first player with at least 35 points and five blocks since Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. Mark Vital led Baylor with 17 points despite playing through foul trouble, but the Bears shot just 20% from three to follow up their big perimeter night against Syracuse. The Zags advance to face Florida State on Thursday night with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
No. 4 Florida State 90, No. 12 Murray State 62
The Ja Morant Show came to a quiet end in the second round, as Murray State fell victim to a long and athletic Florida State team in a 90–62 blowout. Morant had an impressive first half, hitting his first five three-point attempts, but the Seminoles also came out hot with their shooting and pushed the lead to 16 by halftime. In the end, Morant finished with 28 points on 8-for-21 shooting in what was almost certainly the projected top NBA draft pick’s final college game. Mfiondu Kabengele led FSU with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, while Terance Mann added 18 to lead the rout.
No. 2 Michigan 64, No. 10 Florida 49
For the third consecutive year, the Wolverines are heading to the second weekend after a defensive performance that has become a familiar site to those in Ann Arbor, grinding out a 64–49 win over Florida in Des Moines. Jordan Poole created the separation with a 4-for-9 performance from behind the arc, finishing with a game-high 19 points, and Michigan’s 7'1" junior center John Teske caused all kinds of problems for Florida’s undermanned frontcourt. Zavier Simpson came one point, rebound and assist shy of a triple double, and Isaiah Livers provided the final word with 4:43 to go, throwing down a thunderous dunk to extend Michigan’s lead to 13 and quash Florida’s final comeback efforts.
No. 2 Kentucky 62, No. 7 Wofford 56
Kentucky outlasted a strong test from mid-major power Wofford, 62–56, to become the second team to punch a ticket to the Sweet 16. The Wildcats won with a stellar defensive effort, holding the Terriers’ normally strong three-point shooting to a 30.8% mark from the arc. The biggest culprit was first-round hero Fletcher Magee, as the senior went a dismal 0 for 12 from the outside in a tough end to his career. On the other end, Reid Travis took advantage of his size advantage to finish with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while point guard Ashton Hagans added 12. Kentucky will now face the winner of Houston-Ohio State in the next round.
No. 3 LSU 69, No. 6 Maryland 67
LSU secured the day's first spot in the Sweet Sixteen and advanced out of the first weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2006 with a dramatic 69–67 win over Maryland on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville. The Tigers led by as many as 15 in the second half after Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was issued a technical for arguing an illegal screen, but the foul lit a fire under the sixth-seeded Terps, who dominated inside down the stretch with LSU's big men Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams in foul trouble and tied the score to set up a back-and-forth final sequence. In the end, the ball ended up in the hands of sophomore point guard Tremont Waters, who drove past two defenders and banked a scoop shot off glass and in with 1.6 seconds left.
Maryland's final heave sailed over the backboard, sending the Tigers and interim coach Tony Benford to D.C. for next weekend's regional action. It was been a whirlwind season for the SEC regular season champion Tigers, between the death of forward Wayde Sims before the season to the ongoing suspension of head coach Will Wade, and it's not over yet.
SATURDAY'S FULL SCHEDULE
• 2:40 p.m.: No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Kentucky (CBS)
• 5:15 p.m.: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 2 Michigan (CBS)
• 6:10 p.m.: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 12 Murray State (TNT)
• 7:10 p.m.: No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (TBS)
• 7:45 p.m.: No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 2 Michigan State (CBS)
• 8:40 p.m.: No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 3 Purdue (TNT)
• 9:40 p.m.: No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 5 Auburn (TBS)