10:49 p.m. Halftime: UCLA 46, Gonzaga 33
It’s Drew Timme and Four Dudes right now for the Zags, and the dudes aren’t doing much. UCLA is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and when they go 19-37 from the field while forcing nine turnovers, they’re going to have a lot of success.
Zags are at .971 points per possession, but allowing 1.278, with Jaime Jaquez Jr., Amari Bailey, and Tyger Campbell combining for 38 points on 16-30 shooting.
10:24 p.m. It is much, much louder in the gym for Zags-Bruins than it was for Hogs-Huskies, and it’s not close. 29-21 Bruins, timeout Zags with 10:04 remaining in the first half.
The Bruins have allowed Timme to score 15 points on 7-10 from the floor, but have basically shut down the rest of the Gonzaga attack, and some unforced turnovers by the team from Spokane has them behind the eight ball early.
10:12 p.m. After getting lost in the building, we are back at the first media TO of the first half, with Gonzaga leading UCLA 9-7. Drew Timme has seven of those for the Zags, who are playing through the middle early in an attempt to keep the Bruins from dropping on all coverage.
9:34 p.m. And it’s a final in Las Vegas: UConn 88, Arkansas 65.
Let’s hope for a better one in Game 2, which starts in 24 minutes from now.
9:11 p.m. Arkansas keeps playing hard, but they aren’t really making a dent in what’s been a choppy second half. It’s 75-54, but not much will change the outcome. I just saw some Arkansas co-ed head to the exits, and I think we need to accept that UConn is absolutely one of the teams that can win this tournament despite what the odds charts say.
8:58 p.m. It’s 73-48 Huskies with 10:01 remaining, but can we stop having timeout entertainment please? I think the fans would much rather watch the chaos in overtime between Michigan State and Kansas State than this laugher.
Everybody in Vegas is watching the Jumbotron right now. pic.twitter.com/a62NoMuDcR— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) March 24, 2023
8:42 p.m. This is turning into a laugher, and the game on the videoboard at MSG is getting bigger reactions than the one on the floor at T-Mobile. Arkansas just can’t get a stop or a stickback or anything. And for a team that’s played with such relentless energy all year, it’s a head-scratcher.
They finally start to a awaken via a full-court press with about 14 minutes to go, but it’s still 62-39 and it doesn’t seem to be waning yet.
8:28 p.m. We are underway after the longer intermission that comes with the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament. A layup for Adama Sanogo gets it started, and it’s 48-29 early.
8:06 p.m. Halftime: UConn 46, Arkansas 29
It has been the signature of The Hogs to get a bit buried and figure it out, but even this might be too much. You’ll know they’ll keep coming, but allowing 1.484 points per possession is a recipe for disaster.
Pregame Arky probably would have been excited about going 3-7 from three-point range, 6-6 from the free throw line, and nine points from Nick Smith in the first half. But a total inability to get stops for the 15th ranked defense by KenPom is the difference. Throw in a 22-9 difference on the glass, and it might be a short trip to Vegas for the Razorbacks.
7:55 p.m. The interior passing of the Huskies are carving up the Hogs inside. Ten of 17 UConn field goals have come with an assist, and Andre Jackson Jr. has three dimes already. Plenty have come with a Arkansas defender ball watching instead of moving to the weak side or someone helping down on a cutter.
42-25 UConn 3:33 left 1H.
7:48 p.m. The Hogs are getting doubled up early, as it’s 34-19 at the under-8 which came shortly after Eric Musselman called a timeout to settle his troops. One of the best defensive teams in the country is allowing UConn to shoot 13-21 from the field on 1.7 points per possession. They’ve got to find a way to limit the paint touches and challenge at the perimeter, as the Huskies are 4-8 from three.
7:33 p.m. It is for sure a bigger Arky crowd than UConn, but the UCLA fans are already filling in the arena. They already called the Hogs during the under-16 media timeout, and we snuck downstairs for the first four minutes and saw plenty of physical basketball.
With these two teams, the officials are simply going to have to let some things go to have any kind of flow.
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the 2023 Regional Semifinals with the No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks and the No. 4 UConn Huskies in the opener, and the No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. the No. 2 UCLA Bruins in the late game.
The UConn pep band has played the national anthem, and we are about nine minutes from tip-off on the Las Vegas Strip. This is the first time March Madness has come to Nevada because of a rule that previously banned the state from hosting NCAA postseason events due to their allowing of sports betting.
But now that it’s permitted in almost two dozen states across the country, that rule was rescinded, and the biggest event on the winter sports calendar is between the New York New York and Park MGM casinos.
We’ll be here with all the updates, as we can see Michigan State leading on the scoreboard as the teams just headed back to the locker room. See you a few minutes after tip-off.