By Lucas Chang, April 3, 2016
[Editor’s Note: Reporter Lucas Chang has been covering March Madness games from Studio Square in Astoria, Queens. His article was submitted well before the North Carolina Tar Hills beat the Syracuse Orange 83-66 yesterday, April 2, and Villanova destroyed Oklahoma, 95-51. His piece was finally published today April 3. The Editor apologizes for the delay.]
March Madness was evident in Astoria, Queens’ Studio Square Friday, April 1, packed wall to wall with patrons, many standing in long lines for drink and food before rushing to seats for the NCAA contest in Houston, Texas.
The first was the much anticipated matchup of the Indiana Hoosiers and the North Carolina Tar Heels. With the Hoosiers coming off a nail biting victory against the Kentucky Wildcats, Indiana looked to continue advancing throughout the tournament. “It a survive and advance kind of basketball tournament,” said Nick Davanis, a psychology major at Laguardia Community College. “I’ve been watching Indiana for quite some time now and I have to say they look great so far.”
Davanis, 23 wearing a black blazer, with blue jeans and leather brown shoes, said that he was shocked to hear that Indiana beat Kentucky a couple of days ago. “I was really surprised when I heard they beat Kentucky, because the Wildcats were one of the teams that was supposed to be in the Final Four. It was a big upset, but that’s what makes college basketball great.”
Tar Hill Guard Marcus Paige started early, hitting four three-pointers to help the Tar Heels build up an early lead in the opening minutes. The Hoosiers couldn’t get it going on both ends of the floor and allowed the Tar Heels to build a 22 point lead. North Carolina led 52-41 at halftime. However the second half wasn’t very good for Indiana as the Tar Heels kept on scoring at will while shooting sixty percent in second half.
Paige led the way with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell led the way with 25 points on 6-of-14 shooting. However, North Carolina came out on top with a final score of 101-86, and will advance to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament.
“It was a pretty good game for the most part,” said Kemal Pirovic, a finance major at St. Francis College. “Both point guards played pretty well, but North Carolina deserved this win. Pirovic, 22, who wore a blue jacket with black jeans and black sneakers said that point guard Marcus Paige was the catalyst to their victory. “Marcus Paige has been great this year, matter a fact, so has their whole team. Indiana is a good team, but North Carolina was just better. It’s that simple.”
The next game on the Friday night schedule: Iowa State Cyclones vs the Virginia Cavaliers. With the Cyclones pulling off one of the biggest upsets in this year’s tournament by beating Michigan State, the team looked to advance to the elite eight with a win against a tough Virginia Cavalier team.
“I was pretty upset when I heard that Michigan State lost against Iowa, so I hope Virginia wins tonight,” said William Quinonez, a engineer and technology major at CCNY. “I had Michigan State going to the Final Four and Iowa beat them, so I hope Virginia wins tonight.” Quinonez, 24, wearing a red and black button down shirt, with black jeans and red Jordan sneakers, said that he hoped Virginia would win in a blowout. “Michigan State losing to a team like Iowa messed up my bracket this year, so Virginia needs to win by 20 points of more, then I’ll be happy.”
The Cavaliers shot 45 percent from the field and led by at least 17 points in the first half. Virginia had a 45-31 lead over the Cyclones at halftime. However, in the second half Iowa State’s 9-0 run to cut into the Cavaliers lead. But Virginia kept its composure and executed well down the stretch, sealing the game in the late minutes. Cyclones forward George Niang led the way with 30 points and 8 rebounds, while Cavaliers forward Anthony Gill scored 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Virginia moved on to the elite eight round of the tournament with a final score of 84-71.
“Iowa State put up a good fight with that 9-0 they had in the second half,” said Paul Regusa, a Whitestone, Queens, resident. “I knew coming into this game that Iowa State was going to lose, but it was entertaining game since thy made it competitive.” Regusa, 22, a psychology major at LaGuardia Community College, wearing a blue button down with blue jeans and white shoes, said that Virginia would be a good matchup going into the elite eight. “It doesn’t matter who Virginia plays in the elite eight, they’re going to be a tough matchup for anybody for sure,” he said.
The third game of the schedule was the highly anticipated matchup of the Wisconsin Badgers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Last year, Wisconsin faced off against the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA finals, and were now looking to return to the finals. However, Notre Dame has had a very solid year from a year ago when it lost to the Kentucky Wildcats in the tournament last year.
“I think Wisconsin is going to win tonight,” said Christian Rodriguez, an Astoria, Queens, resident and student at Queensboro Community College. “The Badgers got to the finals last year behind Sam Decker and Frank Kaminsky. They have a good coach and the way they beat Xavier at the buzzer was unbelievable. I got Wisconsin winning this one.”
Rodriguez, 23, an education major at Queensboro, wearing a blue green sweater with black slacks and blue sneakers, said that it was possible that Wisconsin could return to the finals even without Kaminsky or Decker. “It’s true that those two were the best players on the team from a year ago,” he said. “Obviously they’re in a better place in the NBA, but the Badgers still have a good solid team. They’ve made it this far so why not?”
Both teams fought fiercely, neck and neck throughout the game, shooting around 22 percent in the first half with the Badgers leading 23-19 at halftime. However, the Fighting Irish scored 42 points in the second half and won in the final seconds of the game. Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson made the game winning steal and sealed the game by sinking two late free throws. With this victory Notre Dame advanced to the elite eight of the tournament.
“It was a very good game to watch for sure,” said Aaron Sanchez, an Astoria, Queens resident, and full time media studies major at Brooklyn College. “I was expecting for Wisconsin to win tonight, but upsets happen. That’s what college basketball is about.” Sanchez, 23, wearing a grey pea coat, black slacks, and black loafers, said that although it was a good game, he really wanted to Wisconsin to win “because I felt they needed to redeem themselves from losing in the finals. But it’s all good, Notre Dame is a good team as well.”
The fourth and final game of the night had they Syracuse Orange up against Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were coming off impressive victories against the Seton Hall Pirates and the Utah Utes, while Syracuse had beaten the Dayton Flyers and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
“Syracuse is going to win this game tonight,” said Thomas Dabrowski, a Ridgewood native, and student at Stony Brook. “I watched Syracuse crush Utah and I’m convinced they have what it takes to be in the Final Four this year. I’ve been a fan of the Orange for a while now and it’s good they’re back in the tournament.” Dabrowski, 23, a business major at Stony Brook, wearing a white button down shirt with grey jeans and brown loafers, said, “I believe Syracuse will put out the victory in the end, but Gonzaga isn’t a bad team. They can compete with anybody, so it won’t be a walk in the park for Syracuse tonight.”
Wth both teams almost matching each other shot for shot, about 30 percent from the field, Gonzaga led 29-28 at halftime. But Gonzaga held a 57-48 lead late in the second half, jeopardizing Syracuse’s chances. The Orange, however, got more aggressive on defensive and shut down the Bulldogs in the final minutes of the second half. Syracuse forward Michael Gbinije made the go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left. That put Syracuse up 63-60 to seal the game.
“Very competitive game. For a second I thought Syracuse was going to lose this one,” said Bobby Davis, a Queens College biology major and Jackson Heights, Queens, resident. “The game had me on the edge of my seat, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.” Davis, 22, wearing a red and brown blazer with black jeans and black timberland boots, said that Syracuse could get to the final four. “Syracuse got to play Virginia and if they beat them, they’re in the final four. They have a great opportunity to win and they should be able to take advantage of it,” he said.
Syracuse will now play against North Carolina after a 68-62 victory against Virginia in the elite eight, while Villanova will go up against Oklahoma after coming off a 64-59 win against Kansas. Oklahoma was able to beat Oregon in the elite eight with a score of 80-68.
Lucas Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org