March Madness: Winners and losers from Sunday’s NCAA Tournament games – USA TODAY

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With tickets to the Sweet 16 on the line, another day of second-round action was on display Sunday in the final day of the NCAA Tournament’s exhilarating first weekend. 

We’ve already had a No. 15-seeded Cinderella in Saint Peter’s reaching the second weekend Saturday. And a March Madness classic in North Carolina’s upset of No. 1 Baylor

Sunday was all about Duke vs. Michigan State. And the second-round showdown undoubtedly delivered, with the Blue Devils keeping coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career alive in knocking out a resilient Michigan State team

Coach K to Sweet 16: Four defining moments from Duke and Michigan State’s thriller

Houston and Villanova started Sunday off in impressive fashion, advancing to the Sweet 16 in the South Region with convincing wins against Illinois and Ohio State, respectively. And Iowa State became the second No. 11 seed to reach the Sweet 16, joining Michigan, after upsetting No. 3 Wisconsin.

After a first round that saw the Big Ten go 7-3 (it improved to 8-3 on Saturday with Michigan’s upset of Tennessee), that 0-4 stance moves the Big Ten to 8-7 in this year’s tournament.

A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s eight games: 

Winners

Duke

The Blue Devils (30-6) were trailing by five with five minutes remaining but made key plays down the stretch to pull away from a Michigan State squad that refused to go away and win 85-76 in a down-to-the-wire second round classic. While all the pre-game hype was on on Coach K and Tom Izzo, it was all about Duke players rising to the occasion. The hero for the Blue Devils was Jeremy Roach (15 points, five blocks), who made a huge three-pointer with 1:18 left to give this team the winning momentum it needed to shake off the Spartans and advance. Mark Williams had five blocks to lead a gritty defensive effort and Paolo Banchero (19 points) led five Duke players in double figures.

“For a young group, they showed incredible guts,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game on CBS. “It wasn’t any coaching. I’m so proud of them. … It looked like our ship was sinking.” 

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders (27-9) leaned on their elite defense in the closing minutes to escape Notre Dame 59-53 in the second-round clash that sent TTU back to the Sweet 16. It’s been an overachieving season under first-year coach Mark Adams. With the Irish and Red Raiders trading baskets in the closing minutes, it was TTU forcing steals and blocking shots that proved to be the difference-maker. Kevin Obanor (15 points) led the way for Texas Tech in this rock fight. 

Houston

The Cougars (31-5) lead the nation in field goal percentage defense and their smothering approach was on full display in a 68-53 win over an Illinois team that won the Big Ten regular season. Coach Kelvin Sampson’s team used its defense for offense, seemingly controlling the game’s momentum throughout the day. The backcourt triplet of guards Taze Moore (21 points), Jamal Shead (18 points) and Kyler Edwards (15 points) can be lethal heading into the Sweet 16.

Villanova

The Wildcats (27-7) are heading back to the Sweet 16 after an impressive 71-61 win over Ohio State in the second round. The strength for coach Jay Wright’s team comes with experience, and Collin Gillespie epitomized it with his play in this contest. The senior guard finished with 20 points and four assists, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. Gillespie had a knee injury that kept him out of Villanova’s Sweet 16 finish last year so he’ll be ready to try to advance the Wildcats further in his final season. Fellow senior Jermaine Samuels added 17 points and eight rebounds. 

Iowa State

The Cyclones (22-12) were 2-22 overall last season, including a 0-18 stance in the Big 12. What coach T.J. Otzelberger has been able to do in a short time span was punctuated by Iowa State’s upset of No. 3-seeded Wisconsin 54-48 to reach the Sweet 16. What’s perhaps most impressive is the Cyclones ability to win when its two best players were terrible. Leading scorer Izaiah Brockington had 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting, while Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State’s hero vs. LSU with 23 points, had just four points on 1-for-10 shooting.

Losers

Illinois

The No. 4-seeded Fighting Illini (23-10) bowed out of the NCAA Tournament early for the second consecutive year, this time getting dismantled by Houston in a 68-53 loss. Illinois’ offense went cold again and the Illini shot 6-for-25 from three-point range, providing little perimeter production to complement All-American big man Kofi Cockburn (19 points, eight rebounds). In conjunction with missing shots, the Illini’s offense was sloppy for the second game in a row after barely avoiding a first-round upset against Chattanooga. Against Houston’s nation-leading field goal percentage defense, Illinois committed 19 turnovers and looked completely out of their element. After losing to Loyola-Chicago as a No. 1 seed last March, coach Brad Underwood once again has a let-down fanbase following the loss to No. 5 Houston.

Michigan State

The Spartans (23-13) played inspired and had a well-executed game plan – up until the final five minutes – in an 85-76 loss to Duke. Michigan State saw its five-point edge slip away in crunch time, turning the ball over and seeing the Blue Devils make key plays when it counted most. It hardly felt like MSU was a No. 7 seed, though, as this team made 11 three-pointers, four of which came from Gabe Brown (18 points in the loss).

Ohio State

The Buckeyes (20-11) hung around against a superior Villanova team, but just didn’t have it in the tank to pull off the upset. Coach Chris Holtmann finally had his team at full strength, but on Sunday there was little production outside of freshman standout Malaki Branham (23 points, five assists) and veteran EJ Liddell (17 points, six rebounds). Had this team played up to its potential sooner in the season, it might not have gotten such a tough second-round draw.

Wisconsin

The Badgers (25-7) turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 17 times and shot poorly – including 2-for-23 from three – in an upset loss to Iowa State in the second round. All-American guard Johnny Davis wasn’t on his A-game, going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc to finish with 17 points. Since reaching two Sweet 16s in his first two years in Madison, coach Greg Gard has now failed to get the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend in each of the last three appearances. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson