Mr. Clutch awaits in this year’s Fi­nal Four

National Post (National Edition) - - SPORTS - GE­NARO C. AR­MAS

It’s the clos­ing sec­onds of a tight game in the NCAA Tour­na­ment and the coach needs some­one to take a big shot.

Ex­pe­ri­ence helps, as does tal­ent and prepa­ra­tion. There is an­other vari­able, too, that can’t nec­es­sar­ily be quan­ti­fied.

“Those kids, they’re not afraid of the mo­ment, and they re­ally just rise to the oc­ca­sion, all those clichés you want to use,” North Carolina coach Roy Wil­liams said.

Mar­cus Paige did it last year for North Carolina with a clutch bas­ket late in the na­tional ti­tle game be­fore Vil­lanova’s Kris Jenk­ins knocked down a game-win­ner. Luke Maye joined the clutch club this year with a jumper with 0.3 sec­onds to beat Ken­tucky to get the Tar Heels back to the Fi­nal Four.

Pres­sure is mag­ni­fied un­der the bright lights of the NCAAs. These are sit­u­a­tions in which in­tan­gi­bles may set clutch play­ers apart.

Wis­con­sin pulled off a mem­o­rable vic­tory af­ter beat­ing over­all top seed and de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion Vil­lanova in the sec­ond round on a game-win­ning re­verse layup by Nigel Hayes with 12 sec­onds left. Hayes and guard Bron­son Koenig were the head­lin­ers of a savvy se­nior class that pro­duced in crunch time.

“And then you’ve got to get a lit­tle lucky too once in a while,” coach Greg Gard said be­fore the re­gional semi­fi­nals.

A look at some mem­o­rable March mo­ments and thoughts from coaches and play­ers about per­form­ing in the clutch: NORTH CAROLINA: Ex­pe­ri­ence paid off for the Tar Heels. Wil­liams runs plays in prac­tice with a 15-sec­ond shot clock for pre­cisely the kind of sce­nario that the team en­coun­tered in the re­gional fi­nal against the Wild­cats.

“We’ve won a few games like that,” Wil­liams said.

ORE­GON: The Ducks may not have had the op­por­tu­nity to reach the Fi­nal Four had Tyler Dorsey not come up with key buck­ets down the stretch of a 75-72 win over Rhode Island in the sec­ond round. Dorsey hit a con­tested, go-ahead three from the top of the arc with 38.4 sec­onds to go af­ter ty­ing the game with a three with 1:45 left. Dorsey, who scored 27 points, shook off two missed three throws with 3:36 left to pro­duce late in the game. SOUTH CAROLINA: South­east­ern Con­fer­ence coaches might have named Sin­dar­ius Thorn­well the player of the year, but the se­nior has made a star turn in the NCAAs. Av­er­ag­ing 25.8 points in the tour­ney, Thorn­well has helped the Game­cocks rally from three half­time deficits in their run.

“The one thing in my his­tory of play­ers who have that is they al­ways re­main hum­ble that they can fail at any time,” coach Frank Martin said. “They be­lieve they can do it, but they also re­al­ize it can go the other way and that both­ers them so they stay com­mit­ted to the task.”

GONZAGA: The Bull­dogs played in a lot of lop­sided games this sea­son. But coach Mark Few has pointed to non-con­fer­ence wins over Florida, Iowa State and Ari­zona, each by sin­gle dig­its, as ef­fec­tive prepa­ra­tion to play NCAA nail-biters. That ex­pe­ri­ence paid off es­pe­cially in the 6158 win over West Vir­ginia in the re­gional semi­fi­nals af­ter Jor­dan Mathews hit the goa­head 3-poin­ter with un­der a minute to play.

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