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NCAA hoopla: Mechanical breakthrough for Purdue students

Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers is

Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers is defended by Moritz Wagner #13 of the Michigan Wolverines during the championship game of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 4, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Steven Ryan

Purdue gets victory

Score a victory for Purdue’s graduate mechanical engineering department despite the basketball team’s defeat in the Sweet 16 Friday night. Graduate students were rewarded for their around-the-clock effort to build a legal brace for the broken right elbow of center Isaac Haas by learning that the NCAA had approved their design.

But the 7-2 player, who had been ruled out of a second-round game because his heavy metallic brace did not pass muster, was simply not well enough to do anything but offer encouragement and left-handed high-fives to his teammates.

Still, Haas and his teammates were impressed by the noble and worthwhile effort. “I wasn’t surprised,” Boilermakers guard Dakota Mathias said. “We have some very smart people at Purdue.” Teammate Vincent Edwards added, “I want to know where these engineering people were in my freshman year when my car broke down. I tweeted it and nobody got back.”

Clothes make the coach?

The Villanova-West Virginia game Friday night was a true contrast in styles. And we’re not talking which side did more pressing or which had the better three-point shooting. The real divergence was in the coaches’ sartorial choices.

Villanova’s Jay Wright, arguably the best dressed man in college basketball, had on an impeccably tailored dark blue suit with a lighter blue shirt and neatly folded pocket handkerchief. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins wore a university-issued short-sleeve pullover workout top and khaki pants.

When players were asked to compare, Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson said, “They have two unique styles. I think they both have a very good chance of winning in their own bracket.”

Buffalo’s Legette-Jack started on LI

Buffalo’s Felisha Legette-Jack had her head coaching journey start on Long Island.

Legette-Jack led the Bulls to their first Sweet 16 appearance in program history on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo, the surprising No. 11 seed out of the MAC, had its magical run end with a 79-63 loss to No. 2 seed and defending national champion South Carolina in the Albany Region.

Before her success at Buffalo, Legette-Jack’s first head coaching job was at Hofstra from 2002-06. She guided the Pride to a 54-63 overall record, including 34-38 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Legette-Jack was the CAA coach of the year in 2004 after Hofstra finished 11-7 in conference play. Legette-Jack’s best season at Hofstra was her final one. The Pride finished 19-12 overall and 12-6 in the CAA that season, advancing to the second round of the WNIT.

Legette-Jack left Long Island and spent the next six seasons in the Big Ten as Indiana’s head coach. She was hired by Buffalo in 2012.

Legette-Jack was asked on Friday about having Buffalo in Albany with women’s basketball powers Connecticut, South Carolina and Duke.

“You know, I never looked at myself as a mid-major coach or mid-major team,” she said. “I looked at myself as a coach going after people that want to tell their story. I thought about that when I was an assistant coach at Boston College and Syracuse and Michigan State. When I was the head coach at

Hofstra and Indiana, I never told them that we’re in the mecca of a conference or team at Indiana, nor did I tell them that Hofstra was not as big as a St. John’s in the state of New York. We just promoted what we had. We were in New York. We were in the mecca of the world.

“At Buffalo I thought we were a hidden jewel, a program that had no success in women’s basketball, and we could be the first to make it happen.”

LOUISVILLE’S LONG ISLAND CONNECTION

Sydney Zambrotta of North Babylon and her Louisville teammates have a Final Four berth at stake on Sunday at 12 p.m. Louisville, the top seed in the Lexington Region, will play No. 6 Oregon State for a trip to Columbus, Ohio.

Zambrotta, a sophomore guard, has appeared in 31 games this season for the Cardinals, averaging 3.5 points per game. Zambrotta, who played her high school ball at Christ the King in Queens, scored two points in 11 minutes in a 74-42 win over Boise State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. She did not play in Louisville’s 90-72 win over Marquette in the second round, but played two minutes and did not score in Friday night’s 86-59 win over Stanford in the Sweet 16.

Zambrotta scored a career-high 16 points against Murray State on Nov. 24. Her only start this season was on Dec. 20 against Air Force. She played 34 minutes and scored seven points and had three assists.

Family ties

One theme of the women’s Sweet 16 was family ties.

Identical twin sisters Liisa and Katherine Ups, both senior guards from Australia, played for Buffalo against defending national champion South Carolina in Albany on Saturday. Katherine Ups started and Liisa Ups came off the bench for the Bulls. Both players did not score.

Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer has the top-seeded Bulldogs back in the Elite Eight.

One of his star players is his daughter Blair, a senior starting guard who did not score in 29 minutes in a 71-57 win over North Carolina State on Friday night.

The Bulldogs will play UCLA on Sunday night in the Kansas City Region final.

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