Kiwi interest at the sharp end of the NCAA Tournaments is down to one player after Sunday’s games at the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments. After beginning March Madness with 13 Kiwi representatives across the two tournaments Jack Salt is now the lone New Zealand flag bearer.
His Virginia University Cavaliers are Final Four bound for the first time since 1984 after overcoming Purdue 80-75 in overtime.
It was an enthralling contest with numerous twists and turns, Salt playing a significant part in the history making victory. He had 5 points (2/3FG) and 8 rebounds (5 offensive boards), and 2 steals in 34 minutes but those stats don’t tell the full story as the former Tall Blacks centre consistently freed up the Virginia shooters with bone rattling screens and secured extra possessions with his game high five offensive rebounds.
Purdue looked to be advancing in regulation time on the back of an amazing 42 points from point guard Carsen Edwards. Purdue led 70-67 with 17 seconds remaining and 70-68 with 7 seconds to go. A crucial offensive batted rebound from Virginia forward Mamadi Diakite and a score on the buzzer from the same player sent the game into overtime.
Virginia won the extra period 10-5 and will play their semi-final in Minneapolis next Saturday (Sunday NZT).
Salt is believed to be just the second Kiwi after Kirk Penney (Wisconsin in 1999-2000 season) to play at the NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament.
In contrast Esra McGoldrick and North Carolina State bowed out of the Women’s Tournament at the last 16 stage going down to Iowa 79-61. Freshman forward McGoldrick played just the final 60 seconds for the Wolfpack.