March Madness 2011: 5 Unstoppable Guards from Saturday's Action
Great guard play is always mentioned in the discussions about what it takes to succeed during March Madness.
Each of these players dropped in at least 30 points, and all but one of them led their team into next week's Sweet 16.
Let's do a rapid review of these outstanding players and what they did on day one of the 2011 round of 32.
5. Jacob Pullen: Kansas State
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Jacob Pullen did just about everything he possibly could to help K-State beat Wisconsin yesterday.
The senior guard equaled his career high, scoring 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting.
He was 6-of-8 from both the line and from beyond the arc.
Pullen also pulled down two rebounds and handed out two assists.
Pullen became Kansas State's all-time leading scorer on Saturday. However, the Wildcats didn't quite have enough to beat the Badgers.
His 38 points were the third most by a player in an NCAA tournament loss in the past 15 seasons.
Pullen's postgame comments show where his attention was focused:
"All individual accolades are stuff I care nothing about. I'll pass up on all of them. I'll be 100th in the scoring thing if that would have got me to the Final Four. You know, that is all I wanted. I wanted a ring."
4. Brandon Knight: Kentucky Wildcats
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Brandon Knight followed up his first game, last-second heroics with a huge career-best game that elevated Kentucky into the Sweet 16.
Knight, the Wildcats' fabulous freshman point guard, scored 30 points in the round of 32 win against West Virginia.
He was 9-of-20 from the field, including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Knight was also 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, and he grabbed three rebounds, as well as handing out four assists.
Knight is the sixth freshman in the past five years to have a 30-point performance in the NCAA tournament.
The others are:
Stephen Curry—Davidson (2007): 30 points
Edgar Sosa—Louisville (2007): 31 points
Kevin Durant—Texas (2007): 30 points
Tajuan Porter—Oregon (2007): 33 points
Tyreke Evans—Memphis (2009) 33 points
Note: Only Knight and Porter's teams won their games on these days.
3. Kemba Walker: Connecticut Huskies
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Kemba Walker continued his assault on everyone who dares to oppose him in the Huskies' round of 32 win against Cincinnati on Saturday.
Walker scored 33 points on 8-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.
The junior point guard was a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line, and he pulled in six rebounds and dished out five assists.
Since a win against Georgetown on Feb. 16, Walker has scored 30 points or more four times.
With Saturday's performance, Walker moved past Donyell Marshall for the UConn single-season scoring lead.
2. Jimmer Fredette: Brigham Young Cougars
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Jimmer Fredette, the nation's leading scorer, was at it again.
Fredette dropped 34 points on Gonzaga, leading BYU into the Sweet 16.
Fredette was 11-of-23 from the field, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc...some well beyond the arc.
He also hit all five of his free throws, grabbed two rebounds and handed out six assists.
Fredette has scored 30 points or more in seven of his last nine games, and is averaging 37 PPG in his last four games.
1. Shelvin Mack: Butler Bulldogs
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Shelvin Mack was going to influence the outcome of the game against Pitt one way or another.
Mack led Butler into the Sweet 16 by scoring 30 points, on 10-of-16 shooting, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Fortunately for Butler, Mack's achievements were not cancelled out by a strange play from the senior guard with 1.4 seconds in regulation.
Mack, without explanation, fouled Pitt's Gilbert Brown near half court.
Brown hit the first of his two free throws tying the game, but missed the second. Butler's Matt Howard gathered in the rebound and was fouled.
Howard hit his first free throw to put the Bulldogs back up by one. And then Howard missed his second free throw intentionally to help run out the clock.
Afterwards, Mack, relieved, said, "It was the dumbest mistake of my life."
The 30 points were two short of Mack's career high and a Butler tournament record.