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NCAA: Saint Mary's Samhan struggling vs. Baylor

Baylor scored the first six points of the second half before Omar Samhan finally scored with a baby hook in the post. The Bears answered right back behind Quincy Acey, and they're threatening to turn this into an embarrassing rout.

If it isn't already.

The Bears led 54-19 with 16½ minutes left in the game. Samhan is just 2 of 10 from the field and has only five points, while the Saint Mary's guards — Mickey McConnell, Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl and Jorden Page — are a combined 3 of 18 shooting.

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Evan Turner missed out on another assist when deadeye shooter Jon Diebler airballed a 3-pointer, but the Buckeyes' star always seems to be in the right place. The loose ball wound up in his hands and he scored in the lane, drawing a foul and converting the three-point play.

He has 24 points and six rebounds for the Buckeyes.

The Vols have been more balanced on offense, with three guys in double figures scoring, but Ohio State still leads 56-51 with under 10 minutes to go.

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Tennessee's Wayne Chism ditched the headband and finally hit a shot. The veteran forward is now 2 of 7 from the field for six points.

If the Vols started playing defense, they just might climb back in this game. Ohio State continues to hold onto a four-point lead, matching Tennessee shot-for-shot.

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Think there are any NBA scouts keeping an eye on the proceedings in St. Louis?

Evan Turner just hit his fifth straight shot, a silky smooth 3-pointer from the top of the key, and now has 17 points to go with his four assists. The Ohio State star has scored nine straight points spanning halftime against Tennessee.

The 6-foot-7 star is hoping to add some national honors to the myriad of Big Ten awards he's already earned. A national championship, too.

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Saint Mary's hasn't played in the Sweet 16 since 1959, so maybe it can use the excuse that it's not sure what to do during the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Baylor is outshooting, out-rebounding and pretty much out-everything-ing the Gaels while building a 46-17 lead at halftime. LaceDarius Dunn has 15 points and Tweety Carter has a dozen for the Bears, who shot 51 percent from the field and even better from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Ben Allen was the only Saint Mary's player with more than one field goal in the first half. The rest of the team combined to go 4 of 23 from the field.

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There is a free viewing party going on at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants and a short drive from the Saint Mary's campus in the Bay Area. The game is being shown on the video board in centerfield, although fans probably wish Tim Lincecum were on the mound.

At least they'd have something to cheer for.

The little school that could simply isn't in Houston, where Baylor pushed its lead to 41-15 with under 2 minutes left when LaceDarius Dunn knocked down his second 3-pointer. He pranced back to the other end to play defense, waving his arm in the air toward a partisan crowd.

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During halftime of the Tennessee-Ohio State game, they finally got the horn to work.

And to make sure everybody knows it, they're testing it over and over at the Edward Jones Dome. It sounds like someone is giving the wrong answers on Family Feud.

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How good is LaceDarius Dunn?

Saint Mary's fought hard for a bucket at its end, and Baylor came back on offense and rotated the ball to Dunn, who stood on the wing with a defender in his face and calmly hit a 3-pointer — so calm, in fact, that he hardly bothered to elevate on the shot.

Dunn is 5 of 7 from the field and just picked the pocket of a Saint Mary's player, taking a one-on-two break right to the basket. He was fouled and made both free throws, but it's surprising his circus-style shot didn't go in anyway, the way he's been going.

Dunn is outscoring Saint Mary's on his own, 14-12, and has already become the school's single-season scoring leader. He needed eight coming in to set the record.

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A lot was made throughout the season about whether the Big East or the Big 12 was the most dominant conference in college basketball. It might be an argument worth revisiting.

The Big East has flamed out in the NCAA tournament, with top-seeded Syracuse losing on Thursday night to join second-seeded Villanova, sixth-seeded Notre Dame and a whole bunch more teams that are sitting in class rather than sitting on a bench.

West Virginia is carrying the banner for the conference, the last team left standing.

The Big 12 has also taken its lumps, with overall No. 1 seed Kansas among the teams that have already lost. Kansas State has already reached the round of eight, and Baylor has a big early lead on Saint Mary's in a bid to join the Wildcats.

But nobody — absolutely nobody — wanted to give the Big Ten the vote for best league, and it sure seems like a horrendous oversight. Ohio State leads Tennessee 42-39 at the half, while Michigan State takes on Northern Iowa and Purdue gets Duke later in the night.

How 'bout the Big Ten for basketball's best?

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Omar Samhan has as many fouls (2) as points with about 6 minutes left in the opening half, but the Gaels are leaving him in the game in an attempt to close the gap.

They trail Baylor 29-11 after a turnover led to an alley-oop jam by LaceDarius Dunn.

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Jon Diebler missed his first three 3-pointers, continuing a miserable run so far in the NCAA tournament, but answered Josh Bone's 3 with a shot from well beyond the top of the arc.

So far you couldn't slide a piece of printer paper between the Vols and Buckeyes — they're that close together. Two teams with similar styles and similar personnel who are playing very similar games.

Fittingly, Ohio State leads just 35-34 with a little over 2 minutes left in the half.

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Tweety Carter just hit another 3-pointer — or, for the Twitter generation, sent out another deep tweet. He's 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and has nine points for Baylor.

The Bears are riding a 13-2 run that has given them a 19-7 lead closing in on midway through the first half. LaceDarius Dunn is also doing some damage, with eight points already.

Saint Mary's never let Richmond or Villanova get too far away from them, which allowed the Gaels to keep going inside to Omar Samhan, the tournament's leading scorer. They have some shooters who can get them back in the game, but a big deficit means Samhan is less valuable.

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Ohio State and Tennessee have quite the football pedigree, and they both could use a couple of linebackers to help out with the dirty work inside.

The game is physical at both ends of the floor, and the referees are letting them play.

J.P. Prince just threw down a huge dunk off a 25-foot alley-oop pass to make it 23-21 in favor of the Vols with under 8 to go in the first half.

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It sure looks like a bunch of folks made the 3-hour drive down Highway 6 from Waco to Houston for the South Regional semifinal game. There's quite a bit of green sitting in the stands at Reliant Stadium rooting on the Bears.

Considering Saint Mary's has an enrollment of a few thousand, it also has quite the booster section in red sitting behind the scorer's table. Or perhaps it just looks substantial because those folks are getting a lot of face time on TV.

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Apparently they couldn't find a buzzer at the Edward Jones Dome, so a lady with an airhorn has been standing up and blaring it going into and coming out of every timeout.

Substitutions, too.

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Tennessee is bumping Evan Turner just about every time he touches the ball, clearly aware that the Ohio State star had one of his worst shooting nights when UC Santa Barbara battered and bruised him in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Turner isn't getting much help from the officials, either. He took the ball into the post moments ago and got bodychecked while getting the shot tipped away, with no call.

Meanwhile, Tennessee already has four offensive rebounds and the second-chance points have allowed the Vols to get within 13-10 with about 14 minutes left.

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Forget about Evan Turner. Tennessee had better start worrying about William Buford.

The other guy in the Buckeyes' backcourt has hit four of his first five shots, including a 3-pointer, and has nine points to stake No. 2 seed Ohio State to an early 13-7 lead.

The Buckeyes hit six of their first seven shots, the only miss coming from beyond the arc, and have shown terrific ball movement: Four of their six baskets have come off assists.

Too bad the display is being watched by a bunch of empty seats in the Edward Jones Dome.

The bottom level has filled in nicely, but it's pretty thin in the upper ring of the home arena of the St. Louis Rams. No wonder CBS hasn't shown many wide-angle shots early on.

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Baylor and Saint Mary's will be the second game to get going Friday night, one of the most intriguing matchups in the regional semifinals.

The Bears are only about seven years removed from a scandalous summer in which one player shot another, former coach Dave Bliss got tangled in a series of lies and financial misdeeds, and the program very nearly got hit with the same kind of NCAA sanctions that sunk the once-proud SMU football program in the 1980s.

Coach Scott Drew has rebuilt the program and the hopes of all its fans behind some stellar recruiting and a couple of high-profile stars in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter.

The Gaels, on the other hand, finally grew tired of playing second-best to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. Behind the inspired play of Omar Samhan, the big guy with the big crush on Taylor Swift, the tiny school from Moraga, Calif., beat the Zags in its league tournament and knocked out No. 2 seed Villanova to reach the round of 16.

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No. 2 seed Ohio State and sixth-seeded Tennessee are about to tip off in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional, where the winner will face Northern Iowa or Michigan State on Sunday.

The last time these two teams met in the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes had a couple guys named Greg Oden and Mike Conley leading the way to the national title game. Although almost everyone from that team is gone, Evan Turner and Co. certainly have proven their mettle.

The Vols, meanwhile, have weathered a rocky season on Rocky Top after Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum were arrested during a Jan. 1 traffic stop. Williams pleaded guilty to drug possession after marijuana was found in the car, and Tatum pleaded guilty to speeding.

Since then, all the attention has been on basketball, where Tennessee has beaten teams such as Kansas and Kentucky.

Also Friday night, No. 1 seed Duke will face Purdue in the South Regional, while Baylor will try to reach its first Final Four when it faces Saint Mary's, the only double-digit seed left in a tournament that has been anything but short on longshots.

Already in the round of eight: Kansas State, Butler, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Let the games begin again.