College basketball scores: Michigan State thumps Iowa, 86-76

Jonathan Daniel

Michigan State completed the season-sweep of Iowa and sent a healthy message to the NCAA Tournament Committee.

Michigan State dominated the second half against Iowa, cruising to a 86-76 victory Thursday night. The Spartans, having fallen all the way to No. 22 in the rankings, get a quality win against No. 24 Iowa.

Branden Dawson had a huge game, using his elite athleticism to affect the game on the offensive end. The junior forward finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two spectacular highlights:
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MSU point guard Keith Appling also proved his health is near pre-season levels. The senior finished with 12, including a pair of three-pointers.

Iowa has now lost four of its last five games, wasting a terrific performance from Roy Devyn Marble. The candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year scored a game-high 24 points and seemed to get to the basket at will. Aaron White showed up late in the game, scoring 10 points in the second half after being shut out in the first.

No. 6 Villanova 77, Xavier 70

The Wildcats clinched their first regular season conference title since 2006, and the first in the re-formed Big East. 'Nova held a steady lead, led by Darrun Hilliard's 17 points. James Bell added 12 points and eight rebounds in the win.

Xavier got a game-high 20 points from Justin Martin, but shot just 6-for-24 as a team from behind the arc. The Musketeers are expected to make the NCAA Tournament, and could help their seeding in the Big East Tournament.

No. 15 Cincinnati 97, No. 20 Memphis 84

The Bearcats were dominant on offense, getting 34 points from star Sean Kilpatrick. But Kilpatrick wasn't the only senior to give a high-octane performance on Senior Night. Forward Titus Rubles had a career-high 24 points. It was just Rubles' second double-digit performance in the conference season.

Memphis hung around, but never felt like a threat to Cincinnati. With the win, the Bearcats pull even with Louisville atop the American Athletic Conference

While the big dogs are duking it out in the final days of the power-conference regular seasons, the smaller schools are battling for automatic bid in conference tournaments around the country. Here's the scores and brackets for conferences that held tournament games today:

Ohio Valley

Morehead State 76, Tennessee Tech 61: Morehead State advances to the semi-finals, blowing by Tech. Angelo Warner scored 23 for the Eagles, who will play top-seeded Belmont Friday.

Eastern Kentucky 84, Southeast Missouri State 76: Corey Walden scored 17 as the Colonels dashed past the Redhawks. Eastern Kentucky will play No. 2 seed Murray State.

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Atlantic Sun

Florida Gulf Coast 69, East Tennessee State 64: Dunk City got a huge double-double from Chase Fieler, scoring 22 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the win. Top-seeded FGCU will host Mercer in the tournament final on Sunday.

Mercer 78, USC Upstate 75 (2OT): For the second straight year, Mercer will play Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun tourney. The road wasn't easy for the Bears, who needed two overtimes to outlast the Spartans. Langston Hall scored had a team-high 21, including 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

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Metro Atlantic

Rider 71, Monmouth 60: The Broncs advance through the first round of the tournament, riding a game-high 25 points by Daniel Stewart. Rider will face Iona in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

St. Peter's 65, Fairfield 62 (OT): Desi Washington hit a game-winning three as time expired in overtime to lead St. Peter's over Fairfield. Washington finished with a team-high 14. The Peacocks will face Manhattan in the quarterfinals.

Niagara 78, Marist 76: Niagara overcame a valiant comeback attempt from Marist to pull off the opening-round upset. The Purple Eagles led by 19 at the half, with leading scorer Antoine Mason scoring 20 of his 38 points before the break. But Marist pulled within two, riding Chavaughn Lewis' 26 points. Niagara will play Quinnipiac in the quarters.

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Missouri Valley

Evansville 69, Drake 61: D.J. Balentine dropped 30 points on Drake Thursday, propelling Evansville into the quarterfinals of the tournament Wichita State is going to win. The Aces get the Shockers in the quarters, which will be played Friday afternoon.

Loyola-Ill. 74, Bradley 72: Milton Doyle's buzzer-beating three-pointer lifted Loylola over Bradley. The Ramblers had taken the lead on a pair of free throws, but Doyle's shot sends Loyola into the quarterfinals. The Ramblers play Indiana State, who entered the tournament as the 2-seed.

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West Coast

Loyola Marymount 67, Portland 64: Loyola ended the game on 7-2 run to push the Lions into the quarterfinals. Nick Stover scored four of those points and 14 total for the game. Loyola moves on to face second-seeded BYU in the next round.

Santa Clara 81, Pacific 64: Jared Brownridge scored 20 points to lead the Broncos to an easy win, earning them a date with No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday evening.

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