Sunday, March 18, 2018

West Virginia gets better of in-state rival Marshall 94-71

Two in-state foes being forced back together on the court by the NCAA Tournament thousands of miles from home became a one-sided celebration for West Virginia.
Jevon Carter was the one leading the way.
Carter scored 28 points, Lamont West added 18 off the bench and West Virginia overwhelmed its in-state rival beating Marshall 94-71 on Sunday night in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountain State showdown out on the West Coast was all about the fifth-seeded Mountaineers. Bigger, more physical and making fewer mistakes, West Virginia (26-10) took control with a 19-0 first-half run. Carter's three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half made sure there wouldn't be a rally coming from the 13th-seeded Thundering Herd. Carter added five assists, five steals and four rebounds and did it in just 29 minutes, sending West Virginia back to the round of 16 for the second straight year.
The Mountaineers will face top-seeded Villanova next Friday.
"We did it for the state," West said. "We just wanted to go out there and play hard. We knew that we didn't want to go home with (a loss) and we did what we could do."
Aside from his scoring, Carter was the leader of West Virginia's swarming defense that made the night miserable for the Herd. Marshall star Jon Elmore had more turnovers than points in the first half and was held to 15 points after scoring 27 points in the upset of Wichita State.
Ajdin Penava led the Herd (25-11) with 18 points, but Marshall had 18 turnovers and shot just 39 percent.
"You're not going to set up and run offense against this team, especially the way they played tonight because it was a full press the while time," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said.
The first meeting between the in-state rivals since 2015 when their annual series abruptly ended was a big enough event that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice flew out to watch the game in person. Wearing a blazer that was half dark blue and half green, Justice spent the first half on the West Virginia sideline and the second half with the Marshall cheering section.
There wasn't much cheering from the Marshall fans as West Virginia led by as many as 31 in the second half.
But this was decided in the first 20 minutes thanks to West Virginia's dominant run to take control. While Carter, West and their teammates were getting easy looks at the offensive end, Marshall became careless with the ball and missed a number of shots around the rim. After taking an 18-11 lead, Marshall missed six layups in the final 13 minutes of the first half and watched West Virginia surge ahead. Elmore was the most notable Marshall player to struggle with West Virginia's pressure finishing the first half with just three points - scored in the first 65 seconds of the game - and six turnovers.
"We just tried to make it hard for him. We played team defense and we frustrated him a little bit. He just didn't know where to throw the ball and ended up causing him to turn the ball over," West Virginia guard James Bolden said.
West Virginia led 42-25 at the half and Carter's early 3s to start the second half ended any thought of a rally. Carter had 17 points in the second half.
"We don't just want to go to the Sweet 16," Carter said.
D'Antoni reiterated after the loss the series between the schools should be restarted.
"The game that we played should be played all the time. We would be better. It's better for West Virginia. Nobody lost this game. We won. We had the passion of West Virginia people there, passion of Marshall people there. That's what life is about," he said.
Marshall: It wasn't 3-point shooting that was the problem. Marshall was 12 of 26 from deep, but just 10 of 30 on its shots inside the arc. The combination of turnovers and poor shooting inside the 3-point line was far too much to overcome.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have been knocked out in the regional semifinals in each of their last two trips to the Sweet 16. West Virginia was eliminated by Kentucky in 2015 in a 39-point blowout and last year lost by three to Gonzaga. West Virginia has lost in the round of 16 in four of its last five trips there. The one exception was 2010 when the Mountaineers reached the Final Four.
Marshall: The Herd should again be contenders in Conference USA next year with all five starters returning.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will face Villanova. West Virginia has faced Villanova just once in the NCAA Tournament in 1962.

FSU comeback and payback as Seminoles oust top-seeded Xavier

Florida State senior Phil Cofer knows the biggest key to making any comeback, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
Don't get rattled.
Now the Florida State Seminoles are on their way to the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 for the first time since 2011 after upsetting top-seeded Xavier with a furious rally.
PJ Savoy made a 3- pointer with 1:08 left to give Florida State its first lead of the second half, and the Seminoles rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat the Musketeers 75-70 on Sunday night in the second round of the West Region.
"Everybody kept their composure, and that's what you got to do in March Madness," Cofer said. "And I think we did it."
The Seminoles did just that when trailing by 12 with 10:42 left and outscored Xavier 31-14 down the stretch, including the final seven points of the game.
"We were much better than Xavier in the last two and a half minutes of the game," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Sometimes when the games are close, that's all that's important."
They made Xavier the second No. 1 seed ousted in tournament's first weekend, sending the Musketeers (29-6) out along with Virginia. It's a painful ending for a team that returned four starters from a team that lost in the Elite Eight last year - to Gonzaga, the team Florida State (22-11) will play Thursday night in Los Angeles.
"Obviously, tough loss for our group," Xavier coach Chris Mack said . "Pretty emotional ending, the finality of what I think is the greatest sporting event in our country."
Senior guard J.P. Macura said he felt this was the best team he's played on.
"For us to lose this early, it just, it feels terrible," a quiet Macura said in the locker room.
Savoy also hit a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds left putting Florida State up 73-70. Kerem Kanter shot an air ball from beyond the arc at the top of the key with 7 seconds to go for Xavier, and CJ Walker added a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining.
Terance Mann picked off a long pass by Paul Scruggs off Xavier's inbound pass before running in front of Seminoles' fans to start the party. After jumping around on the court and hugging, the jubilant Seminoles ran over to their fans in the stands and slapped high-fives.
This was sweet payback for Florida State after then-No. 11 seed Xavier routed the Seminoles 91-66 a year ago in the very same round in the same region. Hamilton lost his top three scorers - two to the NBA Draft - from that team.
"Definitely ... ," Cofer said. "I don't think anybody gets a chance to play them again two times in a year."
The Musketeers didn't get the chance to run away this time around after they took a 12-point lead. They led 56-44 with 10:42 left. But Xavier didn't score a field goal after Kanter's jumper with 3:56 left for a 68-66 lead. Mfiondu Kabengele scored his second straight bucket tying it up at 68 with 2:32 to go.
Scruggs hit two free throws with 1:49 left, and that was the last points for Xavier. The Musketeers turned it over three times after that, twice by star Trevon Bluiett.
Braian Angola led five Seminoles in double figures with 16 points. Trent Forrest added 13, Savoy finished with 11, and Cofer and Mann each had 10.
Macura led Xavier with 17 points, Kerem Kanter had 15 and Scruggs had 11.
Florida State: This will be just the fifth Sweet 16 appearance for the Seminoles and second under Hamilton. ... The Seminoles had lost their first two games against No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Kentucky in 1980 and 1993. They also beat Xavier for the first time in three tries.
Xavier: The Musketeers had been 23-1 when allowing less than 80 points. ... Macura fouled out with 2:06 to go, and Bluiett finished with just eight points and five turnovers. It was just his third game all season in single digits.
Florida State: Gonzaga in Los Angeles.
Xavier: Mack will have to replace Bluiett, Macura and Kanter. But Mack noted Xavier has graduated 105 seniors dating back to 1985-86 and will be back.

Underdog UMBC falls to Kansas State 50-43

The ultimate underdog story is over, but this NCAA Tournament will always be remembered for the sweetest No. 16 in college basketball history.
UMBC's brief, but historic run ended with a 50-43 loss to ninth seeded Kansas State on Sunday night.
UMBC became the first 16 seed to beat a No. 1, destroying top-ranked Virginia 74-54 on Friday night. After pulling off an all-time sports stunner, the Retrievers ran out of magic against the Wildcats.
"I'm proud of my guys, man," UMBC senior guard Jourdan Grant. "We made history. Can't be mad at that. I wouldn't want to go out with another set of guys, man. I love these guys to the moon and back. This season, we'll remember it for the rest of our lives."
As UMBC coach Ryan Odom emptied his bench with 9.4 seconds left, the crowd gave the Retrievers a standing ovation. The players hugged at midcourt. After the game ended, players walked over to the side of the court and gave their fans an appreciative wave.
The dream had ended, but some players managed smiles as they left the court.
"(UMBC) played their hearts out," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "UMBC, you've got to give Coach Odom credit. What they did to Virginia was unbelievable."
Barry Brown led Kansas State with 18 points and Xavier Sneed came up with some huge plays down the stretch, including a monster dunk off an offensive rebound.
The Wildcats (24-11) move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010 when they lost in the Elite Eight to Butler. They will face No. 5 Kentucky on Thursday night.
UMBC had only had two field goals in the final six minutes and shot just 29.8 percent for the game.
UMBC's scrappy defense forced 18 turnovers, but managed just three points off those. They finished 6 of 22 from 3-point range two nights after lighting up Virginia. And 9 of 18 from the free throw line.
"This entire week has been amazing up until the last two hours," UMBC guard Joe Sherburne said. "We connected with people around the world. We could tell during the game how many people were rooting for us."
K.J. Maura, the 5-foot-8 point guard, said: "We put our name on the map. We gave hope to smaller seeds."
Maybe the Spectrum Center was just done giving up upsets.
Earlier, defending national champion and No. 2 seed North Carolina was throttled by seventh-seeded Texas A&M.
UMBC (25-11) had a chance to take the lead with 5 minutes remaining, but Arkel Lamar was stripped of the ball on a drive to the lane and Sneed took the ball the length of the floor for a two-handed dunk.
Brown then hit a fall-away jumper.
Sneed, who had eight points, then skied above the rim and jammed home an offensive rebound even bringing the pro-UMBC crowd to its feet. Makol Mawien added a dunk on a fastbreak to seal the victory with 45 seconds left.
"It just gave us a lot of energy and a boost to show we could win this game," said the 6-foot-5 Sneed said of his dunk, where he elevated so high the top of his head was almost level to the rim.
The Retrievers showed no sign of a letdown early on, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after Kansas State missed its first eight shots - five of those from beyond the arc.
Kansas State didn't score until the 13:40 mark of the first half, but the Wildcats closed the half on a 17-8 run and led 25-20 at the break despite going 0 for 8 from 3-point range.
"What I said in the huddle was keep guarding, keep being persistent," Weber said. "And then Xavier made some plays down the stretch. We just shut them out."
UMBC: Chances are people will one day have to Google who won the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but they'll never forget what Jairus Lyles and the Retrievers pulled off in Charlotte.
Kansas State: Brown defended Lyles extremely well, holding him to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. The Wildcats held a 35-28 edge on the boards.
Weber's hair was soaked as he exited the locker room.
"We held a little pool party in the locker room," Brown said with a laugh.
Grant said the Retrievers were not satisfied with just beating Virginia and thought they would win.
"I mean, it definitely puts a damper on it, man," Grant said. "We definitely didn't think we were going out tonight. We definitely intended on being in this tournament a lot longer. Nobody plans on losing and I don't think we planned on losing. Just take it for what it is. We made history, I love my guys and that's all I can say."
Lyles was upset that he went 3 of 6 from the field, matching his team's 50 percent shooting from the foul line. He was held to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting by Brown, one of the nation's top defenders.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," Lyles said. "I've got to hit those free throws. I missed a lot of shots I usually make."
Kansas State: Will face Kentucky in Atlanta, a virtual home game for Big Blue Nation.

DeVoe, Clemson rout cold-shooting Auburn to reach Sweet 16

Clemson isn't all about football.
The Tigers are pretty good at basketball, too, and are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 21 years.
Gabe DeVoe scored 22 points and Elijah Thomas had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Clemson, which closed the first half with a 25-4 run that helped it beat cold-shooting Auburn 84-53 on Sunday and advance to the Midwest Region semifinal.
"I think it's a statement game," Clemson guard Marcquise Reed said. "I think we showed how hard we can compete defensively. I think it's a real good game for us moving forward."
In a matchup between Southern schools better known for football — Clemson won the national championship two seasons ago — the No. 5 seed Clemson Tigers proved far more adept on the hardwood than the No. 4 seed Auburn Tigers.
The blowout win put Clemson (25-9) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth time overall and the first since 1997, earning it a spot against Kansas in the regional semifinal.
It was a humbling end for Auburn (26-8), which played this season under the cloud of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
The final 10½ minutes of the first half were a nightmare for Auburn, which made only 6 of 33 shots (18.2 percent) in the first half and 17 of 66 overall (25.8 percent).
"I really don't know where we lost our focus," Auburn guard Bryce Brown said. "All I can really honestly remember is they had a few stretches where they came down and knocked down shots and we had a few stretches where we came down and took kind of bad shots at times and that led to easy fast breaks for them."
Jared Harper made a jumper with 10:33 before halftime to pull Auburn to 18-15. The Tigers then missed their next 18 field goals as Clemson raced to a 43-19 halftime lead.
Clemson scored 17 straight points, highlighted by 3-pointers by Anthony Oliver II and DeVoe, to make it 35-15.
Chuma Okeke made two free throws for Auburn, but the Tigers still couldn't hit a field goal. They got two more free throws by Mustapha Heron with 1:20 to go.
Auburn finally snapped the drought from the field when Bryce Brown hit a 3-pointer 44 seconds into the second half. All that did was pull the Tigers within 21 points.
"I felt like they had a couple of good looks and they weren't able to knock them down," DeVoe said. "But we play well defensively like that. The easy looks don't go in all the time. I think pressure and our defensive intensity really bottled them up offensively."
The drought "was just bad for us early and it affected what we could do offensively and defensively," Auburn's Jarred Harper said.
"We just got away from playing offense together and playing defense together," Davion Mitchell said.
Heron and Bryce Brown scored 12 points apiece for Auburn and Horace Spencer had 10.
Reed added 16 for Clemson and Shelton Mitchell had 10.
The rout was so complete that Clemson subbed in two walk-ons for the final two minutes.
"I don't know how long since we've been to the Sweet 16, but I know for a fact this won't be the last time," Oliver said. "We have a special group of guys, not only for this year but for next year and the year after that."
Clemson made 10 of 26 3-pointers. DeVoe made 6 of 9.
Auburn heads into an uncertain offseason. Assistant coach Chuck Person was indicted as part of a federal investigation that cost two of Auburn's best players their eligibility. Person was accused of accepting bribes to steer players to a financial adviser once they turned pro and funneling money to the families of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. Neither played this season.
The 25 wins ties Clemson's school record. ... This was Clemson's largest margin of victory in the NCAAs. The previous largest was an 83-70 win against Saint Mary's in 1989.
Clemson plays top-seeded Kansas on Friday in Omaha.


Here are three things we learned from the Ty Murray Invitational, presented by Isleta Resort & Casino, this weekend at Dreamstyle Arena, aka The Pit.
SweetPro’s Bruiser erupts for 47.25 points
So how hard was SweetPro’s Bruiser bucking on Sunday afternoon?
Hard enough that Brennon Eldred felt his knee pop during his valiant attempt at riding the two-time World Champion Bull.
Eldred’s effort couldn’t overcome the brute strength of Bruiser, though, as his attempt to win the Ty Murray Invitational came down in 4.71 seconds.
“He just got my chin picked up right out of there, and he got me sitting back there on my ass,” Eldred said. “I just could never get back to the front and he was bucking too hard today to make any mistakes.”
Bruiser tied a career-high by being marked 47.25 points as his back legs kicked high above the chutes with Eldred toppling over to the ground.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said he scored Bruiser 48 points.
“I thought he was still underscored,” Lambert said. “He is always great, but he had a special day today. It was better than most trips.”
Bruiser was last marked 47.25 points last year in Springfield, Missouri, when he knocked out eventual World Champion Jess Lockwood.
Eldred said he partially tore his MCL on Sunday and said the out with Bruiser was one of the rankest he has ever been a part of.
“I would say that trip right there was pretty honky,” Eldred said. “That was a lot. One of the strongest and hardest bucking ones I have ever been on.”
The 7-year-old bovine superstar is gaining steam right now in the World Champion Bull race.
Bruiser’s stiffest competition Pearl Harbor fouled himself with Cody Teel on Sunday, while Bruiser has been scored 45.75 points or higher in four consecutive weekends and is leading the World Champion Bull race with a 45.75-point average.
“He is definitely in bucking shape,” Lambert said.
Nance is victorious in Albuquerque a year after coming up short
One year ago, Cody Nance bucked off his championship-round bull (BC Circular Insanity) and wound up finishing second at the Ty Murray Invitational.
Nance didn’t let a second opportunity pass him by this weekend.
The 30-year-old conquered Carrot Top for 85.75 points in the championship round and then watched on as Bruiser demolished Eldred and Cody Teel rode Alligator Arms for only 85.25 points to cement Nance his second victory of the season.
“I came down short last year, but thankfully not this year,” Nance said. “To win this event is a huge honor to me, especially after being runner-up last year.”
Nance credited Ryan Dirteater and Troy Wilkinson for helping him make his decision to select Carrot Top with the second pick of the championship-round draft.
“I had never been on him, and I didn’t know who he was,” Nance said. “Ryan Dirteater and Troy Wilkinson were up there talking about what I should pick and we looked up a video of him. He looked like he had great timing and went around to the left. Today, when they run him up in the front chute he didn’t have no room to go left. He jumped out there and spun right away from my hand. I was right there and I am blessed it worked.”
Nance earned 637.5 points toward the world standings and is now the No. 3 rider in the world standings.
The Paris, Tennessee, native is only 154.17 points behind world leader Ramon de Lima heading into next weekend’s Ak-Chin Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Glendale, Arizona.
Nance earned 80 of those points when he tied Jose Vitor Leme for the Round 3 win with an 89-point ride on More Big Bucks.
The ride was the best of his flawless weekend.   
Nance began the three-day event with 85.5 points on Chingus Dumingusand 86.5 points on The Don.
“To be able to come back and ride all of my bulls was a step up from last year, and I feel like that is what I want to do,” Nance said. “Step up every time I get on one.”
Rounding out the Top 5 was Teel (4-for-4, 294.2 world points), Leme (3-for-4, 287.5 world points), Eldred (3-for-4, 245 world points) and three-time World Champion Silvano Alves (4-for-4, 236.7 world points).
Alves began Sunday 45th in the world standings and leaves Dreamstyle Arena back inside the Top 30 at No. 26.
Leme wins both rounds on Championship Sunday for season-best finish
Jose Vitor Leme’s 7.84-second buckoff against Big Black Cat in Round 2 ultimately cost him a chance at the event win, but the 2017 Rookie of the Year still put forth his best performance of the season on Sunday.
Leme rode Shelley’s Gangster for 89 points to tie with Nance for the Round 3 victory before knocking off a home run aboard Bad Beagle to win the championship round.
Bad Beagle turned into Leme’s left hand and the 21-year-old then began throwing his free arm in perfect timing with the Phenom Genetics superstar bull for a season-best 91.25 points.
“I had him a couple of weeks ago and he got me bucked off real quick,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “Today, I saw him kind of getting left over in the draft and I thought I am going to take him and get that revenge.”
Leme selected Bad Beagle with the fifth pick in the draft.
“I was a little patient and took him jump for jump and got it done,” Leme added. “I am happy.”
Sunday was the first time Leme had surpassed the 90-point threshold since he rode Magic Train for 94.75 points to win the 2017 PBR World Finals.
The two round wins in Albuquerque propelled Leme to a third-place finish overall (3-for-4, 287.5 world points) and his best finish of 2018 pushed him to No. 10 in the world standings. 
Injury Updates
Leme’s good friend Luciano de Castro became the latest World Champion contender to get hit by the injury curse that has been ravaging the Top 10 of the world standings.
The No. 2 bull rider rode Acting Crazy for 87 points in Round 3, but Castro was unable to compete in the championship round after spraining his right MCL during the ride, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.
Castro is going to get an MRI on Tuesday in Dallas to see if he has a lateral meniscus tear.
The 21-year-old trails Lima by only 40 points in the world standings.
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Lucas Divino (sprained left MCL) and Paulo Lima (dislocated right thumb, possible fracture) competed with injuries on Sunday.
Divino went 3-for-4 in Albuquerque, highlighted by his 88.25-point ride on Magic Train in the championship round.
Guilherme Marchi and Nathan Burtenshaw did not compete on Sunday because of concussions. Marchi is doubtful for Glendale, while Burtenshaw is listed as questionable.
Jesus thriving in front of Albuquerque crowd
Native American invite Cody Jesus is by far the crowd favorite inside The Pit, but the Window Rock, Arizona, native also has a huge group of friends and family cheering him on back home.
The Pit nearly erupted following Jesus’s 87.75-point ride on Hot Habanero, but so too did his phone.
By the time Jesus made the climb up the 63 steps that lead to the locker room, Jesus’s phone was vibrating nonstop.
“I was walking up the steps and I checked my phone and I had like 100 or something notifications on my Facebook and Instagram,” Jesus said. “50 text messages and I don’t know how many in my Facebook messenger.”
The Najavo bull rider is still in disbelief over how many fans in Albuquerque are cheering him on as a whole.
Normally, he is the one visiting the region and watching on at some local youth bull ridings.
“There are a bunch of my fans here,” Jesus said. “A lot of local bull ridings. That is what I go to. To see a lot of them kids at them junior deals. I kind of hang out with them when I have free time. Now that I am here, they are coming to watch me.”
Jesus is a perfect 2-for-2 so far and is sitting in second-place heading into Championship Sunday.
The 19-year-old added that he is OK after coming up a little banged up during his get-off.
“I saw Derek (Kolbaba) got on him and I knew that bull had a little bit of suck back to him,” Jesus said. “On the video, it didn’t look like he had much, but when I called for him he started backing up underneath me and when I started going to town I got three good spurs. After that, he wanted me over his shoulder a little bit. The get-off part was the scariest part. He didn’t throw me away like most bulls do. He threw me in the air.”
Jesus finished tied for third in Round 2 with Juan Carlos Contreras (87.75 points on Roy’s Boy) and has earned 75 world points this weekend to move up to 67th in the rankings after beginning the weekend unranked.
Contreras is also 2-for-2 and is sitting in fifth-place in the event average.
Jesus will take on Red Bandana (25-5, PBR UTB) in Round 3.
A qualified ride would put Jesus one step closer to potentially winning his first career event.
“Oh man, I don’t think I would even have words,” Jesus concluded. “It would be life-changing to win this event.”
Eldred knows the prestige behind potentially winning the Ty Murray Invitational
It has been a long, frustrating road for Brennon Eldred as he continuously waits for that first career victory.
Eldred’s 88.25 ride on Mac’s Barbeque won him Round 2 on Saturday night, and the 23-year-old heads into Round 3 a perfect 2-for-2 and atop the event leaderboard
“That bull bucked me off the other day in Kansas City so I had to get a little revenge on him,” Eldred said. “It was huge. I did exactly what I came here to do and wanted to do. To get that one rode and be 88 points is pretty special to me.”
Eldred earned 100 world points and is ranked 20th in the world standings.
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 2 behind Eldred was Keyshawn Whitehorse (88 points on Sitting Bull), Contreras, Jesus and Paulo Lima(87.25 points on Wicked Stick).
Eldred understands the prestige that would come with winning the Ty Murray Invitational.
He takes on Chocolate Shake (14-6, PBR UTB) in Round 3.
“This is the 22nd anniversary,” Eldred said. “I grew up watching this place on TV. Here at The Pit. The energy in this building. Anytime I get to come to New Mexico and ride is awesome. I get excited. I know the fans come to cheer us on and it fires me up.”
Alves not concerned of world standing, but could make huge jump Sunday
There are three additional riders a perfect 2-for-2 in Albuquerque – Cody TeelCody Nance and Silvano Alves.
Alves is in sixth place in the event average following his 84.25 points on Terror Struck in Round 2.
“Right now, I am just trying to stay comfortable,” Alves said Friday night in Round 1. “I know I can ride these bulls. I don’t need to think of pressure. I just need to ride my bulls.”
The three-time World Champion has been struggling tremendously in 2018 and has even had to use World Champion exemptions recently to still be eligible to compete on Unleash The Beast.
The No. 45 ranked bull rider is 95.83 points behind No. 35 Brady Olesonheading into Championship Sunday, but Alves could soar up the standings with an event victory.
Just last year, Stormy Wing won the Ty Murray Invitational to go from 33rd to No. 10.
Alves said he isn’t paying attention to the chatter about where he is at in the standings, though.
“No. I am very happy,” he said. “I thank God. God has a plan for everybody. Sometimes his decision for me is to stay outside the Top 35. It is just important for me that my body is healthy and I feel great. No injuries. Nothing. I just want to ride my bulls.”
Alves faces Big Slick (7-1, PBR UTB) in Round 3.
The 30-year-old also said he doesn’t need to change or fix anything.
He feels like his time is coming.
“I don’t need to practice too hard,” he said. “Normally I go to the gym and I ride two bulls in the week. I just need to wait and prepare for my time.”
Injury Updates
2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi rode Chute Boss for 86.25 points, but had to be attended to by the PBR Sports Medicine team after he was hit in the head by the bull’s horn at the 8-second mark. Dr. Tandy Freeman diagnosed Marchi with a concussion and a sprained right sternoclavicular joint and listed Marchi as doubtful for Round 3.
Nathan Burtenshaw is questionable for Round 3 after sustaining a concussion attempting to ride Livin’ Large.
Buttar ties for round win despite missing equipment
Dakota Buttar took every precaution necessary with his equipment this week after having multiple incidents in 2018 where his gear was either stolen by a mysterious thief or lost by the airlines.
However, this weekend it was his own human error.
Buttar forgot to bring his elbow brace with him to the arena for Round 1 after packing the brace in his carry-on for his flight from Canada to Albuquerque.
The good news, though, was that Buttar did just fine with his elbow taped by the PBR Sports Medicine team instead of being locked into his brace.
Buttar tied for the round victory with 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwoodby beginning the night with an 88.25-point ride on Kmag YoYo.
“I didn’t realize I didn’t have it until 20 minutes before it started,” Buttar said with a laugh. “I left it at the hotel. Other than that, everything else felt good. I have taped it before like this so it was OK.”
Buttar picked up 80 world points for splitting the round victory and moves up to 23rd in the standings.
“I seen Keyshawn (Whitehorse) ride him a couple weeks ago and he was just pretty good,” Buttar said. “He did the exact same thing. He felt good today. He went around the right and back into my hand.”
The 25-year-old did sustain a neck strain during his dismount, but said he would be fine for his Round 2 matchup against Talking Smack (6-1, PBR UTB).
“I didn’t look over my shoulder when I got off,” Buttar said. “I kind of rolled to the side and it kind of made me push my head into the dirt and I kind of pinched my neck.”
Lockwood makes the most of his debut at The Pit
Reigning PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood is in his third year on the premier series, but he had never competed in the famous Pit before Friday night.
Lockwood wasn’t on tour yet during his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign, while last year Lockwood missed the event because of a torn groin.
The 20-year-old sure loved how loud The Pit got following his 88.25-point effort aboard Bar Thirty One.
“This is the coolest thing,” Lockwood said on RidePass. “A lot of our events look the exact same. This is different. You don’t get bored of the PBRs. They are the best, but it is nice to have a changeup.”
Lockwood has ridden four of his last seven and has risen to 12th in the world standings.
The Volborg, Montana, bull rider won the world title last year in part because of nine round wins, but Friday night was only his second round win of 2018.
He will go for his third of the season when he takes on Short Night (7-2, PBR UTB) in Round 2.
Lockwood attempted to ride Short Night during the championship round of the 2017 PBR World Finals and was awarded a re-ride.
Fans can watch Round 2 exclusively on RidePass beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Burtenshaw fights through groin injury to crack Top 35; alternates rise up
Nathan Burtenshaw insists he isn’t concerned or worried about where he is in the world standings, but his gutsy 86.75-point ride on Dirt Man Do helped him get one step further ahead of the cutline.
Burtenshaw converted on his re-ride despite a left groin injury he sustained last week in Duluth, Georgia, during his 85.25-point ride on No Excuses.
The 23-year-old moved up four spots in the standings to No. 32 after beginning the round at No. 36.
“I am freaking sore,” Burtenshaw said. “You have to try and win every freaking round. That is what you have to do. My groin is getting worse.”
In fact, seven of the 16 rides in Round 1 came from riders that began the evening ranked outside the Top 35. No. 97 Cody Jesus (86.25 points on War Party), No. 41 Fernando Henrique Novais (85.25 points on Little Red Jacket), No. 46 Colten Jesse (85.25 points on Rodeo Time), No. 42 Lucas Divino (85 points on Alligator Arms), No. 44 Silvano Alves (84.75 points on Last Chance) and No. 39 Ueberson Duarte (44.75 points on Hot Damn).
Duarte turned down his re-ride because of an undisclosed injury.
Jesus is the Native American invite at the Ty Murray Invitational for the second consecutive year and the 19-year-old was relieved to get that first qualified ride after going getting blanked in 2017.
“Oh I couldn’t believe it,” Jesus said. “When I jumped up on the fence, I thought I didn’t make it until I heard I was 86 points. That is when all the nerves went away.”
Jesse, 20 years old, picked up the third ride of his career on Saturday.
“You know you can ride every one, but sometimes you get ahead of yourself. These three-day deals you have to really slow down and have fun,” Jesse said. “When I first showed up, I was really trying too hard trying to win. Shoot, I just relaxed and started doing my own thing.”
Burtenshaw said his groin won’t hold him out for Round 2.
He has drawn Livin Large (13-3, PBR UTB) for Round 2.
“When you want to be at the top, you have to fight through some things,” Burtenshaw said. “It is what it is.”
Burtenshaw leads group of 14 looking to crack Top 35
Nathan Burtenshaw understands the importance of earning world points toward achieving his ultimate goal of riding at the 25th PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast, but he also learned last year that he can’t stress out about where he stands in the world standings every day.
“I am just going to worry about tomorrow and take it one step at a time,” Burtenshaw said. “That is what gets it done really. I went last year to the end of the year, trying to make the World Finals. Trying to do this. I went away from my gameplan and it didn’t work out for me. I have to stick to my guns and do what I have to do.”
Burtenshaw leads a group of 14 hungry riders outside of the Top 35 that hope to take advantage of injuries atop the world standings and make their own significant move this weekend at the Ty Murray Invitational, presented by Isleta Resort & Casino.
The 23-year-old Australian bucked off his last two bulls at the Duluth Invitational following an 85.25-point ride on No Excuses.
Regardless, Burtenshaw has surged to the top of the alternate list courtesy of four consecutive rides on the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour, including an 80-point ride on Sam to win the Hampton, Virginia, Velocity Tour event, two weeks ago.
Burtenshaw is No. 36 in the world standings and only 10 points behind No. 35 Juan Carlos Contreras heading into the competition Friday night at Dreamstyle Arena, aka The Pit, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I feel confident,” Burtenshaw said in Duluth. “I come over and went straight into Chicago. That was my first event and I had been on two bulls in three months. I threw myself into the deep end to see what I was made of. I rode some bulls. I didn’t do poor. I just didn’t pick up points.”
Burtenshaw began the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast 2-for-10 before losing his spot on the premier series and headed to the Velocity Tour. 
The Coonamble, Australia, native is 5-for-6 on the Velocity Tour and his 190 points at that level has him on the cusp of cracking the Top 35.
Burtenshaw will take on Big City (1-0, PBR UTB) in Round 1.
Last year, Burtenshaw finished 42nd in the world standings and failed to qualify for the 2017 PBR World Finals.
“It is pretty motivating,” Burtenshaw said. “I didn’t complete what I wanted to do. This year I want to be more in the Top 15 where I don’t have to worry about that. Be there to where I can contend to win more.”
He then continued, “It was kind of frustrating, but at the same time I tried to not let it get to me. It was more mentally frustrating. It is stuff that gets thrown at you and you learn to deal with it. I learned to stay on the task. Not to keep worrying about the points and all that stuff. Worry about riding your bulls and achieve your goals and the rest will take care of itself.”
There are plenty of riders with the opportunity during this weekend’s three-day Ty Murray Invitational to take a big step forward and earn a full-time spot on the Unleash The Beast.
There are 11 riders inside the Top 35 not competing in Albuquerque – No. 4 Dener Barbosa (right foot surgery), No. 7 Cooper Davis (partially torn ligament in his right ring finger), No. 10 Derek Kolbaba (torn right ACL/MCL), No. 12 Stetson Lawrence (broken ankle), No. 13 Gage Gay(reconstructive right knee surgery), No. 18 Emilio Resende (calf), No. 22 Fabiano Vieira (concussion), No. 25 J.B. Mauney (right shoulder, right groin and right rib), No. 27 Alex Marcilio (sprained riding wrist), No. 29 Fraser Babbington (personal decision), No. 32 Aaron Kleier (personal decision).
Therefore, No. 38 Paulo Lima, No. 39 Ueberson Duarte, No. 40 Michael Lane, No. 41 Fernando Henrique Novais, No. 42 Lucas Divino, No. 43Reese Cates, No. 44 Silvano Alves, No. 44 Rubens Barbosa, No. 46 Colten Jesse and No. 48 Bryan Titman are in the draw as alternates.
No. 48 Ryan Miller (Velocity Tour exemption), No. 150 Alejandro Gamboa Calvo (Mexico invite), and Cody Jesus (Native American invite) are also in the draw.
Only 105 points separates the riders between Contreras and Miller.
Lane, Divino, Calvo and Jesus are making their Unleash The Beast season-debuts.
Lane is 7-for-12 on the Velocity Tour and is coming off a victory at the Dayton, Ohio, event last weekend.
The Tazewell, Virginia, bull rider has drawn Bad Manners (2-0, PBR UTB) for Round 1.
Divino is 42nd in the world thanks to a strong fall run in Australia, where he won two events and went 8-for-14. He went 1-for-2 last weekend at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Touring Pro Division event.
However, the 24-year-old will be interesting to keep an eye on as he finished runner-up to Jose Vitor Leme last year in PBR Brazil. Divino was 31-for-46 in 12 PBR Brazil events with two wins, five Top-5s and eight Top-10s.
Divino was the 2014 Rookie of the Year in the Circuito Rancho Primavera tour in Brazil.
The Nova Crixas, Brazil, native takes on Alligator Arms (20-7, PBR UTB) in Round 1 during his premier series debut.
Also making the first appearance of his career on the PBR’s highest stage is Calvo.
Calvo went 0-for-2 for Team Mexico at the Global Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, and is 9-for-36 in his career at all levels of PBR competition.
The 27-year-old and 2015 PBR Mexico champion faces Knotted Diamond (2-1, PBR UTB) on Friday night.