The Latest: UNC’s Berry says ankles are about 85 percent
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on Friday preparations for the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
North Carolina guard Joel Berry II says his injured ankles are at about 85 percent heading into Saturday’s game against Oregon.
Berry hurt his left ankle in last weekend’s win over Kentucky, adding it to a previous injury to his right ankle.
Berry said he participated fully in North Carolina’s closed practice earlier Friday and said everything felt good.
He says the key will be to getting involved in the game so he doesn’t think about it too much.
A lot has been made about Oregon snapping a nine-year dry spell for the Pac-12 at the Final Four. The Ducks are the first team from their conference to make it this far since UCLA in 2008.
Ducks coach Dana Altman says he’s more focused on a different losing streak.
Altman reminded the media Friday that a Pac-12 team hasn’t won the championship since Arizona took it all in 1997.
“So, we’ve got a way to go here,” he said.
Along those lines, Ducks guard Dylan Ennis says: “We don’t want to just have a good three days here, we want to have a lifetime of memories.”
South Carolina freshman Maik Kotsar is excited to have his parents see him play in person for the first time in his college career.
Kotsar is from Estonia and has not seen his parents in about a year.
“I have no idea how I am going to react,” Kotsar said. “I miss them a lot.”
The Gamecocks play Gonzaga at the Final Four on Saturday.
Kotsar spent the holidays with teammates and coaches and he credits them for making his transition to Columbia, South Carolina, much smoother.
“They’ve been pretty much my second family,” Kotsar said.
Asked how his team is handling the distractions of South Carolina’s first trip to the Final Four, Gamecocks coach Frank Martin held up his cellphone.
“This is what you can’t gauge,” he said.
But, Martin said, no use in taking the cellphones out of his players’ hands at this point. He’s never done that before, so to do it now would not make much sense.
With families and friends rolling into town Friday, Martin said the team has established rules for when and when players can hang out with hangers-on.
As for that cell, Martin says, “it’s been and unbelievable distraction for me this week, I can only imagine what it’s been like for them.”
South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell is back at University of Phoenix for media availabilities and practice one day after he stayed back at the team hotel because he was feeling ill.
Thornwell says he’s now fine and feels good. He says he had a fever and headache.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard has been one of the tournament’s biggest stars as he’s led the Gamecocks to their first Final Four.
He leads the tournament in scoring at 26 points per game, and is averaging 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 steals per game.
It’s going to be a busy Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium ahead of Saturday’s Final Four games.
Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina will all hold practices that are open to the public ahead of the national semifinals. Those teams will also spend much of the day bouncing between media sessions.
South Carolina has the first 50-minute practice session on the court nestled in the middle of a cavernous stadium with capacity for more than 63,000 fans. Gonzaga is next. Those teams play Saturday’s first national semifinal.
Oregon and North Carolina have the last two practices. They play in Saturday’s second semifinal.