March Madness: Final Four spots to be decided in rematches

Mar 26, 2017 18

The most entertaining college basketball game of the regular season came in December.

Malik Monk set a record for a Kentucky freshman with 47 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer taken against his coach’s wishes, to lift the Wildcats to a 103-100 win over North Carolina.

Are these two ready for an encore?

Of course they are — though it’s a valid argument to say this rematch might be better suited for next weekend in the Final Four than Sunday in the Elite Eight.

“I remember watching them play and I’m thinking, ‘Please don’t put them in our bracket,'” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “And there they are in our bracket.”

Indeed, the South bracket in which Kentucky and Carolina reside was pegged as the toughest on Selection Sunday. The top four seeds made it to the Sweet 16, and the Wildcats and Tar Heels moved within a game of the Final Four with double-digit wins.

North Carolina is a 2 1/2-point favorite in Sunday’s game, which will fill out a Final Four that already includes Gonzaga and Oregon, both of which won Saturday. The first meeting between the Heels and Cats — the late half of a made-for-TV doubleheader in Las Vegas three months ago — now feels like a distant memory.

“I don’t think we’re freshmen anymore,” Monk said. “You can’t use that term anymore because it’s in the tournament now. Nobody looks at that.”

Kentucky trailed 100-98 and Calipari was imploring his young freshman to drive the ball to the hoop in transition. Instead, he pulled up and made the 3 to put the Wildcats ahead for good with 16 seconds left.

“Heck of a college basketball game if you don’t care who won,” Carolina coach Roy Williams said afterward. “But I do care who wins.”

If North Carolina turns the tables, it will give the Tar Heels a return trip to the Final Four after their heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the final last year — on a buzzer-beating 3 by Kris Jenkins. It will also mark a festive send-off for Justin Jackson, who leads Carolina with 18.2 points a game and is expected to call this, his junior year, his last in college.

Kentucky’s list of probable one-and-doners includes Monk, Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox.

“I’m not worried about that,” Fox said. “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”

SPEAKING OF REMATCHES: Sunday’s first game pits familiar foes in an unexpected setting. Florida and South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference will meet at Madison Square Garden for a trip to the Final Four.

“We’re playing a team we know,” said coach Frank Martin, who has led the Gamecocks further through the NCAA bracket than they have ever been. “We’re not playing the moment. We’re not playing a building. We’re not playing the NCAA Tournament. We’re playing the Florida Gators. And our focus should be playing a team that we have played twice.”

In many ways, it was the first meeting — a 57-53 South Carolina win on Jan. 18 — that set the stage for where both teams are today.

The Gators failed to sink a 3-pointer for the first time in 850 games — a streak that began in 1992 and lasted the entire Billy Donovan era. Another loss, three days later, prompted a two-hour team meeting that triggered a nine-game winning streak, including the rematch with the Gamecocks.

But South Carolina’s win over Florida also announced the Gamecocks as a force. It was their third win over a Top 25 team this season, and when it was over, senior Sindarius Thornwell said this: “Before the game, I was saying these are the games you prepare for in your backyard growing up.”

They certainly are. And this next one, too.

Gonzaga's national title chance a breakthrough moment

Mar 26, 2017 16

Gonzaga had great players go through Spokane, great teams that won year after year, laying the foundation for the program’s big breakthrough this season.

Now the bar will be raised.

No more questions about when the Zags will reach college basketball’s final weekend. Their Final Four jinx over, a national championship becomes the next goal.

“They’ve been pretty phenomenal all year,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Zags beat Xavier for their first Final Four berth. “And we’ll go down there to try to win the thing.”

The program Few helped build from scratch during his 28 years at Gonzaga — 18 as head coach — has been one of college basketball’s most consistent teams.

The Zags have played in the NCAA Tournament 19 straight years, the nation’s fourth-longest streak, reached the Sweet 16 eight times, won the West Coast Conference Tournament 16 times.

Yet no matter what Gonzaga has done, respect has not followed. The Zags have routinely been dubbed overrated for beating up on teams in a weak conference and failing to reach the Final Four.

They changed perceptions, likely for good, with a dominating performance in the West Region final Saturday night in Silicon Valley.

Playing with poise with the pressure of history weighing upon them, the Zags stormed past Xavier 83-59 to earn their first trip to the Final Four, next weekend in Arizona.

Gonzaga played a dominating all-around game, playing crisply on offense, as it usually does, while adding the dose of stingy defense that had always been the program’s Achilles’ heel.

The Zags should have the easier side of the bracket in Arizona, too, facing the winner between South Carolina and Florida in the desert, not one of the athlete-filled teams from the Midwest and South.

“We had a plan for ourselves,” said point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, the Zags’ steadying influence after transferring from Washington. “We believed from Day 1, when we all stepped foot on this campus, that we could go to Phoenix. We didn’t shy away from setting that goal and we bought in.”

The players before helped paved the way by setting the standard in Spokane while constantly hearing the they’re-overrated cries.

Few was forced to find high-character players who would fit into his system during the foundation-setting years of the program. He has stuck to those principles even as the wins have opened more recruiting doors, leading to a long list of talented-and-heady players like Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison, Kevin Pangos, Kelly Olynyk, Dan Dickau and Domantas Sabonis.

Those previous players came close to the breakthrough this team pushed through this season.

The 1999 team turned the nation’s attention to the small Catholic school in Eastern Washington by reaching the Elite Eight. The Zags, coached by Dan Monson with Few as an assistant, lost their Final Four bid in a 67-62 loss to Connecticut.

The 2006 team, led by a long-haired Morrison, faced UCLA in the Sweet 16 and came up just short in a two-point loss that left its star player in tears.

Gonzaga again reached the Sweet 16 in 2009 with point guard Matt Bouldin running the show, only to get blown out by North Carolina.

The Zags’ last bid to reach the Final Four came in 2015, when Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer helped them reach the Elite Eight for the second time. That attempt came up short as well, with Duke beating Gonzaga by 14 on the way to the national title.

Now the barrier has been broken, made possible by the foundation set by the previous players and teams.

“Our culture is just so strong,” Few said. “This was a culture win and a culture statement and couldn’t be prouder.”

Rangers remain road warriors with 3-0 win at Kings

Mar 26, 2017 23

Derek Stepan scored late in the second period, Antii Raanta made 30 saves for his eighth career shutout and the New York Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 on Saturday night.

Ryan McDonagh added a power-play goal and Rick Nash scored an empty-netter for the Rangers, who have won eight of their last 10 road games.

Jonathan Quick made 17 saves for the Kings, who dropped nine points behind St. Louis for the second wild card in the Western Conference with eight games to play.

Raanta was sharp in his last start before Henrik Lundqvist is set to return from a hip injury, denying Tyler Toffoli and Jonny Brodzinski on breakaways and stuffing Drew Doughty late in the third. Raanta earned his fourth shutout of the season, two more than Lundqvist has in 2016-17.

McDonagh scored four seconds into a double minor against Andy Andreoff for high-sticking, putting a long shot through Quick’s legs.

Oilers move into tie for first in Pacific with win vs Avs

Mar 26, 2017 22

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Drake Caggiula each had a goal and an assist and the Edmonton Oilers moved into a three-way tie atop the Pacific Division with a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

Benoit Pouliot and Leon Draisaitl also scored for the Oilers, who have won six of their last seven games and are now tied with San Jose and Anaheim at 91 points.

Sven Andrighetto scored for the Avalanche, who have dropped five games in a row.

Edmonton took a 1-0 lead on its first shot 1:54 into the opening period when Pouliot tipped Matt Benning’s point shot past goalie Calvin Pickard.

Marchessault's hat trick leads Panthers past Blackhawks 7-0

Mar 26, 2017 34

The Florida Panthers needed a reason to feel good about themselves, and they got it.

Jonathan Marchessault scored his first career hat trick, James Reimer stopped 25 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Panthers routed the Chicago Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday night.

Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and three assists, and Aleksander Barkov added a goal and two assists for Florida. Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad also scored to give the Panthers their largest margin of victory since an 8-0 win over Toronto on Feb. 5, 2008.

“It was good to see the guys score. Not only score, but the goals were beautiful goals,” Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said. “The team, the owners and the fans needed a feel-good day.”

Marchessault had two goals in a 3-1 victory over Arizona on Thursday. He has nine goals over his last nine games and leads the Panthers with 28.

“It was just an amazing game overall,” Marchessault said. “Everybody should be feeling good right now. It’s not just any team over there on the other side.”

Reimer got his 15th career shutout and first with the Panthers.

“It’s fun to get shutouts, fun to win and fun to beat the top teams in the league,” Reimer said.

Florida remained seven points behind Boston for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Corey Crawford stopped 21 shots for the playoff-bound Blackhawks before being lifted at 4:59 of the third period for Scott Darling, who allowed three goals on six shots.

The Western Conference-leading Blackhawks had won six of seven coming into the game.

“Tough loss, especially when a lot of Chicago fans came out and watch this game here in Florida and we have an outing like that. We’ve got to be better,” center Jonathan Toews said. “We have to get motivated and light that fire again and play the right kind of hockey going into the playoffs.”

Already leading 3-0, the Panthers poured in four goals in the third.

They padded their advantage to 4-0 on Marchessault’s second goal. Colton Sceviour passed across to Marchessault in the left circle, and his goal chased Crawford.

Marchessault’s third goal came when he beat Darling between the legs at 7:13 to make it 5-0, and the rout was on.

Bjugstad redirected a shot by Sceviour into the net at 7:53, and Smith poked in a rebound with 8:15 left.

Barkov gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 17 seconds into the second period. During 4-on-4 play, Huberdeau passed to Barkov in the right circle and his wrist shot went over Crawford’s glove.

Florida stretched its lead to 2-0 during a 5-on-3 power play, which came after Chicago’s Marcus Kruger was called for interference during a four-minute power play. Barkov passed to Huberdeau in the right circle and he fired a shot past Crawford on the short side at 10:21 of the second.

“We were moving along fine until that one call changed the whole complexion of the game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “You got a breakaway or it’s a 5-on-3 for two minutes. You can’t get a bigger swing than that. That was an ugly, ugly game the way it ended up.”

Later in the same shift, Marchessault made it 3-0 when he one-timed a shot from the left circle at 11:40.

Florida forward Jaromir Jagr was hip-checked along the boards by Chicago’s Richard Panik early in the second period. Jagr left the game for one shift as the trainer looked at his left knee. He returned for the rest of the second, but was out for the third period.

NOTES: Panthers D Aaron Ekblad missed four consecutive games due to a concussion, came back for one game, and now has missed two straight with a neck injury. … Blackhawks D Brian Campbell still holds the Panthers record with 376 consecutive games played. Campbell was with the Panthers from 2011-16 and was given a video tribute on the scoreboard in the first period.

UP NEXT

Panthers: Visit the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

Blackhawks: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.

Skinner, Aho lead surging Hurricanes to 3-1 win over Devils

Mar 25, 2017 18

The Carolina Hurricanes are making a late push to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09, and having a lot of fun doing it.

Jeff Skinner scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway with 10:26 left, Sebastian Aho tallied twice and the surging Hurricanes stretched their point streak to 10 games with a 3-1 victory Saturday night that eliminated the New Jersey Devils from playoff contention for the fifth straight year.

“I kind of feel like the last 10 have been must-win for us,” goaltender Eddie Lack said after making 26 saves. “I feel like we just keep battling here and we’ll just see where we end up. Obviously, we’re really excited about this stretch we are on, and it is so much more fun to play now when we have a chance and we’re in it and battling.”

Until a couple of weeks ago, the Hurricanes looked like a team that would be irrelevant during the final weeks of the season. Their 7-0-3 run has put them five points out of a playoff spot with nine games left in the regular season.

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “You have to continue to keep pace around the league. Everyone seems to find a way to win so you have to keep pace, and hopefully, somebody falters.”

Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have not made the postseason since going to the 2012 Stanley Cup final. Cory Schneider stopped 25 shots for New Jersey, which is 2-12-2 in its last 16 games.

“It was a formality at this point,” Schneider said of being eliminated. “I just think to continue to lose games like that is more frustrating. It’s tough. We’re working. We just need to find a way to win. It’s tough not to be in the playoffs, though.”

Skinner’s goal was his 30th of the season and seventh in the last five games. He poked the puck past Devils defenseman Andy Greene at the left point and skated in alone on Schneider.

“It was a fortunate bounce to get the breakaway, making a move on him and getting it over his pads,” Skinner said. “When you are going like this you also have to be successful as a team and as a line and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Aho made it 3-1 with his 23rd goal on a shot from low in the left circle with 3:14 to play.

The Devils tied it 1-all with 2:57 left in the second period after a turnover by the Hurricanes at the New Jersey blue line. Derek Ryan failed to handle a cross-ice pass and Taylor Hall led a counterattack. He skated the puck into the Carolina zone and found Zajac alone between the circles for his 14th goal.

Aho had given Carolina the lead at 2:47 of the period. The Hurricanes kept the puck in the Devils end and Elias Lindholm found Aho alone in front with a pass from behind the net.

The Devils almost took the lead in the third period but Lack stopped a breakaway attempt by Blake Pietila.

NOTES: Lindholm has a career-high 10-game point streak (four goals, seven assists). … Lack has won three straight starts. … Aho has points in six straight games (three goals, five assists). … New Jersey dressed seven defensemen. … The Devils won the season series 3-1. … Carolina has not allowed a power-play goal in nine games, killing off 17 straight penalties.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Red Wings on Monday and Tuesday. An ice problem at PNC Arena on Dec. 19 forced the teams to postpone a game. It was rescheduled for Monday, setting up the rare set of back-to-back games in the same city.

Devils: Host the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

___

Follow Tom Canavan at http://twitter.com/APTCan

Markov scores twice, sets up Weber as Canadiens top Sens 3-1

Mar 25, 2017 13

Andrei Markov doesn’t always seem thrilled to speak with the Montreal media. On Saturday night, he just couldn’t help himself.

Markov scored two goals and set up another and the Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 to retain first place in the Atlantic Division.

“Tonight I just had opportunities to shoot,” Markov said. “I closed my eyes and shot.”

Shea Weber also scored for Montreal, which leads Ottawa by three points, although the Senators have a game in hand.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for Ottawa, which had won two straight. Montreal swept three games in an eight-day span from the Senators and is 3-1-1 against its closest rival this season.

“It’s a big team win,” Markov said. “The last couple of games we didn’t play good enough, so we brought our focus back.

“Sometimes those things happen. You win a couple of games and you relax a bit. There’s no time to relax now.”

Carey Price stopped 31 shots for Montreal, and Craig Anderson had 21 saves for Ottawa.

“I thought we created quite a bit tonight,” Senators forward Zach Smith said. “Price had to make a few sprawling saves.

“As long as we’re getting the chances, we can still be positive around here.”

And they are not out of the hunt for the division, either.

“It’s fun to have a kind of miniseries with them, but it hurts to come up short,” Smith said. “The last two were tough, especially when we’re so close in the standings and we’re fighting for that first spot. But we’ve been resilient all year. We’re still in a very good place. We’re still positive. We’re looking forward to a chance to meet them again, whether it’s the playoffs or next year.”

The Senators controlled most of the play and outshot Montreal 11-6 in the first period, but the Canadiens emerged with the lead after Weber blasted in his 17th of the season from the left point during a power play at 9:28 after Erik Karlsson was sent off for holding.

Montreal upped the pressure in the second, and Markov walked in from the left point and drilled a shot past Anderson at 1:13.

Karlsson’s pass into the middle of Ottawa’s zone was picked off by Markov, and he blasted a shot during a power play at 5:55. It was the 38-year-old Markov’s first two-goal game since Jan. 11, 2014. He even celebrated, mimicking a swordsman sheathing his weapon after the goal.

“I was happy,” he said. “My boy had a birthday on Monday and I guess now I don’t have to go to the store to buy a present for him. I’m going to give him a puck from tonight.”

Mike Hoffman made a clever move at the Montreal blue line and fed Pageau for an offspeed shot that fooled Price at 12:11. It was Pageau’s seventh goal in 15 career games against the Canadiens.

NOTES: Anderson played his 500th regular season game. … With Marc Methot (finger) and Viktor Stalberg (upper body) out, Fredrik Claesson moved in as Karlsson’s defense partner. … Ottawa F Mark Stone returned after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. … Nathan Beaulieu and Dwight King returned to Montreal’s lineup, replacing Brandon Davidson and Andreas Martinsen.

UP NEXT

Senators: Travel to Philadelphia for a game Tuesday night.

Canadiens: Host Dallas on Tuesday night before wrapping a six-game homestand against Florida on Thursday.

Sissons, Neal each score twice as Predators sink Sharks 7-2

Mar 25, 2017 14

Colton Sissons and James Neal both scored twice to lead the Nashville Predators over the staggering San Jose Sharks 7-2 on Saturday night.

Cody McLeod, P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight and six of seven. Craig Smith and Colin Wilson had three assists apiece to help the Predators move a point ahead of St. Louis for third place in the Central Division.

Pekka Rinne made 26 saves in winning his fifth consecutive start.

Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun scored for the Sharks, losers of six straight. They remained tied with Anaheim atop the Pacific Division.

San Jose allowed six goals in Friday night’s loss at Dallas.

Sissons scored the game’s first goal at 4:14 of the opening period.

Behind the San Jose net, Smith battled with Tomas Hertl and passed the puck off the back of the cage to Wilson on the left side. He made a spinning backhand pass to Sissons just outside the slot, and he beat Sharks goaltender Martin Jones with a backhand to the stick side.

McLeod made it 2-0 at 15:19 of the first.

Roman Josi carried the puck up the left side. Inside the San Jose blue line, he went past Sharks defenseman Brent Burns near the left wall. From the left faceoff dot, Josi’s wrist shot deflected off Jones’ jersey and then the crossbar before landing on the goal line, where McLeod was there to tap it in for his fifth goal of the season.

Marleau cut the Nashville lead in half at 4:24 of the second with a power-play goal when he deflected Burns’ slap shot from the high slot by Rinne for his 26th of the season.

Nashville regained its two-goal lead 24 seconds later when Neal scored on the power play with a wrist shot from the left circle.

Subban’s slap shot from the right wall made it 4-1 at 14:39. Braun concluded the second-period scoring at 16:19 when he beat Rinne from the left circle with a wrist shot on the stick side.

Sissons got his second of the game at 5:27 of the third on a deflection of Smith’s shot.

Smith has six assists over his last three games. Sissons has three goals in his last two games.

Neal added a power-play goal at 17:01 of the third, and Viktor Arvidsson scored a short-handed goal with 37 seconds remaining.

Jones finished with 27 saves.

NOTES: San Jose D Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed the game due to an illness. … Sharks C Joe Pavelski played in his 800th NHL game. … Nashville C Mike Fisher missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey attended the game. … Rinne was honored by the NHL before the opening faceoff for playing his 500th career game on March 16.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Host the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

Predators: At the New York Islanders on Monday.

Nash, Khudobin help Bruins snap 4-game skid, beat Islanders

Mar 25, 2017 15

The Boston Bruins badly needed a win and the scoring support came from unexpected source in Riley Nash.

Nash scored twice and backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 18 saves as the Bruins beat the New York Islanders 2-1 Saturday night, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Nash broke a 1-1 tie with his second goal of the contest at 4:12 of the third period, beating Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss from the slot for his seventh goal of the season. Dominic Moore assisted on the decisive goal, which moved Boston two points ahead of the Islanders for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

“That was quite the output for me,” said the 27-year-old Nash, who had five goals in 73 games coming in. “I’ll take it.”

The Bruins collectively could say the same, ending their skid and moving one point back of Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

“It feels good to win again,” veteran forward David Backes said.

John Tavares scored for New York and Greiss finished with 16 saves for the Islanders.

Tavares had a golden chance to knot the score with just over six minutes left in the third period but rang the puck off the crossbar with the Islanders on their sixth power play of the game.

“It was a matter of inches,” Tavares said.

New York is now 0-3-1 on home ice since earning points in 11 straight (9-0-2), their longest such streak at home since 1982.

“It was a tight-checking, playoff-type game,” Islanders interim coach Doug Weight said. “It was muck it up type of game and somebody was going to win it with a goal. They got a break and scored in the third.”

Tavares opened the scoring at 10:05 of the first, rifling the puck past Khudobin after skating through and around the Boston defense. Tavares’ 28th goal this season tied the captain with Bob Nystrom for eighth place on the franchise lost with 235 goals.

Nash quickly answered, beating Greiss low on the stick side 36 seconds later. The unassisted goal brought loud cheers by many Bruins fans scattered throughout the sellout crowd of 15,795 at Barclays Center.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way. It’s a nice building block for us,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

The Islanders outshot the Bruins 8-3 in the brisk first period.

The playoff-like pace continued throughout the second. Greiss made a number of acrobatic saves and also stopped Drew Stafford and David Krejci on point-blank chances with just under five minutes left.

The chippy play led to several skirmishes particular after Bruins forward David Pastrnak clobbered Islanders forward Stephan Gionta in front of the home team’s bench with about four minutes left in the period. Pastrnak received only a 2-minute roughing penalty.

It was the home team’s third power play of the second but they couldn’t convert against Khudobin, who started in place of starter Tuukka Rask.

“I loved his performance. He’s a battler,” Cassidy said of Khudobin, the 30-year-old netminder who won for the sixth time this season. “That’s what we needed tonight. He did his job. “

The Bruins had a 10-5 shots advantage in the middle period as the score remained tied at 1 heading for the third.

The Bruins had a goal waved off with 4:16 left in the first period when it was ruled that Backes made contact with Greiss.

“They make the call, you move on,” Cassidy said. “We got the job done.”

Tavares remained confident the final two weeks of the regular season was adequate time for the Islanders to forge a way to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Five of their remaining eight games are on the road.

“We’re still right there,” he said. “There’s not much time left but still enough for us to get in. We’ll just keep battling to the end.”

NOTES: The Islanders won both road games this season against the Bruins, 4-2 on Dec. 20 and 4-0 on Jan. 16, which proved to be Jack Capuano’s last game as Islanders coach before was replaced by Doug Weight. … The Islanders are 2-10-0 in their last 12 home games against the Bruins, including 0-5-0 in the last five. … The Islanders entered the contest with consecutive road wins over the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. … The Bruins are 13-7-0 since Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as coach on Feb. 7. The Islanders were without defenseman Johnny Boychuk for the 11th straight game.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Nashville on Tuesday night.

Islanders: Host Nashville on Monday night.

Lee takes 1-shot lead over Hur in Kia Classic.

Mar 25, 2017 14

Mirim Lee shot a 5-under 67 Saturday in the third round of the Kia Classic to go to 13-under and take a one shot lead over Mi Jung Hur, who made a 67-foot putt on No. 18 to card a 66.

Another South Korean, In Gee Chun, was tied at 10-under with Cristie Kerr, who was tied for the lead after the first round and was alone atop the leaderboard after 18 holes.

Brittany Lincicome made an early run with four birdies and an eagle in her first eight holes to get to 10-under before she had two bogeys on the back nine in a round of 67 that tied her with Austin Ernst and Karine Icher at 9-under.

Kerr, the 2015 Kia champion, had her most erratic round of the tournament, a 1-under 71.