Mitchell Layton/Getty Images(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) — Tom Izzo has done it again. Michigan State (26-11) is back in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year after beating third-seeded Oklahoma (24-11) 62-58 on Friday night.

The seventh-seeded Spartans have won their last 11 of 14 games and can thank junior guard Denzel Valentine for guiding them past the Sooners with his 18-point effort.

“The first half, I felt like that was my first time playing basketball,” Valentine said, who scored 13 in the second half. “But I just kind of snapped out of it. I was like, `I’m in Sweet 16, and we’ve got a chance to go to the Final 4. I’m a junior, what the heck.’ I just smacked the ground and I woke up I guess.”

Izzo will take on a familiar face in Rick Pitino and the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinal in the East final on Sunday.

“I get to work another day. I can’t tell you how excited that makes me,” Izzo said. “I’m just tickled to death to still be playing.”

It was a great season for the Lon Kruger led Sooners, who were seeking their first trip to an Elite Eight matchup since 2009.

“Their defense definitely bothered us in the long run,” Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas said. “They’re tough. They got stops when they needed to and we didn’t.”

Thomas finished with 16 points in the loss. Sooners guard Buddy Hield added 21.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama notes the impact of the Wall Street Reform he signed into law five years ago, and highlighted the importance of protecting American workers’ paychecks.

“Five years ago, after the worst financial crisis in decades, we passed historic Wall Street reform to end the era of bailouts and too big to fail,” the president said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created as part of that reform, has “already put $5 billion back in the pockets of more than 15 million families,” Obama says. “This week, they took an important first step towards cracking down on some of the most abusive practices involving payday loans.”

“Protecting working Americans’ paychecks shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Obama says. “But the budget Republicans unveiled last week would make it harder, not easier, to crack down on financial fraud and abuse.”

He further vowed to continue fighting for middle-class economics.

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. Five years ago, after the worst financial crisis in decades, we passed historic Wall Street reform to end the era of bailouts and too big to fail.

As part that reform, we created an independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with one mission: to protect American consumers from some of the worst practices of the financial industry.

They’ve already put $5 billion back in the pockets of more than 15 million families. And this week, they took an important first step towards cracking down on some of the most abusive practices involving payday loans.

Millions of Americans take out these loans every year. In Alabama, where I visited this week, there are four times as many payday lending stores as there are McDonald’s. But while payday loans might seem like easy money, folks often end up trapped in a cycle of debt. If you take out a $500 loan, it’s easy to wind up paying more than $1,000 in interest and fees.

The step the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced this week is designed to change that. The idea is pretty common sense: if you’re a payday lender preparing to give a loan, you should make sure that the borrower can afford to pay it back first.

As Americans, we believe there’s nothing wrong with making a profit. But there is something wrong with making that profit by trapping hard-working men and women in a vicious cycle of debt.

Protecting working Americans’ paychecks shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But the budget Republicans unveiled last week would make it harder, not easier, to crack down on financial fraud and abuse. And this week, when Republicans rolled out their next economic idea, it had nothing to do with the middle class. It was a new, more-than-$250 billion tax cut for the top one-tenth of the top one percent of Americans. That would mean handing out an average tax cut of $4 million a year to just 4,000 Americans per year, and leaving the rest of the country to pay for it.

I don’t think our top economic priority should be helping a tiny number of Americans who are already doing extraordinarily well, and asking everybody else to foot the bill. I think our top priority should be helping everybody who works hard get ahead. This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

That’s what middle-class economics is all about, and as long as I’m your President, that’s what I’ll keep on fighting to do.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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Mitchell Layton/Getty Images(HOUSTON) — Przemek Karnowski had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 2 Gonzaga to its first Elite 8 appearance since 1999 by beating No. 11 UCLA 74-62 in the Men’s NCAA Tournament, Friday.

Gonzaga (35-2) was dominant, never trailing after the 17:14 mark of the first half.

UCLA (22-14) went on a 6-0 run to open the second half and cut the Zags lead to one, but the Bulldogs countered by scoring 12 straight points, blowing the game open for good.

The win marks the first time Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has reached the round of eight. He took over the team the year after it last made the regional final.

Tony Parker had 16 points and 11 rebounds for UCLA in the loss.

Gonzaga will take on the winner of the Utah – Duke game on Sunday.

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NASA-TV(NEW YORK) — An unprecedented NASA experiment began on Friday, with Astronaut Scott Kelly and a pair of Russian cosmonauts blasting off, bound for the International Space Station, where Kelly will spend the next year.

Kelly and his twin brother, retired astronaut Mark, will be human guinea pigs. While Scott spends the year in space, Mark will remain on the ground. NASA hopes to compare what happens to the bodies and brains of the two men in such different environments.

The launch took place on Friday afternoon, with video inside the rocket showing Kelly giving a thumbs up.

Beforehand, Kelly posted a photo to Instagram showing him closing up shop for the next year.

Shutting down my office for a while. #ISS1year #iss #office #nasa #jsc #timetogo

A photo posted by Scott Kelly (@stationcdrkelly) on Feb 15, 2015 at 10:42am PST

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Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — The U.S. embassy in Iraq on Friday denied Iraqi media reports that a coalition airstrike mistakenly struck Iraqi troops in Tikrit.

“We are aware of Iraqi media reports of casualties among Iraqi Security Forces in the vicinity of Tikrit University this morning,” the embassy’s statement reads. “No coalition airstrikes took place during the time or in the vicinity of these alleged casualties.”

The embassy referred further questions to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

U.S. and coalition forces had begun to conduct airstrikes and offer additional support in the vicinity of Tikrit as Iraqi Security Forces attempt to retake the city from ISIS militants.

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ABC(ROME) — Italy’s highest court decided Friday to overturn Amanda Knox’s reconviction in connection with her roommate’s slaying, meaning that she will not be sent back to prison.

Knox’s mother confirmed to ABC News that her daughter’s conviction has been annulled.

Knox was initially convicted by an Italian court of killing British student Meredith Kercher in 2007, but that decision was overturned on appeal in October 2011 after she had spent four years in prison.

She was then reconvicted last year and an appeal of the reconviction began this month. There is no possibility of further appeals after Friday’s ruling.

“This is a big mistake that has to be rectified,” Knox’s defense attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova told ABC News before this latest appeal case began. “It has been done before.”

Knox has previously told ABC News that while she maintains her innocence, she will not be traveling to Italy for the new appeal because if found guilty, she would then be sent back to jail for up to 28 years.

“I did not expect this to happen,” Knox told ABC News in January 2014. “I really expected so much better from the Italian justice system. They found me innocent once before.”

Knox has rebuilt her life in her hometown of Seattle, writing freelance theater reviews for a local paper and working at a bookstore. In February, her family confirmed that she is now engaged to Colin Sutherland, a friend whom she has known since middle school.

Her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito is facing the same appeal and while he has been present in the Rome court throughout the week, Knox has remained in America.

“I will never go willingly back,” she said in January 2014.

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — A preeminent venture capital firm was mostly victorious in Silicon Valley’s biggest sex discrimination suit.

A jury has ruled in favor of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in the case. At the center of the lawsuit and court case is Ellen Pao, 45, the interim CEO of Reddit and former partner at Kleiner Perkins. She filed her complaint in May 2012 against the prominent venture capital firm, which is based in Menlo Park, California, near the headquarters of Facebook, one of the many tech firms in which it has invested.

The jury decided in favor of Kleiner on three questions: the firm didn’t fail to promote Pao because she’s a woman, that it did take reasonable steps to help her and that it did try to prevent discrimination, if any. The judge ruled that the jury should continue deliberations on the fourth question, because only eight out of 12 decided the company didn’t retaliate against her for complaining. The decision must be reached by nine jurors.

Pao’s attorney Therese Lawless had urged the jury to make a decision that would send a message to the venture capital industry.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After a run of losses this week, Wall Street finished Friday’s session on a somewhat positive note. All three major indices closed the day with gains, despite a Commerce Department announcement of slower economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 33.90 to end the day at 17712.13.

The Nasdaq climbed 27.86 to 4891.22, while the S&P 500 closed the session at 2060.94, up 4.79 from its open.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced Friday that the U.S. gross domestic product climbed by just 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter. In the previous quarter, the GDP had risen by five percent.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MADISON, Ala.) — A federal grand jury indicted a Madison, Alabama police officer on Thursday night for use of unreasonable force against a man he was trying to question earlier this year.

Eric Sloan Parker, 26, was acting in his capacity as a police officer on Feb. 6 when he allegedly injured a man by slamming him into the ground. The man was not identified in the indictment.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Parker’s actions “deprived the man in Madison of his right under the U.S. Constitution to be secure from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable force by someone acting under the color of law.”

In February, ABC News reported that Parker was accused of badly injuring an Indian man, Sureshbhai Patel, who was visiting family. A man had reported Patel as a supicious person, according to a 911 call released by police.

Parker is seen in dashcam video throwing Patel, 57, to the ground.

The Madison Police Department’s Chief Larry Muncey said that he had recommended Parker be fired.

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Apple(NEW YORK) — Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed disdain for a new Indiana law that could allow business owners to discriminate against gay people.

The law, signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday, is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pence claims that it “does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved,” though critics have argued otherwise.

Cook posted to his Twitter account on Friday to express disappointment in the Indiana law, and also to call for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a similar bill.

Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 27, 2015

“Around the world, we strive to treat every customer the same,” Cook wrote, “regardless of where they come from, how they worship or who they love.”

Around the world, we strive to treat every customer the same — regardless of where they come from, how they worship or who they love.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 27, 2015

On Thursday, National Collegiate Athletic Administration President Mark Emmert expressed concerns about the law ahead of the NCAA’s men’s basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next week.

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