First Four Tuesday Recap: Bulldogs Come Back to Beat UALR

March 16th, 2011
Tuesday marked the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, although it's tough for most people to consider anything earlier than Thursday being the starting point. The first game of the "First Four" matched Big South champion UNC Asheville and Sun Belt winner Arkansas-Little Rock and the game did not disappoint, requiring an extra five minutes to determine the winner. A Matt Dickey three pointer from the left corner with 11 seconds remaining pushed the game into overtime, where the Bulldogs took the lead for good on a pair of J.P. Primm free throws with 1:11 remaining. Primm made three of his next four from the line to provide the 81-77 final, and UNC Asheville moves on to play Southeast top seed Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon.

Dickey and Primm scored 22 points apiece to lead the Bulldogs, who struggled defensively in the first half to keep the Trojans out of the paint. UALR shot 53.6% overall in the first 20 minutes, making 10 of 15 two-point shots. But the percentages fell as UNCA did a better job of limiting UALR's access to the lane, and the Trojans attempted 14 of their 22 shots in the second half from beyond the arc (28.6% 3PT in the second half). Alex Garcia-Mendoza did the best job for UALR in regards to getting to the basket, scoring a team-high 21 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field (9-11 FT). But Steve Shields' team couldn't shoot consistently from deep, making 31% for the game and sharpshooter Matt Mouzy made just one of his ten attempts from deep.

"They played more zone in the second half," remarked Coach Shields on what UNC Asheville changed defensively. "We weren't able to get the ball to the paint as much as we wanted versus their zone. [UNCA's D.J.] Cunningham has four fouls I think with 11 minutes to go, and we were trying to go back inside toward him and go at him, and we never could get real good looks in there."

But with the quick turnaround how does UNC Asheville go about preparing for the Panthers? The game is a 3:10 PM tip (Clemson was actually jobbed even worse in this matter) and with the requirements they have to fill it could be tough for the Bulldogs to properly rest up and prepare for the Big East regular season champions. But that's an issue the Bulldogs will happily take on at this stage, because just a month ago it would have been tough to project an NCAA Tournament appearance for them.

"I couldn't be prouder of our team, how they handled themselves all season long. We were up and down," remarked Coach Biedenbach. "We had a bit of a rocky road sometime during the season but we started to put it together late."

Other Notable Happenings

1. Clemson beats UAB, advancing to face West Virginia on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking of getting job from a logistical standpoint, how about Clemson's reward for beating UAB 70-52 in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader? The game didn't start until about 10 PM local time due to the first game going to overtime and a lighting issue that the officials decided to go ahead and play through. Add in postgame interviews and the like, and Brad Brownell's Tigers had a rough itinerary ahead of them with West Virginia on Thursday at 12:15 PM awaiting them. Jerai Grant scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Clemson, who found their way into the lane far too easily against the Blazers.

Clemson shot 52% fro the field, making 22 of 37 two-pointers on the night. UAB used the three to get back into the game but their poor shooting inside of the arc (6-for-24) did them in. Jamarr Sanders led the Blazers, who provided may critics with ammunition for the "they shouldn't be in the field" argument, with 19 points. And sadly the collegiate career of senior Aaron Johnson ended with a broken tibia in the second half; get well soon Aaron. But Clemson got the NCAA Tournament monkey off their backs with the win, and if they can manage the fatigue the Tigers have a good chance against the Mountaineers in Tampa.

2. Kyrie Irving could make his return this weekend for Duke.
There are few NCAA Tournament pools that changed their deadline to Tuesday evening to account for the "First Four", but those who are in such pools may wish the deadline remained Thursday with the news out of Durham. Freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, who went through some individual on-court workouts at the ACC Tournament last weekend, practiced with the team some on Tuesday and could play when the Blue Devils open Friday in Charlotte. The key word is "could" as head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that there's a chance. There's no denying what the McDonald's All-American adds to their rotation when on the floor, but how far along is he in his recovery? In the eyes of many Duke becomes a safe bet to get to Houston due to this development but there's a big difference between practice and game speed. How big of an impact can Irving have on Duke's quest to win another national title? We'll have to wait and see.

3. Purdue suspends guard Kelsey Barlow for the remainder of the season.
It's unknown what exactly happened to cause this personnel move by Purdue head coach Matt Painter, but the move itself certainly does not help out the Boilermakers. In 19.5 minutes per game Barlow averaged 5.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, but it's one more body gone for a team that isn't all that deep to begin with. The development likely means an increase in minutes for both Lewis Jackson, who starts and plays nearly 26 minutes per game, and Ryne Smith (23 starts, 23.5 mpg). But Barlow's loss should not be a major blow offensively for the Boilermakers as he hasn't reached double figures since January 9th against Iowa. Purdue has the ability to withstand his loss, but this also makes it all the more imperative that they avoid foul trouble.

Top Three Games

1. UNC Asheville 81, Arkansas-Little Rock 77 (OT)

2. Boise State 83, Austin Peay 80 (CBI)
Daequon Montreal led four players in double figures with 14 points as the Broncos held off Austin Peay in the first round of the CBI. Caleb Brown (24 points) and Josh Terry (23) led the way for the Governors but it wasn't enough as Boise State had eight players score seven points or more.

3. Cleveland State 63, Vermont 60 (NIT)
Norris Cole scored 27 points, including the go-ahead basket with just over a minute left in the game to give the Vikings the win. Pat Bergmann led the Catamounts with 16 points and eight rebounds as they played without injured senior forward Evan Fjeld. The win sets up a showdown between Cole and College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock in the second round.

Three Notable Performances

1. G Andrew Goudelock (Charleston)
Scored 39 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Cougars' 94-84 win over Dayton in the first round of the Postseason NIT.

2. G Norris Cole (Cleveland State)
27 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in the Vikings' 63-60 win over Vermont in the first round of the Postseason NIT.

3. G Reggie Jackson (Boston College)
22 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the Eagles' 82-64 win over McNeese State in the first round of the Postseason NIT.