In one of the wildest opening days in the history of the NCAA Tournament it took a lot to shock the college basketball world. And 97 points may qualify as "a lot", as in the number of points the MAC champion Ohio Bobcats scored in their 97-83 win over third-seeded Georgetown in a Midwest Region first round game in Providence. One-time Indiana Hoosier Armon Bassett scored 32 points while point guard D.J. Cooper added 23 points and eight assists in a dominant performance for John Groce's squad. Ohio shot 58.2% from the field and hit thirteen three-pointers (56.5%), tying an NCAA Tournament record established by Butler just a couple hours prior.
"Fortunately for us we were able to make some shots, and when you make some shots it extends the defense more," said Coach Groce. "When that happened we were able to drive a bit and create some other opportunities for other guys other than just D.J. and Armon. I thought those two things, our perimeter shooting game and our ability to dribble drive the ball to the lane really complimented each other well."
Ohio was on fire in the first half, scoring 48 points in the first half to take a 12-point lead into the half, and prevailing wisdom had it that Georgetown would eventually get back into the game since the Bobcats wouldn't make the same shots they did in the first twenty minutes. That obviously didn't happen, as the play of Bassett and Cooper opened things up for guys such as Tommy Freeman and DeVaughn Washington. As for the Hoyas, they struggled outside of Chris Wright (28 points) and Hollis Thompson (16 off the bench).
Greg Monroe scored 19 while also grabbing 13 rebounds, but he also had seven turnovers to go along with his six assists and Austin Freeman struggled to the tune of nine points on 4-11 shooting. "Clearly anyone who watched Austin play, this was not one of his better games," said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. "Unfortunately not one of his better games came tonight in the tournament." But to point out the Hoyas' struggles shouldn't be done at the expense of a team that put forward an exemplary performance and will move on to face Tennessee as a result.
Key Happenings By Site
Providence: Villanova survives Robert Morris. Jay Wright's Wildcats didn't get off to a good start and that began well before the game even began. Starting guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher were benched for the beginning of the contest due to what Wright referred to as a "minor teaching point", and by the end of the game they were lucky that the lesson didn't include them going home. Karon Abraham scored 23 points to lead the NEC champions, who gave the Wildcats all they wanted and then some in a game they controlled for much of regulation. But in the end it was the senior Reynolds who got to the foul line (much to the chagrin to RMU and neutral fans alike) to get the game into overtime, and the Wildcats survived by three in the extra session 73-70.
"This is probably a boring answer, but they're very sound," said head coach Jay Wright. "And like I was saying, most teams when you break down their defense the first time you make a pass out, you're going to be open. They recover so quickly, they're so quick, they force you to make two or three extra passes, which we weren't doing." For the game Villanova shot just 35.3% from the field and turned the ball over sixteen times, but they attempted forty foul shots to the Colonials' twenty-six and that was essentially the difference. Next up for the Wildcats: Saint Mary's, who put forth an impressive showing in their win over Richmond.
New Orleans: Wake Forest moves on thanks to Ishmael Smith. In a game that was touted as a matchup of two teams that limped into the NCAA Tournament, senior point guard Ish Smith hit a jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining to cap an overtime period that saw Texas squander an eight-point lead thanks in large part to bad foul shooting. The second-worst foul shooting in the field, Rick Barnes' club missed four free throws to set the stage for Smith's shot following a three-pointer from Ari Stewart. Smith finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists while Al-Farouq Aminu added 19 points and 15 rebounds. J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton combined for 39 points off the bench but the starters outside of Damion James struggled all night.
But the area that summarized the season for Texas was rebounding. Despite having more than enough size to match up with the Demon Deacons, the Longhorns were still out-rebounded 59-34 for the game. "We really got just pounded on the glass," said head coach Rick Barnes. "I can never remember getting outrebounded 59-34." Texas simply could not find the answer that would get them to the second round; Hamilton attempted just three shots in the second half. Chemistry and role definition were issues throughout Big 12 play and as a result of their inability to solve them the Longhorns are done for the year. As for Wake, they get the ultimate shot at redemption with Kentucky on Saturday night.
Oklahoma City: Ali Farokhmanesh's shot sends Northern Iowa to the second round. The Panthers and UNLV fought tooth and nail for forty minutes on Thursday night, and for two relatively evenly-matched teams to go down to the final seconds is appropriate. An Ali Farokhmanesh three pointer from beyond NBA range fell with 4.9 seconds left, with the senior from Iowa City finding himself open after Kwadzo Ahelegbe got away from UNLV's trapping defense. Tre'Von Willis' three point attempt missed wide at the buzzer, advancing the Panthers to the second round where they will take on top overall seed Kansas in Oklahoma City.
"I had no idea that shot was coming to me," said Farokhmanesh. "If it was your shot, you're going the take it. I wasn't planned or anything. I think we just went with it, and it worked out." Farokhmanesh led three Panthers in double figures with seventeen, making five of nine from beyond the arc, while Matt Shaw led the Rebels with fourteen points off the bench. And just like Villanova's win the foul line was key for the victors. UNI shot 20-23 from the charity stripe to UNLV's 7-12, negating the impact of sixteen Panther turnovers. They can't afford to turn it over at the same rate on Saturday but their defense and experience gives them more than a puncher's chance against Kansas. UNI once again found a way to get the job done, something you have to do at times in order to win 29 games.
San Jose: Murray State bounces Vanderbilt at the buzzer. The trendy upset pick of the first day almost didn't happen, with Jermaine Beal making a pair of free throws with 12.7 seconds remaining to give the fourth-seeded Commodores a 65-64 lead. But then something happened that many pundits will question for quite some time as Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings called a timeout. What this did was allow Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy the opportunity to draw up a play the Commodores likely hadn't seen in their scout leading up to the game. The end result: Danero Thomas knocking down a jumper from the right elbow as time expired to give the Racers the 66-65 victory.
"It wasn't any play that we've run before," said Coach Kennedy. "It's not a play that we've worked on. Vanderbilt is very tough to get the ball in bounds underneath out-of-bounds plays, and that's why we had Jeffery McClain take it out because I was worried about a big guy not being on the ball, and I wanted Jeff to be able to see court. It just worked. It's a miracle play. It worked out." It was simply a case of one team knowing what the other would do in this situation and using it to their advantage. Isaac Miles led the Racers with 17 points and despite not shooting well from the field (41.7%) or the foul line (9-17), Murray State outscored the Commodores 21-12 from beyond the arc. Vandy didn't do themselves any favors from the charity stripe either, missing twelve fouls shots throughout the course of the game. On their way back to Nashville they're certain to rue said misses.
Games of the Day
Providence: Villanova 73, Robert Morris 70 (OT) See above.
New Orleans: Wake Forest 81, Texas 80 (OT) See above.
Oklahoma City: BYU 99, Florida 92 (2OT) The day got off to a good start and this matchup was a big reason why. Jimmer Fredette scored 37 but the key performer for the victors may have been Michael Loyd Jr., who scored 26 points off the bench. Kenny Boynton led Florida with 27 points while Chandler Parsons added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
San Jose: Washington 80, Marquette 78 Quincy Pondexter's driving layup with 1.7 seconds remaining gave the Huskies the two-point win over the Golden Eagles. Washington, who shot 54.5% from the field, was led by Isaiah Thomas (19 points) and Pondexter (18 points, 11 rebounds) while Elston Turner added 14 off the bench. Lazar Hayward led Marquette in his final game with 20 points.
Players of the Day
Providence: C Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's) 29 points and 12 rebounds in the Gaels' dominant 80-71 win over Richmond.
New Orleans: G Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky) 29 points and four steals in Kentucky's 100-71 win over East Tennessee State, hitting eight of nine from behind the arc.
Oklahoma City: G Jimmer Fredette (BYU) 37 points in the Cougars' 99-92 double overtime win over Florida.
San Jose: G Shelvin Mack (Butler) 25 points, making seven of nine three-pointers, in the Bulldogs' 77-58 win over UTEP.
1)Kentucky 100, 16)East Tennessee St 71
9)Wake Forest 81, 8)Texas 80 (OT)
3)New Mexico 62, 14)Montana 57
11)Washington 80, 6)Marquette 78
1)Kansas 90, 16)Lehigh 74
9)Northern Iowa 69, 8)UNLV 66
14)Ohio 97, 3)Georgetown 83
6)Tennessee 62, 11)San Diego St 59
11)Old Dominion 51, 6)Notre Dame 50
3)Baylor 68, 14)Sam Houston St 59
2)Villanova 73, 15)Robert Morris 70 (OT)
10)Saint Mary's 80, 7)Richmond 71
7)BYU 99, 10)Florida 92 (2OT)
2)Kansas St 82, 15)North Texas 62
13) Murray St 66, 4)Vanderbilt 65
5)Butler 77, 12)UTEP 59