UCLA showed plenty of fight in its overtime win over Michigan State in a First Four game in the NCAA Tournament.
The Spartans showed some fight, too — among themselves.
After coach Tom Izzo and forward Gabe Brown carried a shouting match into the halftime locker room, the Spartans proceeded to blow an 11-point lead over the next 20 minutes. UCLA forced overtime with Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s three-point play with 3.3 seconds to go, then pulled away in the extra session for an 86-80 victory at Mackey Arena on Thursday night.
Jaquez finished with a career-high 27 points, Johnny Juzang added 18 and Riley and Jules Bernard had 11 apiece for the Bruins (20-7), who had backed into the tournament on the heels of four consecutive losses.
Aaron Henry led the Spartans (15-13) with 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Both teams had a chance to end the game in regulation.
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The Spartans regained the lead on Malik Hall’s two free throws with 5 minutes to go, then stretched it to five moments later. But after the Bruins came all the way back, and Jaquez’s three-point play knotted the game 77-all with 28.7 seconds left, the Spartans’ Rocket Watts shot an airball on a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Bruins inbounded the ball and got it to Juzang, whose heave from the midcourt line bounced off the rim.
That merely delayed UCLA’s first win over the Spartans in its last three tries.
Norfolk State downs App State
Devante Carter made two free throws with 8.6 seconds remaining, and Norfolk State held on to beat Appalachian State 54-53 after blowing an 18-point second-half lead.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Spartans completed a sweep by historically Black colleges and universities on the first day of NCAA Tournament play, joining Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Texas Southern, which beat Mount St. Mary’s earlier Thursday. Norfolk State advanced to face top overall seed Gonzaga on Saturday.
Jalen Hawkins scored 20 of his 24 points before halftime for the Spartans (17-7), who earned their first tournament win since upsetting No. 2 seed Missouri in 2012.
Justin Forrest had 18 points for App State (17-12), which shot 27 per cent and missed its final 10 attempts.
The Mountaineers pushed ahead 51-45 on Forrest’s layup with 5:48 remaining, but its only points after that were two free throws by Adrian Delph with 1:03 left that made it 53-52. Carter, who shot 1 of 10 from the field, answered by making his only two free-throw attempts of the game. App State missed two late shots on its final possession.
Drake scoots past Wichita State
Drake’s small, energetic contingent of fans sounded like it had waited forever to let loose.
The several hundred blue-clad supporters who got to see the Bulldogs in person ended up witnessing the team’s first NCAA Tournament win in a half-century.
Joseph Yesufu scored 21 points and Drake held on to beat Wichita State 53-52 in a tense matchup between former Missouri Valley Conference rivals.
Drake’s last tournament victory had been 50 years ago to the day —- March 18, 1971, against Notre Dame.
Attendance was limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving most of the seats at Mackey Arena empty, and the Drake crowd finally made some noise at the end of a game that deserved a much bigger audience.
“Perseverance,” Yesufu said. “We’ve been doing that all year.”
The Bulldogs were hardly overmatched in this year’s tournament field — they came in with 25 wins, second most of the 68 teams behind top overall seed Gonzaga. The win was extra validation for DeVries, who was rewarded this week with a contract extension through 2028-29.
Tremell Murphy added 11 points for 11th-seeded Drake (26-4), which advanced to play sixth-seeded Southern California in the West Region on Saturday.
Texas Southern tops Mount St. Mary’s
Texas Southern forward John Walker III celebrated the program’s second NCAA Tournament win the way he always envisioned — hooting, hollering and just having fun.
Nothing, not even a small, mostly quiet arena, could dampen his enthusiasm.
After scoring a season-high 19 points, grabbing a career-high tying nine rebounds and leading the Tigers back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Mount St. Mary’s 60-52 in the first tourney game in nearly two years, Walker let loose.
The Tigers (17-8) have won 10 straight overall and improved to 2-0 in First Four games. Their win over North Carolina Central in 2018 was the program’s first in the NCAA Tournament. Next up for the No. 16 seed in the East Region is top-seeded Michigan (20-4) on Saturday.
For at least a few moments, the Tigers soaked up their victory. Coach Johnny Jones’ players doused him with a cooler of water.
“They drenched me,” he said. “I’m sitting here all wet, but I’ll tell you what — it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had in cold water in a long time.”
At least that part sounded like the usual March Madness — full of excitement and emotion.
But it wasn’t the same.
In the first NCAA Tournament game since Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to win the national championship on April 8, 2019 — a span of 710 days — the atmosphere felt alien at Indiana University’s Assembly Hall. Only players, coaches and staff members were permitted on the court level and an estimated 150 people sat in the cavernous lower bowl. There were no concession stand lines, no pep bands playing music, no raucous cheers, not even boos.