To be, or not to be? For an underdog named Javion Hamlet and his group of scrapping North Texas teammates, that was an easy question.
Hamlet scored 24 points and Thomas Bell had 16, along with some game-changing defence in overtime, to lift the 13th-seeded Mean Green to a 78-69 win over No. 4 Purdue on Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
It marked the second teen-powered upset of the Big Ten on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament — this one coming hours after No. 15 Oral Roberts knocked out Ohio State.
What a great prize for Hamlet and Bell, a pair of seniors who led the Mean Green (18-9) to a regular-season Conference USA title last year but missed a chance at the tournament when the season was cancelled by COVID-19.
They made sure things kept going this time.
Bell opened overtime with a 3, then altered two Purdue shots underneath to help the Mean Green turn the extra session into a laugh.
NORTH COURTS | Breaking down the Canadians in March Madness:
Oral Roberts plays Cinderella
Oral Roberts welcomed the madness back to March.
The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles pulled off the first major upset of the first NCAA Tournament in two years, holding off second-seeded Big Ten power Ohio State 75-72 in overtime.
Oral Roberts got poised, impeccable performances from its two star players, guard Max Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor, to become the ninth 15 seed to win a first-round game and the first since Middle Tennessee shocked Michigan State in 2016. Last year’s tournament was called off because of the pandemic.
Obanor scored seven of Oral Roberts’ 11 points in overtime, including two free throws with 13 seconds left, and finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Abmas scored 29 points.
Ohio State could have tied it in the closing seconds of overtime, but Duane Washington Jr.’s open 3-pointer from straight away bounced off the side of the rim, and Oral Roberts celebrated its first tournament win since 1974.
The Golden Eagles (17-10) advanced to play seventh-seeded Florida in the South Region on Sunday.
E.J. Liddell scored 23 points to lead the Buckeyes (21-10). Washington scored 18 but made just 7 of 21 shots.
Rutgers downs Clemson
Geo Baker spent part of this week using his voice to raise awareness about inequities in college sports.
He’ll get to use his platform for a couple more days after helping Rutgers to its first NCAA Tournament victory in 38 years.
Baker scored 13 points, including the decisive layup with 10 seconds left, and the 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights toppled No. 7 seed Clemson 60-56 in the Midwest Region.
Rutgers (16-11) was last selected for the NCAAs in 1991, an appearance that ended with a first-round loss to Arizona State. The Scarlet Knights’ last victory in the tournament came in 1983 against a school that’s since changed its name from Southwest Louisiana to just Louisiana.
The drought is over for Rutgers, which will face No. 2 seed Houston on Sunday.
Jacob Young and Caleb McConnell both added 13 points and Ron Harper Jr. added 10 points. Baker scored the final five points for Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights built an 11-point lead and nearly gave it all away.
Oregon State stuns Tennessee
Another first-round upset as 12th-seeded Oregon State defeated No. 5 Tennessee 70-56 in the Midwest Region.
Roman Silva scored 16 and Ethan Thompson 13 with 10 rebounds to lead the Ducks.
Oregon State became the first Pac-10/12 school to win the conference tournament after being picked to finish last and is now the 51st 12 to take down a 5 since the NCAA Tournament bracket expanded in 1985.
The Beavers hadn’t won a tournament game since beating Idaho in 1982.
Oklahoma State marches on
Cade Cunningham vowed to lead Oklahoma State to a strong run through the NCAA Tournament. The freshman All-American didn’t have an explosive debut, but did just enough to lead the Cowboys to a 69-60 victory over Liberty.
Cunningham scored 15 points — nine straight in the final minutes — to lead No. 4 seed Oklahoma State to its first NCAA Tournament win since 2009. Avery Anderson III led the Cowboys with 21 points.
Cunningham before the tournament began said he planned to emulate Carmelo Anthony, who in 2003 led Syracuse to the national title as a freshman. But the Big 12 Conference player of the year struggled for most his debut until his late surge gave OSU (21-8) breathing room against the stubborn Flames (23-6).
Anderson picked up the offensive slack for Oklahoma State and scored 14 points in the first half. He shot 8 of 14, including a three-point play with 10:25 remaining for a 50-44 lead, and grabbed seven rebounds.
Canada’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe added 10 points for OSU, which faces Oregon State in Sunday’s second round. The 12th-seeded Beavers upset fifth-seeded Tennessee earlier Friday.
Florida dumps Virginia Tech in OT
Florida overcame playing short-handed most of the season after preseason SEC player of the year Keyontae Johnson was lost because of a scary medical episode.
The Gators did it again, getting through to the second round for an eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance — and doing it without two key contributors.
Colin Castleton scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Tre Mann hit a step-back 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in overtime and the seventh-seeded Gators held off No. 10 seed Virginia Tech 75-70 in overtime.
Florida was cheered on by Johnson, who has turned into a de facto assistant coach since returning to the team following a December game in which he collapsed on the court and was hospitalized. He is still recovering from the episode, and doctors told him he could not play again this season.
Loyola Chicago keeps dancing
Lucas Williamson scored 21 points in a dynamic performance by the defensive whiz, All-American forward Cameron Krutwig added 10, and eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago beat No. 9 seed Georgia Tech 71-60 to mark a triumphant return to the Tournament.
Loyola advanced to play top-seeded Illinois on Sunday.
Jordan Usher scored 15 points, Michael Devoe had 14 and Jose Alvarado 13 for the Yellow Jackets, who were forced to play without ACC player of the year Moses Wright after the big man tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
Arkansas avoids upset
Arkansas advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with an 85-68 win over Colgate in the South Regional.
Justin Smith had 29 points and Jalen Tate 15 to lead five players in double figures for the Razorbacks.
Nelly Cummings had 14 points and Jordan Burns 13 to lead Colgate (14-2), which committed 22 turnovers.
Baylor blows out Hartford
After MaCio Teague and the Baylor Bears got comfortable in the spacious confines of Lucas Oil Stadium, they looked like a team that could be playing there for bigger stakes in a few weeks.
Teague scored 22 points and the top-seeded Bears shook off a slow-as-molasses start to roll to a 79-55 victory over No. 16 Hartford.
In front of a crowd of around 6,000 filling the south end of the home of the Indianapolis Colts, the Hawks (15-9) looked like they belonged for a solid stretch to start the game. They D’d up on Baylor’s nation-leading 3-point shooters, grabbed most of the 50-50 balls and even celebrated a power dunk from 6-foot-9 Hunter Marks to start a mini 4-0 run that gave them a one-point lead at the 8-minute timeout.
And that was that.