Ja Morant recorded the ninth triple-double in NCAA tournament history as Murray State trounced fifth-seeded Marquette 83-64 in the first round of the West region on Thursday.
Murray State continued a trend of a No 12 seed winning at least one game in all but three tournaments since 2001 – including last year’s – but this looked nothing like an upset.
Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds as he sliced through Marquette and showed the Racers (28-4) were better in every way than their opponent from the Big East. The Ohio Valley Conference champions face fourth-seeded Florida State on Saturday as the Racers next try to take down an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.
With 4:36 left in the second half and Murray State up 20, Morant grabbed his 10th rebound. Racers fans began chanting “triple-double” to mark the first one since Michigan State’s Draymond Green in 2012 against LIU-Brooklyn.
The game was billed as a showcase of two of the nation’s best point guards and Morant and Markus Howard delivered plenty of highlights. Howard scored 16 in the first half on a mix of 3s off screens and hard drives to the hoop and finished with 26 points for Marquette (24-10).
No 6 Maryland 79, No 11 Belmont 77
Maryland’s Darryl Morsell made a crucial defensive stop as Belmont went for a last-second upset, allowing the Terrapins to escape in the East regional.
The mid-major powerhouse from Nashville, Tennessee couldn’t knock off the No. 6-seeded Terrapins (23-10) from the Big Ten, despite a 35-point performance by Dylan Windler.
Maryland was clinging to a one-point lead and the shot clock was off as Belmont (26-6) had a chance to win it at the buzzer. The Bruins didn’t bother calling a timeout to set up a play; they knew what they wanted to do – a backdoor pass to Windler. But Morsell anticipated the pass and stepped in front of Windler to pick intercept the pass while the Belmont star tumbled to the court.
Morsell was fouled with 2.5 seconds to go, sending him to the foul line for two shots. He made the first and missed the second, and Windler heaved an unsuccessful desperation shot from midcourt.
Jalen Smith led four Maryland players in double figures with 19 points, including a huge three-point play with 1:41 remaining, and Bruno Fernando added 14 points and 13 rebounds
Belmont led by as many as 12 points in the first half and went to the break with a 40-34 lead.
No 10 Minnesota 86, No 7 Louisville 76
Minnesota won its first NCAA tournament game in six years behind 24 points from freshman Gale Kalscheur as the 10th-seeded Gophers rolled past Louisville in the opening round of the East Region.
It was the first tournament win in Richard Pitino’s six seasons coaching the Gophers and came against the school that fired his father, Rick Pitino, in 2017.
Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey each had 18 points for Minnesota (22-13), which knocked down 11 3s despite entering play ranked 344th nationally in made 3s per game.
Kalscheur’s layup early in the second half gave Minnesota its first double-digit lead, 43-33, and Murphy’s layup made it a 50-38 game with 16:06 left.
The Cardinals went to a full-court press in an effort to slow the surging Gophers. But that just left Kalscheur open from the same spot on back-to-back possessions, and he drilled two 3s to give Minnesota a 59-43 lead.
The seventh-seeded Cardinals (20-14) did cut it to seven late, but Christen Cunningham missed an open 3 that could’ve made things interesting down the stretch.
Cunningham led Louisville (20-14) with 22 points, and Steven Enoch had 14.
No 5 Auburn 78, No 12 New Mexico State 77
After a teammate passed up an open layup that could have tied the game, New Mexico State’s Terrell Brown was fouled behind the arc and missed two of three free throws as the Aggies dropped a heartbreaker to fifth-seeded Auburn in the Midwest Region.
The Aggies (30-5) were trailing 78-76 when guard AJ Harris had his defender beat and looked to be headed to the glass for the tying bucket. He instead lobbed out to Brown, who was spotted up at the elbow for a possible game-winner. Brown missed but was fouled with 1.1 seconds left.
With Auburn’s J’von McCormick grabbing his throat as Harris toed the line, Brown missed the first, made the second, then watched the third one rim out.
Auburn (27-9) knocked the ball out of bounds on the rebound and New Mexico State had one more good look, but Trevelin Queen’s 3 at the buzzer was an air ball.
No 2 Michigan State 76, No 15 Bradley 65
Cassius Winston scored 26 points and second-seeded Michigan State held off Bradley in the East Region.
Xavier Tillman had 16 points with 11 boards for the Spartans (29-6), who’ll face Big Ten rival, 10th-seeded Minnesota, on Saturday in search of their first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in four years. Michigan State throttled the Gophers 79-55 in East Lansing back on Feb. 9.
Bradley gave the Big Ten champions all they could handle, though.
It was a one-possession game until Matt McQuaid drilled a crucial 3 to put Michigan State ahead 61-55 with 3:31 left. Aaron Henry followed with a layup to cap a 9-0 run, but Darrell Brown hit a 3 for Bradley to make it 65-60.
The Spartans iced the game at the line, where they hit their first 20 and finished 25 of 26.
Bradley (20-15) surged to a 35-34 halftime lead by shooting 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
Elijah Childs scored 19 points and Brown had 17 for the Braves, who went just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.
No 4 Florida State 76, No 13 Vermont 69
Mfiondu Kabengele had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Florida State held off a barrage of 3-pointers from 13th-seeded Vermont in the opening round of the West Regional.
Terance Mann added 19 points for the fourth-seeded Seminoles (28-7), who were tied with the Catamounts at halftime but pulled away late.
Anthony Lamb had 16 points to lead a balanced, long-range attack for Vermont (27-7), which lost for the first time in seven games. Three Catamounts finished with 15 points.
The America East champions stayed close by hitting 16 of 32 3-point attempts. The Seminoles countered by wearing out Vermont down low, outscoring the Catamounts 30-14 in the paint.
A dunk by Kabengele gave Florida State a 50-45 lead with nine minutes left, part of a 6-0 run that put the Seminoles ahead for good.
Another by the 6-10 sophomore made it 61-53, and the cheers of Vermont fans, who made the four-hour drive south from Burlington, gave way to the tomahawk chop from behind Florida State’s bench.
No 3 LSU 79, No 14 Yale 74
Skylar Mays hit four free throws in the final 15 seconds to help embattled LSU slip past 14th-seeded Yale.
Mays scored 19 points but sealed the game from the foul line, and the Tigers (27-6) needed each one of his free throws.
Yale (22-8) hit four 3-pointers in the final minute and whittled an 18-point deficit to three in the closing seconds. With the lead on the line, Mays calmly stepped to the line and sank all his free throws.
Tremont Waters finished with 15 points, but had just two after the break for LSU. He was 0 for 7 from the field in the final 20 minutes after dominating the first half with 13 points and six assists. Naz Reid had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kavell Bigby-Williams also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
LSU moves on without coach Will Wade, who is suspended for his role in an alleged cheating scandal. University officials won’t allow Wade to resume his duties unless he speaks with the school about an FBI wiretap that resulted in his suspension. Tony Benford continued in his role as interim coach.
Alex Copeland led Yale with 24 points. He had 16 points in the second half and hit two 3s in the final minute.
No 4 Kansas 87, No 13 Northeastern 54
Dedric Lawson had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and fourth-seeded Kansas dominated inside for an 87-54 rout over Northeastern in the Midwest region.
The fourth-seeded Jayhawks (26-9) had a notable size advantage inside and used it, outscoring the Huskies 50-16 in the paint while grabbing 17 more rebounds.
Devon Dotson controlled the offense and scored 18 points, while Dedric’s brother, KJ, chipped in 13 points.
Kansas shot 56% and advanced to Saturday’s second round against fifth-seeded Auburn.
The best shot for the 13th-seeded Huskies (23-11) was to make their 3-point tries. They didn’t. The Colonial Athletic Association champions went 6 for 28 from the arc after finishing the regular season 17th in Division I at 38.6%.
Sharpshooter Vasa Pusica had a hard time getting separation from the Jayhawks’ athletic guards, finishing with seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. Jordan Roland had 12 points to lead the Huskies, who shot 28% overall.