It may not have been March Madness, but the first night of NIT action contained everything that makes March Madness great: buzzer-beaters and upsets! Here is a recap of the first night of the NIT:
The Terps have been in this position before; disappointed about not making the NCAA Tournament, facing a subpar opponent in the first round of the NIT, and carelessly letting that opponent defeat them on their home court (2006 against Manhattan, losing 87-84). In the first half of last night’s game, it looked as if Maryland was heading down the same path.
But that changed when the Terps came storming out of the second half with a 21-3 run and ultimately defeated Niagara 86-70. The Terps outscored the Purple Eagles by 16 in the second half, led by the steady performance of Nick Faust (15 points and 11 rebounds) and Logan Aronhalt (15 points on 5-7 shooting behind the arc). The Terps bench outscored Niagara’s 42-14, as Seth Allen continued with his dazzling performance of late with 15 points while Charles Mitchell chipped in with 10 points and 4 rebounds. Maryland may have turned the ball over 15 times (an ongoing issue) but they countered with 17 assists, thanks to another solid performance from Pe’Shon Howard (6 assists to 1 turnover).
The Purple Eagles’ guard-heavy offense had a rough night shooting from the field. The score was tied at 35 at the half, but Niagara missed their first 9 FG attempts as it took over 4 minutes for the Purple Eagles to make their first basket in the second half. Niagara ended up shooting a pedestrian 35% from the field and 31% from behind the arc. All-MAAC guards Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green may have counted for 34 of Niagara’s 70 points (24 of those from Mason) but they combined to shoot 10-28 from the field (36%) and just 1-7 from 3-point range. Niagara did get solid contributions from Ameen Tanksley (18 points, 7 rebounds) and T.J. Cline (11 points), but in the end they were no match for Maryland’s size as they were outrebounded 37-29 (-8) and were only able to collect 7 assists to 10 turnovers.
St. John’s 63
St. Joseph’s 61
It’s been a long time since St. John’s coach Steve Lavin could smile about the performance of his young team. The Red Storm had lost its previous 5 games and lead assist man Sir’Dominic Pointer was fresh off his suspension following their loss to Villanova. But there were plenty of smiles going around the St. John’s sideline as the battle of the Saints came down to a Pointer buzzer beater to lift St. John’s to a 63-61 victory.
Sir’Dominic Pointer’s final FG topped off a dominant second half for the Red Storm as they turned a 6 point deficit at the half into a 2 point triumphant slugfest. Their defense forced 13 St. Joseph turnovers while holding the Hawks to under 40% shooting from the field. The Red Storm were led by Big East Rookie of the Year JaKarr Sampson with 16 points while coach Lavin got great contributions from his bench (led by Phil Greene IV with 10 points).
For St. Joseph’s, the Atlantic 10 favorite in preseason, it was a fitting end to a disappointing season. After Langston Galloway’s 3-pointer gave St. Joseph’s a 51-40 lead with 11 minutes to play, the Hawks finished the second half shooting 2-18 from the field and 2-5 from the charity stripe. Senior guard Carl Jones led St. Joseph’s with 21 points, but he committed 4 turnovers. Langston Galloway chipped in 16 points and 5 rebounds, but the Hawks got little help from their bench (3 points).
Louisiana Tech 71
Florida State 66
Michael Snaer will be remembered by Seminole fans for his countless buzzer beaters that gave FSU plenty of victories over his career. But what Michael Snaer may never forget is how a 6’3” sophomore guard came to Tallahassee, scored 21 second half points, and brought his FSU career to a close.
Louisiana Tech’s Raheem Appleby finished with 27 points on 12-19 shooting to lead his Bulldogs to a 71-66 victory over Florida State. The Seminoles were no match for Louisiana Tech’s two-guard show of Appleby and Alex Hamilton (16 points, 4 rebounds) as the Bulldogs finished shooting 45% from the field. Despite FSU’s size advantage, the Bulldogs outrebounded the Seminoles 32-26.
Michael Snaer’s 24 point performance will be overshadowed by what has haunted the Seminoles all season; turnovers. FSU’s sloppy performance on offense led to 18 turnovers which ultimately helped Louisiana Tech shoot 45% from the field. Okaro White scored 11 points with 6 rebounds while Montay Brandon added 10 points from the bench.
Robert Morris 59
Amazing how much difference a year makes. Kentucky, the most victorious program in NCAA, was celebrating their eighth national title almost a year ago. Last night, their season met its demise at a small gym in Moon Township, PA. Robert Morris University stunned the Kentucky Wildcats with a thrilling 59-57 victory that tops off a rather discouraging season for the defending National Champions.
Despite his ejection for a flagrant foul on Archie Goodwin, Lucky Jones still led the Colonials with 15 points, while Russell Johnson kicked in 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Even though Kentucky held an obvious size advantage that led to a 21-17 rebound advantage, Robert Morris was the more physical team. Their pressure on defense forced 14 UK turnovers and only 2-10 shooting from 3-point range. A key factor for Robert Morris was their resiliency; Kentucky pulled the score to within one twice, but the Colonials never crumpled under the pressure.
Kentucky was led in scoring by All-SEC Freshman Archie Goodwin with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Jarrod Polson contributed 10 points off the bench while Willie Cauley-Stein added 9 points and 4 rebounds. Guard play has been an issue for the Wildcats all season, and last night’s game was no different, as Kentucky only had 7 assists to 14 turnovers.
Norfolk St. 56
The Cavaliers and Spartans came into last night’s game in a rather comparable manner. Had UVA won at least one game in the ACC Tournament, they most likely would’ve been included in the NCAA Tournament. Had Norfolk St (who had gone unbeaten in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) won its conference tournament, they too would’ve been included in the NCAA Tournament. But as fate would have it, they instead met in the first round of the NIT, with UVA securing the 67-56 victory in a relatively muddled, disoriented game.
Virginia was sloppy, with 16 turnovers and 15 missed free-throws. But they were not to be outdone, as Norfolk St one-upped them with 18 turnovers and 27% shooting from the field. The bright spot of the game was the performance of freshman Justin Anderson, who scored 15 points, collected 5 rebounds while dishing out 4 assists. He, along with the rest of the Wahoos, played excellent defense and forced leading scorers Pendarvis Williams (16 points) and Malcom Hawkins (12 points) to shoot a combined field-goal percentage of 28% (7-25). Senior forward Rob Johnson had a superb game for the Spartans, amassing a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds. The rest of the team would only account for 12 points. For Virginia, Akil Mitchell would match Anderson’s production with 15 points and 11 rebounds of his own, while Joe Harris added 12 points and 6 rebounds.
This game was relatively close until the Crimson Tide went on a 22-0 run in the second half to pull away from Northeastern for a 62-43 win. The Huskies were without leading scorer Joel Smith and it was evident, as Northeastern suffered their lowest scoring game of the season.
The second half was a nightmare for the shorthanded Huskies. After making their first two FG attempts, Northeastern ensued to make only one of their next eleven attempts; Zach Stahl would put an end to a scoring drought that lasted close to 9 minutes, but by then the game was out of reach. Jonathan Lee led the Huskies with 13 points while Reggie Spencer added 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Alabama’s defense was stout throughout the game, forcing 15 Northeastern turnovers and 33% shooting from the field. The size of the Crimson Tide was an issue for the Huskies all game, as Alabama created tons of second chance opportunities and a +12 rebounding advantage. All-SEC First Team Trevor Releford (9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals) had a tough night shooting from their field, but was aided by a pair of sophomore guards in Levi Randolph (13 points) and Trevor Lacey (11 points).
Sophomore guard Brett Olson is known for his scoring abilities, which made it all the more surprising that it was his defense (with the help of junior forward Chris Udofia) that helped seal the victory for Denver over Ohio.
Following a D.J. Cooper 3-pointer, Ohio;s lead over Denver reached 7 with just under 14:40 left in the second half. This is when Brett Olson (15 points), along with star of the game Cam Griffin (14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks), decided to take over. Olson and Griffin accounted for 9 of the next 11 Pioneer points; Olson and Griffin scored 10 points apiece in the second half, giving Denver a 4 point lead with 3:20 left to play. After a Chase Hallam turnover with the score tied at 58, it was the defense of Brett Olson who forced a very tough D.J. Cooper attempt that resulted in a Chris Udofia block. After Hallam made 1 of 2 FT’s to give Denver a 58-57 lead with just 19 seconds left, it was great defense that forced a missed layup from Reggie Keely that ultimately led to a Royce O’Neale breakaway dunk and Denver advancing to the second round of the NIT.
D.J. Cooper led Ohio with 16 points and 4 assists while senior Reggie Keely added 12 points. Despite having a +11 advantage on the boards, Ohio only had 9 assists to 14 turnovers.
BYU’s motto going into last night’s game against Washington must’ve been “the best defense is a good offense” as the Cougars defeated the Huskies in an impressive offensive display. BYU scored 57 points in the second half to turn a 2 point deficit into an 11 point pasting of Washington as they had no answer for leading scorer Tyler Haws (37 points). Haws, along with guard Matt Carlino (20 points, 18 in the second half) and forward Brandon Davies (22 points) accounted for 77 of the Cougars 90 points shooting a combined 28-51 (55%).
UW simply did not have enough fire power to keep pace with BYU. Despite brilliant performances by junior guard C.J. Wilcox (20 points) and sophomore forward Shawn Kemp, Jr. (15 points, 11 rebounds), BYU’s offense (47% from the field) and tenacity on the boards (+9) was too much for the Huskies to overcome. The game was tied at 45 with just over 14 minutes to play, but BYU used a 9-0 run to finally pull away. Washington clawed back to within three, but Brandon Davies and Matt Carlino baskets put the Cougars back up by 9, and Washington simply could not get over the hump and close the gap.
SF Austin 57
On a night where your best player and leading scorer has his worst statistical shooting performance against a dangerous opponent, traditionally you see your team in the loss column the next morning. Stanford’s Dwight Powell, who averages 15 points a game, shot 3-13 from the field, 0-1 behind the arc, and had 3 turnovers. Loss for Stanford right? Wrong! Despite his poor shooting night, Dwight Powell still led the Cardinal in scoring with 12 points, but also contributed with 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, one of which helped Stanford preserve their 58-57 lead.
Southland Conference Player of the Year Taylor Smith made life difficult for Stanford’s forwards as he led the Lumberjacks with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Senior guard Antonio Bostic scored 15 points while grabbing 6 rebounds, and senior guard Hal Bateman chipped in 12 points and a game high 7 assists. After SF Austin cut the lead to 3 with a Bateman layup with just over 5 minutes to play, the Lumberjacks finished the half shooting 2-7, scoring just 2 FG in the final 6 minutes.