Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament
Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament
Recaps of Wednesday’s play-in games
Syracuse 60, Arizona State 56
The last team to make the NCAA Tournament gets to play at least one more. Credit Syracuse’s fabulous freshman forward and its legendary zone defense for getting a cringe-worthy win. Freshman Oshae Brissett had his 13th double-double while leading Syracuse’s second-half comeback, and the Orange — the last team to make the NCAA Tournament — held on for a victory in the First Four. The 11th-seeded Orange plays No. 6 seed TCU (21-11) on Friday in Detroit in the Midwest Region. Syracuse (21-13) had to sweat out Selection Sunday and wound up as the last one to make the bracket, relegated to the First Four. The Orange prevailed in a matchup of teams that started fast and then faded onto the tournament bubble. “Our offense struggles,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “But I thought our defense has been good all year and that’s where we hang our hats, on the defensive end.” Arizona State (20-12) opened the season with 12 wins, including victories over tournament No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils went 8-12 the rest of the way, and their high-powered offense got shut down in their biggest game. Arizona State scored a season low in points — only the third time it’s been held under 70 all season. The Sun Devils’ previous low was 64 points. “Usually we’re scoring 56 in a half, and we ended up with 56,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “So there were limited possessions. It was a rock fight, and we just didn’t make enough shots.” Brissett overcame a hard fall in the first half, scored 23 points and had 12 rebounds. He had a three-point play and a step-back jumper as the Orange overcame a seven-point deficit with 7 minutes left. “I knew he was going to get back up,” said Tyus Battle, whose 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead to stay. “He’s hit some huge shots. He’s done that countless times this year.” With a chance to take the lead, Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II missed a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Frank Howard got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to clinch it. Kodi Justice had 15 points for Arizona State, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009. The Orange uses only seven players and had concerns about Howard, who had a throat ailment the last few days. He hit a pair of 3s and had a steal and layup as the Orange opened with a 10-7 run. He finished with 12 points, including the clinching free throws. The Sun Devils struggled against zone defenses during conference play and were facing one of the most fabled in the country. They struggled to get open shots and missed five straight as Syracuse went ahead to stay. The Sun Devils finished 11 of 32 from beyond the arc. “There wasn’t a real issue with our offense,” Hurley said. Texas Southern 64, N.C. Central 46
Texas Southern got its first ever NCAA Tournament win, a rout of North Carolina Central. Demontrae Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 guard, scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lift No. 16 seed Texas Southern (16-19), which became the first team with a losing record to win a tournament game. The Tigers started the season 0-13 against a rough schedule and didn’t win a game until Jan. 1. Now they move on face No. 1 seed Xavier on Friday. A historically black college in Houston, Texas Southern slipped into the First Four by getting hot and winning the Southwest Athletic College Tournament. The Tigers then were paired with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament winner N.C. Central, another historically black school that was making its second straight appearance in Dayton for a play-in game with a completely new starting lineup.
Both the conferences get an automatic bid every year but rarely have to play each other. N.C. Central (19-16) was led by Raasean Davis with 19 points, part of a starting five that included a pair of true freshmen guards and a walk-on. Texas Southern led by 10 at the half on Jefferson’s 17 points. The sophomore, who along with Miami’s Chris Lykes is the shortest player in the tournament, tied the score at 10 with a jumper, then fed an alley-oop pass to Trayvon Reed for a monster dunk and followed with a layup to cap an 8-0 run. The Tigers wouldn’t relinquish the lead. The Eagles hurt themselves with terrible shooting, especially in the second half. They shot just 30.4 percent for the game — including 0 for 14 from 3-point range.