OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Norfolk
Might as well stick around a while.
Kyle O'Quinn had 26 points and 14 rebounds, making several key
plays in the closing minutes, and the gritty No. 15 seed Spartans
held on through a tense final minute to topple second-seeded
Missouri 86-84 on Friday in the West Regional.
Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin each added 20 points for
the MEAC champion Spartans (26-9), who made their first trip to the
NCAA tournament a memorable one. They became the fifth No. 15 seed
to beat a No. 2 and the first since fellow conference member
Hampton in 2001.
O'Quinn had a chance to take some of the drama out of the finish
when he went to the free throw line with 3.8 seconds to go, but the
70-percent foul shooter missed both tries.
Missouri coach Frank Haith called a timeout with 2.9 seconds
left to set up a final play, and the ball wound up in the hands of
Phil Pressey. He took a couple of hard dribbles and let loose a
3-pointer from the wing that clanked off the back iron as the
O'Quinn leaped for joy. Pressey fell to the court in disbelief.
And the roar that rose inside CenturyLink Arena from anybody
wearing anything other than black and gold may have drowned out the
sound of brackets getting torn up all over America.
Michael Dixon led Missouri (30-5) with 22 points, and Pressey
and fellow guard Marcus Denmon finished with 20 points each.
Pressey also contributed eight assists.
The Tigers rolled into the tournament on the strength of a
dominant run to the Big 12 tournament title, rarely getting tested
in three games in Kansas City. That was enough to make Missouri a
trendy Final Four pick, something the school had never before
Norfolk State made sure it wouldn't happen this year, either.
The plucky Spartans shot 54.2 percent from the field _ 62.5
percent in the second half _ and managed to knock down 10 of 19
3-point shots. They also turned the ball over just 11 times against
the Tigers' quick-handed guards, who had caused fits for most teams
Missouri knew right away that Norfolk State wasn't going away
The Spartans opened the game on 15-7 surge, turning most of the
folks dressed in Florida blue and Virginia orange into surrogate
fans. And when Missouri jumped ahead on the strength of three
consecutive 3-pointers, Norfolk State didn't seem to be rattld.
Fifth-year coach Anthony Evans simply called a timeout to
regroup, and McEachin curled in a 3-pointer when play resumed to
push the Spartans back ahead.
Things were going so well for Norfolk State in the first half
that O'Quinn, an 18-percent shooter from beyond the arc, swished
one from the top of the key. The big guy added a conventional
three-point play later in the half, slamming his hand onto the
court after he was fouled and then stepping to the free throw line
and giving Norfolk State a 38-36 lead.
Dixon's basket with 23.4 seconds left meant a tie game at
Missouri spent nearly the entire 20-minute break in its locker
room. The Spartans were back on the court before it was even half
over, putting up shots like it was a Sunday afternoon shootaround.
They must have liked the way things were going.
Marcos Tamares scored right out of halftime and the Spartans
kept plugging away. Ricardo Ratliffe made a couple of baskets for
Missouri and Williams hit another deep jumper for Norfolk State.
Dixon hit a 3 from the corner and O'Quinn scored underneath.
The only time Missouri threatened to create some breathing room
came when Pressey followed his own basket with a 3-pointer with
7:15 to go, giving the Tigers a 73-69 lead.
Tamares was there to provide a 3-pointer of his own.
The game was still tied 81-all when Rodney McCauley airballed a
baseline jumper with 34.9 seconds left. O'Quinn was there to pluck
it out of midair and put it back, getting fouled by the Tigers'
Matt Pressey in the process. O'Quinn's free throw gave the Spartans
an 84-81 lead.
O'Quinn added the first of two free throws moments later, but
Pressey hit a deep 3-pointer from the wing with just a shade over
10 seconds left, giving Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon _ seated two rows
behind the Tigers' bench _ reason to hope.
McCauley restored an 86-84 lead with the first of two free
throws, and after a loose ball wound up in orfolk State's hands,
O'Quinn missed his two big foul shots.
That set the stage for Missouri's dramatic final possession. A possession that nobody at tiny Norfolk State will ever forget.