Ja Morant's triple-double leads Murray State over Marquette
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Ja Morant recorded the ninth triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since 1987 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).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Maryland’s Darryl Morsell made a crucial defensive stop as Belmont went for a last-second upset in the NCAA Tournament, 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 1-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 3-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.
MICHIGAN STATE 76, BRADLEY 65
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — 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.
LSU 79, YALE 74
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — 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.