OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Kyle O’Quinn’s booming voice echoed through the halls, the jovial center for Norfolk State riding the euphoria of a monumental upset of Missouri as the words spilled out of his mouth faster than he could think.
“We messed up some brackets! we messed up some brackets!” he bellowed, before turning a corner and seeing a pack of reporters.
“We even messed up my bracket,” he said sheepishly.
O’Quinn put together the finest game of his career at the biggest moment in the history of Norfolk State basketball. the senior finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, helping the no. 15 seed Spartans to an 86-84 victory over the second-seeded Tigers on Friday.
All those brackets that had the big 12 tournament champs advancing to face Florida in the West Regional – perhaps even all the way to the Final Four – can be torn up. It’s the MEAC champions who are moving on.
Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin each added 20 points for the Spartans (26-9), who have already 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.
“You always go into the game with a sense of confidence,” O’Quinn said, “but I never thought it was an upset-alert until that buzzer went off.
“At the end of the game,” he said, “that’s when I thought it would happen.”
O’Quinn had a chance to take some drama out of the final possession, but the 70-percent foul shooter missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left. Missouri coach Frank Haith called timeout to set up a final play, and Phil Pressey got a pretty good look at a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.
It clanked off the back iron as O’Quinn leaped for joy.
Pressey fell to the court in disbelief.
“We just shocked everybody,” Spartans swingman Brandon Wheeless said.
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, though senior guard Kim English was held to two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
“I’m very disappointed, as everyone in that locker room was,” Haith said. “I hurt for those seniors because they put so much into this. They had high expectations.”
The Tigers rolled into the NCAAs 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 accomplished.
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 this season.
“We knew coming into this game if we let them hang around it was going to be a ballgame. They hung around the whole game,” Preseey said. “They made the plays at the right time.”
The Spartans opened the game on a 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 rattled.
Fifth-year coach Anthony Evans simply called timeout and Norfolk State regrouped.
Things were going so well for the Spartans 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 halftime.
Missouri spent nearly the entire 20-minute break in its locker room. the Spartans were back on the court before it was 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 tied 81-all when O’Quinn plucked an airball out of midair and put it back with 34.9 seconds left, getting fouled in the process. the three-point play made it 84-81.
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 – some reason to hope.
Rodney McCauley restored an 86-84 lead with the first of two free throws, and after a loose ball wound up in Norfolk State’s hands, O’Quinn missed both of his foul shots.
That set the stage for Missouri’s dramatic final possession.
A possession that nobody at tiny Norfolk State will ever forget.
“Coming into the game, I believed it. I believed it from the jump. honest to God’s truth,” McCauley said. “We’ve got good shooters. we dig deep. We’re not ready to go home yet. We’ve got five seniors. We’re ready to keep playing.”
© 2011 STATS LLC
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Here's the scoop on Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn:
1. he barely got to play college ball: O'Quinn flowered late. when he was graduated from high school four years ago, he was offered only one scholarship for playing college basketball. That offer was made by the little-respected Norfolk State. In the years since then, he has become a star, and he led the team Friday night over the University of Missouri with a massive 26 points and 14 rebounds.
2. He's a new Yorker: O'Quinn is a native new Yorker, as are NSU head coach Anthony Evans (of Brooklyn) and assistant coach Robert Jones (of Queens). Hailing from Jamaica, Queens, O'Quinn is graduated of the Campus Magnet High School in the same borough. the new York connection with the team's leaders is one reason why he was given a chance to play for the southern Virginia school. he is one of eight people on the team from new York, along with three others who went to high school in that general area, according to the new York Daily News, which reported that O'Quinn said, “I think you play a little harder when you play with people from your hometown.”
3. He's humble yet ambitious: O'Quinn said in an amiable interview on the court after the victory Friday night that he never expected to play college basketball, let alone make it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. but, at the same time, he said that the only thing he can possibly do to pay his coaches back for the opportunity to play for a Division I team was to bring home a championship. So, even though he's a nice guy, he's not a pushover — and he's hoping to take his team all the way. We'll see how far that continues when the team faces off in the next round against Billy Donovan and the University of Florida Gators.
4. He's a monster: O'Quinn has the combination of skills and physical attributes that are required in an elite center. He's not only 6 feet 10 inches tall and 240 pounds but also agile, strong, and a great shot, which combine to create a tremendous athelete capable of going far in basketball. Before Friday night, you may not have heard the name Kyle O'Quinn, but now you'll likely be hearing his name mentioned often in advance of the National Basketball Association Draft this year.
5. This is not his first great performance: O'Quinn has been dominant all year. Although Norfolk State has not faced too much serious competition, Kyle O'Quinn has been a solid presence for his team during the entire 2012 season, averaging 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. So, even though Friday featured an absolutely crushing showing by the senior, he's been great all year, leading his Spartans to a 26-9 overall record. He's a player to watch as the tournament goes on. March Madness at its finest!
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Once again, the Sweet 16 is on the line for VCU. and once again, they're playing a big 10 power. VCU beat Purdue, a 3 seed, by 17 points in 2011 to advance to the Sweet 16. This year, they're facing Indiana, one of the top college basketball programs in the country.
IU ranks sixth in NCAA Tournament wins. Seventh in NCAA Tournament winning percentage. Third in NCAA Tournament Championships. But they're facing a team with much more tournament experience.
Bradford Burgess will be playing in his 9th NCAA Tournament game. There's no one on the Hoosier team that has played in more than one. and that was Thursday, in an impressive beatdown of new Mexico State.
What are the keys for VCU? well everyone seems impressive with IU's big freshman – Cody Zeller. The brother of UNC star, Zeller averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. The Hoosiers also have a dangerous 6'9″ wing player in Christian Watford, who averages 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and he's dangerous from three.
The Hoosiers lit it up against the Aggies, and if they're that hot from the outside against the Rams, it will be a long day.
But every player for the Hoosiers says they haven't played against anything like the VCU fullcourt press. The Rams are going to need to make it work against IU to have a chance, because they are a very good offensive team.
The first win is always the hardest to get, and the Rams were able to get that Thursday. There's no reason to think that they can't play the same way against Indiana. I'll say they're going to have to hit more shots than they did against Wichita State if they're going to have a chance.
Just one more caveat – the Norfolk State-Missouri game was ending during the Rams' open locker room hour, and it was really neat to watch the Rams root so heavily for a school from their home state. The guys from the 757, Briante Weber and Darius Theus, were really into it, but everyone was proud of the Spartans.
Gameday tomorrow. will this run go into another weekend?
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