No. 16 North Carolina A&T shot 51.9 percent from the floor, twelve percentage points above its season average, outlasting fellow No. 16 seed Liberty, 73-72, in the opening game of the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday night.
A&T missed the front end of two separate one-and-one situations in the final 19 seconds, leaving the door open for Liberty to win it on the final possession. After Lamont Middleton missed a free throw for A&T with seven seconds to play, Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders drove the length of the floor but missed a contested layup as time expired. There was no foul called on the play.
Bruce Beckford led the way for A&T with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor. He added nine rebounds.
The Aggies now move on to play No. 1-seeded Louisville in Lexington, Ky., in the Round of 64. For as uncharacteristically hot as A&T was from the floor Tuesday in this victory, expect reality to strike against the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament. Louisville is a one of the best pressure teams in the country defensively and used that to storm back and beat Syracuse in the Big East tournament title game.
A&T will have its hands full with the backcourt of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, who comprise one of the best back courts in the Big East, if not the country. The Aggies were able to shoot so well from the floor Tuesday mainly because of dribble penetration and their high-percentage shots at the basket, but that will likely change vs. Louisville. Cardinals’ center Gorgui Dieng is one of the nation’s best shot blockers and will clog the lane against A&T.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.