Championship Week recap: Day 3’s best game, top player

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Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11,  this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Yesterday might have technically been considered a part of February, but based on the action on the court, it felt more like March.

Game of the Night: Jacksonville State 75, Austin Peay 70
The Gamecocks scored the final eight points of the game, all in a span of under 80 seconds, to seal the win over Austin Peay in a thrilling first round match-up in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Brian Williams sank a three-pointer with 33 seconds left, then finished a fast break with a dunk to propel Jacksonville State to just their second OVC Tournament win in school history. The game featured three ties and 14 lead changes.

Player of the Night: Ryan Nicholas, Portland
The Pilots big-man scored a career-high 24 points on 10-for-11 shooting to lead Portland to a 74-70 victory over Santa Clara in the opening round of the West Coast Conference Tournament. The sophomore scored more than 20 points for the first time in his career, and grabbed 11 rebounds as well. It was Nicholas’ (near) perfect night that led the Pilots to the victory, which snapped a six game losing streak.

Team of the Night: VMI Keydets
A night removed from their worst scoring performance of the season, the Keydets went out and beat Coastal Carolina, who beat them twice during the regular season, 85-68 in the quarterfinals of the Big South Tournament. They shot 57.1 percent (28-of-59) from the field and 50 percent (14-of-28) from beyond the arc. VMI has now won four of their last five games, and face No. 6-seed Winthrop in the semifinals.

Wednesday Results:

Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals
#1 Belmont 76, #8 Jacksonville 62
#2 Mercer 61, #7 Lipscomb 53

Big South Quarterfinals
#1 UNC Asheville 86, #8 High Point 61
#4 Charleston Southern 88, #5 Liberty 74
#6 Winthrop 71, #3 Campbell 55
#7 VMI 85, #2 Coastal Carolina 68

Ohio Valley Conference First Round
#5 Southeast Missouri 75, #8 Eastern Kentucky 65
#7 Jacksonville State 75, #6 Austin Peay 70

Patriot League Quarterfinals
#1 Bucknell 87, #8 Navy 63
#2 Lehigh 70, #7 Colgate 57
#3 American 57, #6 Army 40
#5 Lafayette 84, #4 Holy Cross 76

West Coast Conference Opening Round
#8 Portland 74, #9 Santa Clara 70