Mississippi Valley State was arguably the hottest team in the country having entered on a 20-1 streak going into tonight’s NCAA tournament opening First Four game. And with a 16-point lead with 4:52 to play, it looked like adding one to the win column was a certainty. At least that’s what everyone thought.
Even President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron – who had front row seats on the baseline – seemed to lose focus on the game.
But the Hilltoppers did what they’ve been doing since Feb. 23. They didn’t fold. They didn’t quit. They pulled off the improbable comeback with a 22-2 run and clutch late game FTs. Mississippi Valley State got an open 3-pointer to tie, but missed. After a tip-in, the Hilltoppers won 59-58.
According to announcer Clark Kellogg, “this was one of the most colossal turnarounds and collapses I’ve seen ever. In any gym. At any level.”
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. But Western Kentucky continues its improbable March run. They’ve now taken their record from 9-18 to 16-18 with seven straight close wins.
The stats from this game are hard to fathom if you weren’t watching. The Hilltoppers turned the ball over 27 times (34% of their possessions). Five players had at least four turnovers. They also grabbed 23 offensive rebounds. The two teams combined to shoot 6-38 (15.7%) from beyond the arc. The President noted in his halftime interview how poorly both teams were shooting.
Two Western Kentucky players finished with double-doubles. Derrick Gordon had 11 points and 12 boards, while T.J. Price added 11 points and 11 boards. No other Hilltopper scored in double figures.
For Mississippi Valley State Kevin Burwell led all scorers with 20 points.
Western Kentucky now advances to take on the No. 1 seeded Kentucky Wildcats.