Saint Peter’s is 3rd 15 seed in Sweet 16, beats Murray State

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — Saint Peter’s broke the hearts of Kentuckians yet again, getting 17 points from KC Ndefo to beat Murray State 70-60 on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and complete its rise from obscurity into the Sweet 16.

Two days after tossing eight-time national champion Kentucky out of the bracket, the tiny Jesuit school from Jersey City, New Jersey, became the third 15 seed to advance to a regional semifinal, joining Oral Roberts last year and Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

Saint Peter’s (21-11) ended a 21-game winning streak and a memorable season for Murray State (31-3), located 265 miles from Lexington in Kentucky’s southeastern corner.

The memories will be lifelong for the Peacocks and coach Shaheen Holloway, a North Jersey hoops lifer who played at Seton Hall and apprenticed there as an assistant. On Friday, Pirates coach Kevin Willard endorsed Holloway as his replacement if he departs in the offseason.

Holloway has more immediate concerns: preparing his team for an East Region semifinal on Friday in Philadelphia against Texas or Purdue.

Doug Edert came off the bench to score 13 points for the Peacocks, including some big baskets late. Saint Peter’s built a 13-point lead early in the second half and never trailed, but Murray State still made it tense. Justice Hill hit a 3-pointer to get the Racers within 59-57 with 4:07 left. Edert followed with a 3 and a layup, and the Peacocks closed it out at the free-throw line.

Hill made five 3s for 19 points and Tevin Brown scored 14 for Murray State. First-half foul trouble hurt the Racers, who had to figure out how to keep DJ Burns and Nicholas McMullen in the game with three fouls each.

Shooting was a problem, too: The Racers shot 35%, including 9 of 28 in the first half. Saint Peter’s finished at 42% and closed the game with a 6-0 run for its ninth consecutive victory.

Ndefo, the Peacocks’ undersized post player at 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds, finished with 10 rebounds and made 7 of 9 free throws.


Saint Peter’s didn’t buckle in its overtime win over No. 2 seed Kentucky and showed no fear this time, either. The campus was buzzing after that victory and Holloway said he received more than 800 text messages. The Peacocks are likely to receiver a hero’s welcome back in Jersey City.

Murray State eventually regrouped after its early foul problems, but for the first time since late December, the Racers failed to close out a game.


Saint Peter’s gets to watch its next opponent on TV when No. 6 seed Texas meets No. 3 seed Purdue in Milwaukee on Sunday.

Murray State edges San Francisco, 92-87, in overtime

San Francisco v Murray State
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INDIANAPOLIS – Games like this require veteran leadership, which KJ Williams and others delivered for Murray State.

Williams scored six of his 18 points in overtime after Murray State blew an eight-point lead late in regulation, and the seventh-seeded Racers extended their winning streak to 21 games with a 92-87 victory over San Francisco in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

“That game defined our team,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said. “That’s just who they are. They find ways to win. Their toughness and will to win is incredibly special. I’m proud of them for their fight. We battled some foul trouble. Battled some cramps. Different guys stepped up.”

The Racers (31-2) tied South Dakota State for the longest winning streak in the nation this season. With SDSU’s loss to Providence earlier Thursday, Murray State can edge ahead in Saturday’s East Region second-round game against Saint Peter’s. The 15th-seeded Peacocks toppled Kentucky 85-79 in OT.

The nightcap in Indianapolis was just as tight, with 18 lead changes and 14 ties in a contest that ended early Friday morning. Murray State ultimately took control with Williams’ clutch baskets and Jordan Skipper-Brown’s timely plays in the extra session.

Skipper-Brown in particular drew praise from McMahon and Williams.

“Skip came a long way with his performance tonight, and it shows that he been working on and off the court,” Williams said. “He just showed that great character tonight and just came out and played tremendously.”

McMahon added, “Skipper-Brown, when we needed him most, delivers a double-double.”

Jamaree Bouyea scored a career-high 36 points for USF (24-10), which made its first NCAA appearance since 1998. The graduate guard made just 4 of 12 from long range but was 13 of 26 overall, with each make shifting momentum.

“Trying to leave it all out there, no regrets,” Bouyea said. “We needed buckets and stops and I was trying to put the ball in the basket.”

Zane Meeks added 13 points and Patrick Tape 10 with three blocks for USF before fouling out.

Williams made a go-ahead layup with 1:15 remaining before Skipper-Brown’s layup made it 89-85 with 30 seconds left. Zane Meeks’ putback got USF within a basket, but he missed a free throw. Skipper-Brown made two free throws with 13.7 seconds left before adding another with 1.7 seconds remaining to seal the win.

The Racers led 73-65 with 1:58 remaining in regulation, but Khalil Shabazz made a 3-pointer and Bouyea followed with five straight points.

Trae Hannibal also had 18 points for Murray State before fouling out late in regulation. Brown added 17, Justice Hill scored 15 and Skipper-Brown had 12 points and 10 rebounds, all of which the Racers needed to gut out their latest win.


The long ending to the Saint Peter’s-Kentucky game delayed the game’s start until after 10 p.m. which is more like the time zone the Dons are accustomed to. San Francisco players were lined up in the tunnel for the final minute of overtime and they were quietly rooting for Saint Peter’s before warming up and playing their own marathon contest.


San Francisco owned the paint 40-36 but was outrebounded 43-35, and that made the difference. The Dons also shot just 9 of 35 from long range.

“We let it fly,” coach Todd Golden said. “I thought we got some really, really good looks, especially in the second half. That didn’t just drop. It allowed them to get that little bit of a lead late.

“Fortunately we were able to come back, but man, I think we’ll watch the tape and just be a little disappointed that we didn’t shoot the ball better.”

Murray State got the balance it wanted and needed to outlast the Dons. Skipper-Brown led a bench effort that outscored USF 36-23.

No. 22 Murray State beats Morehead State to win OVC tourney

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Tevin Brown scored 23 points to lead No. 22 Murray State over Morehead State 71-67 on Saturday night, giving the Racers their 20th consecutive victory, the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title and an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“We got our culture back,” Brown said with a championship trophy in front of him and a basketball net around his neck.

Tournament MVP Justice Hill added 21 points for the Racers (30-2), who shot just 38% from the field but won the rebounding battle 47-31 and had an edge on second-chance points (16-7). His late steal and drive and assist to 2022 OVC Player of the Year KJ Williams put Murray State up 65-61 late.

“It was just a lot of hard work,” Hill said. “I don’t really mind not being looked at. I really just want to win. Knowing I’ve got two guys on the side of me (Williams and Brown) who can go for 30-plus points each night really actually takes a lot of pressure off of me going into games knowing that these two will be the main focus of the other team.

“It really allows me to go out there and have performances like I had tonight.”

All of their efforts were needed against the defending OVC tournament champion Eagles (23-11), who got an MVP-like performance from forward Johni Broome. He shook off an injury to finish with 32 points and eight rebounds on 13-for-20 shooting.

“My teammates put trust in me by allowing me to make plays for them, to kind of lead the way,” Broome said. “But that’s a good Racers team. And it was a tough loss.”

Ta’lon Cooper had 12 points, five assists and five rebounds for Morehead State, and Tray Hollowell scored all 12 points on 3s.

After two huge runs – one from each team in the first 10 minutes – neither the Racers nor the Eagles grabbed more than a six-point advantage. Murray State was up 66-61 with less than 90 seconds to go, before back-to-back 3-pointers from Tray Hollowell kept it within 68-67.

Murray State coach Matt McMahon, in his seventh season, called it “a high-level game.”

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a better game than that in the next seven, eight days,” he said. “Lot of respect for Morehead State. Coach (Preston) Spradlin’s done a terrific job building his program. But again, these guys have done it all year. They find different ways to win.”

This is Murray State’s third conference tournament title under McMahon. The Racers will move to the Missouri Valley Conference later this year.


McMahon called the game a “blur,” and Spradlin couldn’t directly point to any statistics that stood out in the loss, noting he was “supremely focused on his guys.”

The Racers shot better from the arc (10-for-22, 45%) than they did from the field (14-for-41, 34%).


Morehead State answered Murray State’s 12-2 opening run with its own 18-2 stretch. But back-to-back 3-pointers from Racers reserve guard DaQuan Smith tied it at 20.

After Broome cut the Eagle deficit to 61-60, Murray State would score the next five points. The Racers went 5-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final minute.


Murray State: The Racers fell three spots in the AP Top 25 Poll this past week despite closing the regular season with two more wins. Extending their winning streak while capturing a crown should improve their spot.


Murray State: Most bracketologists have the Racers slated in the 8/9 slot for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. A 20-win streak and an unblemished finish in the OVC might move them into a better seed.

Morehead State: The Eagles looked every bit the part of the defending champs and nearly pulled off the upset, shooting 48% for the game while only turning the ball over nine times.


Murray State: The 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Morehead State: The Eagles await possible postseason invitations.

Gonzaga, Arizona remain atop AP Top 25 in week of changes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The top six and seven of the top nine teams in the AP Top 25 lost on the same day last week, an unprecedented day of chaos that led to some big changes in this week’s poll – everywhere but at the top.

Gonzaga and Arizona remained the top two teams in the poll released Monday, holding steady despite both losing their most recent games.

The Zags received 43 first-place votes from the AP’s 61-person media panel after being a unanimous pick last week. No. 3 Baylor had four first-place votes and No. 4 Duke picked up 11. Auburn rounded out the top five.

Gonzaga, Arizona, Auburn, Purdue, Kansas and Kentucky all lost on Saturday, marking the first time in the AP poll era (1948-49) that the top six teams lost on the same day. No. 9 Texas Tech also lost, setting another record for most top-10 teams losing in one day.

“It’s kind of life in late February and early March, especially on the road,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Zags’ 67-57 loss to No. 19 Saint Mary’s to close out their regular season.

Baylor was the biggest beneficiary of its Saturday win, moving up seven spots after beating Kansas 80-70. The Jayhawks fell one spot to No. 6 with the loss.

Auburn lost three spots from last week after losing to No. 13 Tennessee. No. 7 Kentucky fell a spot after losing to No. 14 Arkansas and Purdue dropped four places to No. 8 with its loss to Michigan State.

Got all that?

In all, every team but four got shuffled in this week’s poll; only Gonzaga, Arizona, No. 14 Houston and No. 16 Southern California held steady.

No teams fell out or moved into the poll, but things are getting awfully interesting with conference tournaments just around the corner.


Baylor, the reigning national champion, looked like a good bet to get back to the Final Four at the start of the season after opening 15-0 while holding the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 for five weeks.

Then things got a little shaky.

The Bears lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2015-16, then injuries began piling up, including a gruesome leg injury to forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.

After tumbling down the poll, Baylor may be finding its footing. The Bears won a rematch over Oklahoma State in Stillwater and did the same against Kansas on Saturday, improving to 10-1 against top-10 teams the past two seasons.

“I know our team looked a little bit different in the beginning of the year than we do now but don’t count these guys out,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They persevere.”


Baylor’s jump was the biggest of the week by gaining seven spots. Tennessee, Arkansas and Saint Mary’s all climbed four spots.

No. 17 UCLA and No. 20 Illinois had the biggest drops (five spots). The Bruins lost to Oregon before beating Oregon State last week and the Illini lost to No. 23 Ohio State before knocking off Michigan.


The Big Ten and Southeastern conferences led the way again this week, each with five teams ranked. The Big 12 had four ranked teams, with the Pac-12 and Big East getting three each. The West Coast Conference had two ranked teams for the second straight week, with the Atlantic Coast, American Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences at one each.

Gonzaga unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Arizona up to 2

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Gonzaga is the unanimous No. 1 in the latest Associated Press men’s basketball poll. The Zags aren’t likely to budge the way they’re dominating the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga remained at No. 1 for the second straight week, receiving all 61 votes from a media panel in the poll released Monday. Arizona moved up a spot to No. 2 for its highest ranking in four years, with Auburn, Purdue and Kansas rounding out the top five.

Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0 WCC) has followed up last year’s run to the national championship game with another dominating regular season. The Zags haven’t lost since Dec. 4 and their lopsided wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara last week clinched a 10th straight WCC regular-season title.

Gonzaga is winning its WCC games by an average of 27 points, one of the most dominant conference seasons in the past 25 years, according to The Zags are on pace to match the 2019 team for largest margin of victory in conference games. They have four of the top five spots on that list in the last 25 years, joined by the 1999 Duke team.

“They could win the whole thing,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said after an 86-66 loss to Gonzaga last Wednesday. “They have size, they have scoring ability, they can guard.”

Gonzaga closes out the regular season with road games against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s before getting the top seed in the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas.


Arizona keeps finding ways to win under first-year coach Tommy Lloyd, a longtime Gonzaga assistant.

Picked to finish tied for fourth in the Pac-12 Conference, the Wildcats (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) have a 2 1/2-game lead over No. 16 Southern California with two weeks left in the regular season.

Arizona shrugged off a shaky start to beat Oregon State 83-69 last Thursday, then outlasted Oregon 84-81 in a high-level game on Saturday.

The wins, combined with Auburn’s loss to Florida, put the Wildcats right behind Gonzaga, where Lloyd coached under Mark Few the previous 22 seasons.

“Weird, cool, awesome – I’m proud of those guys, they’ve got a great team,” Lloyd said. “They’re family and I think they’re happy for us.”


No. 18 Arkansas had the biggest jump of the week, moving up five spots after blowing out Missouri and shutting down No. 17 Tennessee. UConn was next, climbing three spots to No. 21 with wins over Seton Hall and Xavier.

No. 22 Ohio State had the biggest drop of teams still in the poll, falling four spots after losing to Iowa. No. 10 Baylor, No. 11 Providence and No. 15 Illinois all lost three spots.


No. 23 Saint Mary’s returned to the poll after a one-week absence following wins over San Francisco and BYU. No. 25 Iowa is ranked for the first time this season following its win over Ohio State.

Michigan State dropped out of the poll from No. 19 with losses to Penn State and Illinois. The Spartans, ranked in the top 10 earlier this season, have lost four of five.

Wyoming’s first stint in the AP Top 25 since 2015 didn’t last long. The Cowboys fell out from No. 22 after splitting against New Mexico and Air Force last week.


The Big 10 and Southeastern conferences had five ranked teams each and the Big 12 four. The Pac-12 and Big East each had three and the West Coast Conference two with the addition of Saint Mary’s.

The Atlantic Coast, American Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences each had one ranked team.

Murray State leaving OVC for Missouri Valley on July 1

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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MURRAY, Ky. – Murray State will become the 11th member of the Missouri Valley Conference on July 1.

University officials announced Friday the Board of Regents accepted an invitation from the Missouri Valley Conference and will be leaving the Ohio Valley Conference.

The MVC does not include football or rifle, so Murray State is working to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in that sport. Murray State’s rifle program, which is sixth in the nation, will continue competing in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Murray State is the second OVC program to announce plans to join the Missouri Valley Conference on July 1. Belmont announced Sept. 28 the Bruins had accepted their invitation to join the league.

Austin Peay announced Sept. 17 it was leaving the OVC on July 1 for the ASUN. Both Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State left the OVC for the ASUN earlier this year, and the OVC sued both schools in August contending each school didn’t pay a $1 million exit fee.

The Ohio Valley Conference has added the University of Little Rock starting July 1 and reached a football scheduling deal with the Southland Conference starting in 2022. OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said in a statement the league is talking with universities about joining the conference.