DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Given a second chance, T.J. Warren put on a show in the NCAA tournament.
The hard-to-guard sophomore forward scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half on Tuesday night, showing why he was the ACC’s player of the year, and North Carolina State led most of the way in a 74-59 victory over Xavier in the NCAA tournament’s First Four.
N.C. State (22-12) didn’t have much time to celebrate. The 12th-seeded Wolfpack headed to Orlando, Fla., for a game on Thursday against St. Louis in the Midwest Regional.
Warren had the most to do with it. He made up for a freshman tournament flop on the same floor a year earlier and prevented Xavier (21-14) from getting any traction in the second half.
“He’s just a great player,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “It’s hard to keep him down for a whole 40 minutes.”
Center Matt Stainbrook led Xavier with 19 points and nine rebounds despite an injured left knee. Leading scorer Semaj Christon was limited to 14 points, and Xavier made only 2 of 14 shots from beyond the arc.
Xavier was playing in a familiar arena less than an hour from campus. Familiar, but not entirely friendly. Fans of the Dayton Flyers — a long-time rival — booed loudly as they took the court, making for a mixed welcome with a lot of Musketeer fans in the stands as well.
First Four game to advance in NCAA
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — D.J. Evans is charitably listed at 5-foot-9. His coach and teammates tease him that he looks a foot shorter.
Yet he stood awfully tall for Albany on Tuesday night.
Evans scored 22 points, including two clinching free throws with 12.6 seconds left, to lead the Great Danes to their first NCAA tournament victory, 71-64 over Mount St. Mary’s in the First Four.
Evans, an often overlooked component in Albany’s lineup, belied his height with nine rebounds to go with three assists.
“He’s about 4-foot-8, so he’s really impressive,” laughed his running mate at guard, Peter Hooley, who had 20 points. “I don’t think there’s another 4-8 guard who could go in there and get that many boards. He did what he needed to do to get this win.”
It was a signature victory for the America East Conference tournament champs, who had come up empty in three previous trips to the big dance.
“It means a lot,” said an emotional coach Will Brown. “There’s no better feeling. Like I told our kids, we’re going to be in the history books at the University of Albany forever.”
The Great Danes (19-14) advance to meet overall No. 1 seed and top-ranked Florida on Thursday in Orlando. But that was a concern for another day.
It was a wild game of incredible turnarounds, with the Great Danes bolting to leads of 13-0 and 21-2, only to have The Mount (16-17) bounce back with a 21-2 run of its own to pull even.