With the final game of Thursday night not in the books until the nearly midnight (CT), there was a layoff of less than 12 hours before the beginning of the second half of first round action. The morning’s activitiy began with Pitt vs C. Conn. State, Oklahoma vs Illinois-Chicago, NC State vs Michigan State, and Creighton vs Florida. NC State and Michigan State kicked it off, and the game was close the entire half. MSU finally extended the lead slightly towards the break and was leading at the half. Meanwhile, Oklahoma and Pitt were taking care of business, holding 10-15 point leads on their opponents for the first half. Creighton and Florida were having a back-and-forth game, with Florida finally taking a lead for the first time more than 10 minutes into the game. Florida was able to take a lead into halftime, but the Gators were not terribly effective thanks to the foul trouble of Udonis Haslem. In the second half, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh continued to hold safe leads over their opponents and cruised to wins without much threat. To begin the second half, NC State came out and, after being down by 12 points at halftime, came back and took the lead. Making it even more amazing, the Wolfpack led a 25-point swing in the game, turning that twelve point deficit into a 13 point lead. The Spartans were unable to mount much of a run, and NC State advanced and will take on the winner of Connecticut/Hampton. Meanwhile, Florida and Creighton were playing late in the second half. Creighton battled back, and Terrell Taylor hit 2 threes with less than a minute to go to send the game into overtime. In OT, Creighton had a last shot to try to beat the Gators but the shot and follow-up tips would not go in, and we headed to double-OT. In the second overtime, Florida jumped out to a lead, but Creighton came back. After a 5-second call against UF, Creighton’s Terrell Taylor again hit a three to win the game with just 0.2 seconds left.
In the second half of the morning session, California took on Pennsylvania, Xavier battled Hawaii, UConn tried to avoid upset against Hampton, and Illinois went up against San Diego State. California held a slight edge over Penn most of the first half and took a lead into the locker room. The game was pretty even at this point. Hawaii dominated the first half against Xavier and took a 7-point lead into halftime. Connecticut appeared ready for Hampton, and the Pirates looked as if they would fail on their attempt for a second-consecutive 2 vs 15 upset. The Illinois/SDSU game was a little later starting because of the double-OT game on the same court earlier. Illinois came out on fire and took a commanding lead into the break. In the XU/UH game, it was a tale of two halves. Xavier came out and went on a huge run. They never looked back and knocked off the WAC’s conference tournament champions. As Cal was finishing off Penn, Hampton was making a last-minute run at Hampton. The Pirates had UConn’s lead down to four, but the Huskies made their free throws and won by double-digits. Illinois never had a problem from the San Diego State Aztecs and will face surprising Creighton in the second round.
A quick note before the recap of the night games: I was only able to see a limited amount of most of the games due to the fact that the Mississippi State and Mississippi games were shown in the entirety at my house. The four games of the early evening included Cincinnati vs Boston U., Wisconsin vs St. John's, Texas Tech vs Southern Illinois, and Mississippi State vs McNeese State. Cincinnati controlled the entire game over Boston U. and never looked back, cruising to an easy win. Wisconsin and St. John's battled back-and-forth for a great portion of the first half. Eventually, though, the Badgers took a lead and were able to hold off the Red Storm in the end. Southern Illinois, not unexpected by me, played very well in their first round game in their home state. They played much better than did Texas Tech and will face the GA/Murray St. winner. Miss. State struggled early with McNeese but played much better in the second half. Led by Mario Austin, the 'Dogs cruised to a double-digit win.
The final first round games of the '02 Tournament included Mississippi vs UCLA, Maryland vs Siena, Texas vs Boston College, and Georgia vs Murray State. Maryland captured a fairly easy win over Siena, though it probably wasn't as impressive as the MD faithful had hoped for. UMiss never got on track in the second half and was destroyed by the Bruins of UCLA, who will face Cincy in the second round. Georgia and Murray State was a very competitive game, but one that was won by the tougher and more experienced Bulldogs in the end. Texas controlled their game most of the way and held off a late BC run to knock off the Eagles and advance to take on Miss. State in the second round.
A few observations:
NC State once again proved that they're for real, coming back from 12 down at the break to defeat Michigan State.
Congrats to Creighton, who fought their hearts out against Florida and came from behind to knock off the Gators in double OT.
Illinois was the best team I saw today. The Illini were hot from outside.
Hawaii blew a 7-point halftime lead and let Xavier come from behind to grab the W.
Player of the Day: Creighton's Terrell Taylor. Played great.
A couple 2nd round games to look forward to Sunday: Connecticut vs NC State, Georgia vs So. Illinois, Mississippi State vs Texas.