- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAYTON, Ohio -- Reaction from Western Kentucky's 59-58 win over Mississippi Valley State:
Overview: Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State kicked off the NCAA tournament Tuesday night at the University of Dayton Arena. The stakes were both clear and daunting. The winner would face No. 1 Kentucky in the second round the Big Dance.
But that seemed just as important as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in front of a president. President Obama took British prime minister David Cameron to the First Four matchup.
Obama was the center of attention, but he didn’t witness anything spectacular, especially in the first half when the two teams combined for a 2-for-14 clip from beyond the arc. Western Kentucky recorded six field goals and 13 turnovers before halftime. Mississippi Valley wasn’t much better. The Delta Devils were outrebounded 25-18 before halftime.
But the game changed in the second half. An 11-0 run gave the Delta Devils a 47-36 edge with 8:19 to go in the second half. In the final minutes, however, the Hilltoppers recovered with a 15-0 run to cut a 16-point deficit to one point with 2:27 to play.
With 1:06 to go, the Hilltoppers and Delta Devils were tied. It finally felt like March.
T.J. Price scored on a layup and drew the foul with 33.8 seconds to play to put the Hilltoppers up by three. It was a crucial sequence. The Delta Devils had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer, but Kevin Burwell's 3-point attempt missed.
And now, the Hilltoppers will face the favorites to win the whole show. But they gave spectators a thrilling finish in the first official game of the NCAA tournament.
Turning point: After trailing by 16 points, the Hilltoppers stayed alive with that late run in the second half.
Key player: Western Kentucky's Price and Derrick Gordon both had 11 points. Price’s three-point play in the final minute was crucial.
Key stats: The Hilltoppers ended the game on a 22-5 run and won the rebounding battle, 60-32.
Miscellaneous: Wow. This was a bad game early. But the finish was wild. True March Madness. … Burwell scored 20 points. During the game he gestured toward the president after big plays, and at one point Obama winked and pointed at the guard.