College Basketball Nation: 2012 Omaha Region

Not this time: Kansas toughens, advances

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
2:59
AM ET


OMAHA, Neb. -- Multiple times Sunday -- including a few occasions in the second half when his team trailed Purdue by double digits -- Bill Self sat in the middle of the Kansas huddle and repeated the same phrase.

“We can win this game!” Self said he told his players. “We can win this game!”

There was only one problem.

“Deep down,” Self admitted later, “I’m not sure I was believing it.”

Any doubts Self might have had were understandable. Fair or not, the coach with an NCAA title on his resume is equally defined by the March meltdowns that have soured otherwise great seasons throughout his Kansas career.

First it was Bucknell and Bradley. Then came Northern Iowa and VCU. On Sunday it looked as if disaster was going to strike again when the sixth-place team from the Big Ten almost pestered the Jayhawks into another epic choke job.

Almost.

This time, instead of wilting down the stretch, Kansas mustered up the inner toughness that’s helped it win eight consecutive Big 12 titles and flourished when it mattered most.

Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor combined for three breakaway layups in the game’s final minute, turning a 60-57 deficit into a 63-60 victory over Purdue, the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region.

“If you’re going to be scared, you might as well not be on the floor,” Johnson said. “We practice for those moments. You can’t run from them.”

No. 2 seed Kansas, which trailed for virtually the entire game, advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. Self’s squad will play No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday in St. Louis, with the winner getting either North Carolina or Ohio on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

Players such as Johnson and Taylor, though, were hardly looking that far ahead as they danced in the middle of the CenturyLink Center court Sunday. Unlike so many KU teams before them, the Jayhawks never appeared spooked or rattled during a game in which they shot a season-low 33.9 percent.

“That’s unheard of,” Self said. “That was probably more stressful for our guys than the Purdue guys. When you don’t have that momentum and energy, it takes toughness.

“I’m proud of our guys, because a testimony to a team’s toughness is to figure out a way to win when things aren’t going well. How we won is who we are.”

The Jayhawks won by outrebounding Purdue 44-36, including a season-high 21 offensive boards. They won by tightening their defense on Boilermakers star Robbie Hummel, who had 22 points in the first half but only four in the second after KU switched to a triangle-and-two. And they won because a few key players -- mainly Johnson -- welcomed the opportunity to be a hero instead of shying away from it.

“Elijah,” Self said, “has been our best player the last two weeks.”

Kansas trailed 60-57 after Purdue’s Terone Johnson scored on a pull-up jumper with 2:02 remaining. Nearly a minute later, Elijah Johnson grabbed the long rebound on a missed 3-pointer by D.J. Byrd, dribbled up the court and fired an alley-oop pass to a streaking Taylor, who caught the ball above the rim and dunked it.

[+] EnlargeRobbie Hummel
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerRobbie Hummel took some licks from the Kansas defense on his way to a game-high 26 points in defeat.
It was a risky play by Johnson in such a close game, but it didn’t matter. With 59.9 seconds left, Kansas trailed 60-59.

“I was throwing that lob whether I threw it over the backboard or not,” said Johnson, who scored a team-high 18 points. “If I was down there, I would’ve been mad at Ty if he didn’t throw it to me. That’s our game. That’s how we play with each other every day. Why not throw it?”

Johnson was big again moments later, when he came up with a steal after playing menacing defense on Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson, who had committed just one turnover all game. Johnson secured the ball and raced up the court for an uncontested layup that put Kansas up 61-60.

Purdue’s best chance to win came on its ensuing possession, when Hummel came off a screen and went up for a 3-pointer on the right wing. Robinson raced over at the last second to defend the shot, which Hummel took off-balance.

“They set a screen,” Robinson said. “I jumped at him and prayed that he missed.”

The shot was indeed off. Robinson snared the rebound and passed up the court to Taylor, who made it 63-60 with an uncontested layup with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Taylor probably made a mistake by scoring instead of trying to run out the clock, because it gave Purdue one last shot at a game-tying 3-pointer. The Boilermakers got a decent look considering the circumstances, but Ryne Smith’s heave from the right wing hit the backboard and clanged off the front of the rim.

“When the buzzer went off and we saw the red on the backboard, it was a huge relief,” guard Travis Releford said. “We gave it our all in the second half. We had to earn that one.”

Self’s feelings were similar.

“I feel relieved,” Self said, “but I feel some jubilation, too. The kids are excited. If you looked at our team [before the season] and someone said we’d be 29-7 [actually 29-6] and playing in St. Louis in the Sweet 16, everybody would have said, ‘What a great year.’”

Self’s point is certainly hard to argue.

Kansas lost four starters from season’s Elite Eight team and, throughout most of the season, has depended on Robinson, a national-player-of-the-year candidate, and Taylor, who is a finalist for the Cousy Award.

Lately, though, other players have stepped up. Sometimes it’s been 7-foot center Jeff Withey or walk-on Conner Teahan, a 3-point specialist off the bench. Reserve forward Kevin Young came up with some huge offensive rebounds Sunday. And of course there was Johnson, who will always be remembered for his performance against Purdue.

Along with his heroics in the final minute, Johnson had two huge 3-pointers late in the second half -- including one that came from about 5 feet beyond the arc.

Taylor said he looked at Johnson as he squared up to take the shot, which turned a 56-54 deficit into a 57-56 lead.

“He had a smile on his face,” Taylor said.

Johnson was asked what he thought after he released the ball.

“Money!” he said.

Self hopes Johnson and the rest of the Jayhawks carry that same confidence into their Sweet 16 game against NC State. Even though they’re the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region, the Wolfpack have more than proved their worth with victories over No. 6 seed San Diego State and No. 3 Georgetown.

“Seeds don’t matter anymore,” Releford said. “Everyone can play at this point. That’s the great thing about this tournament. Any team can win it -- and any team can have a bad day and get upset.”

Kansas almost became that team again Sunday.

Almost.

This year, it appears, things are different.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas 63, Purdue 60

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
11:26
PM ET


OMAHA, Neb. - Quick thoughts from Kansas' 63-60 victory over Purdue.

Overview: First it was Bucknell. Then came Bradley, Northern Iowa and VCU. Just when Kansas seemed primed to take a yearlong hiatus from stunning NCAA tournament upsets, the Jayhawks almost found a way to choke again Sunday.

Almost.

This time, instead of wilting down the stretch, Kansas mustered up the inner toughness that's helped it win eight consecutive Big 12 titles and flourished when it mattered most. Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor (twice) each scored on breakaway layups in the game's final minute, turning a 60-57 deficit into a 63-60 victory against No. 10 seed Purdue - the sixth-place team from the Big Ten.

Taylor's layup came on a fast break after Purdue's Robbie Hummel missed a 3-pointer - which was heavily contested by Thomas Robinson - on the other end. Kansas got the rebound and fired ahead to Taylor, who scored easily with 2.5 seconds remaining. Taylor probably made a mistake by scoring instead of running out the clock, because Purdue had one last shot a game-tying 3-pointer. The Boilermakers got a decent look considering the circumstances, but Ryne Smith's heave from the right wing hit the backboard and clanged off the front of the rim.

Kansas fans - who comprised about 75 percent of the crowd at the CenturyLink Center - went wild in celebration as the final horn sounded. Five minutes later, Johnson, Taylor and Travis Releford danced at mid-court after conducting post-game interviews.

The heavily favored Jayhawks had to feel relieved after surviving a scare from a well-coached Purdue team that led for virtually the entire game. Kansas trailed 60-57 after Purdue's Terone Johnson scored on a pull-up jumper with 2:02 remaining. But the Jayhawks scored the next six points - all on fast breaks.

The first basket came on an alley-oop from Johnson to Taylor with 59.9 seconds left that shaved Purdue's lead to 60-59. Kansas coach Bill Self called a timeout and, on the ensuing possession, Johnson stole the ball from Lewis Jackson and scored on an uncontested lay-up to give KU a 61-60. Hummel - who was brilliant, with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting - missed the 3-pointer on the other end, and Kansas fired a pass to Taylor, who streaked down the court for the game-clinching basket.

The Jayhawks, who got 18 points from Johnson, will take on No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday in St. Louis. Purdue ends its season with a 22-13 record.

Key player: Johnson stepped up in a big way for Kansas. With Taylor (10 points) struggling offensively, Johnson made 7 of his 14 field goal attempts and hit three huge 3-pointers, including two in the second half. Robinson missed all but two of his 12 field goal attempts but still finished with 11 points and 13 boards.

Key stat: Kansas won despite its worst offensive showing of the season. The Jayhawks shot just 33.9 percent from the field.

Miscellaneous: Kansas' 2008 NCAA title run began in Omaha. ... If Kansas wins Friday it will likely play North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels could be without standout point guard Kendall Marshall, who fractured his wrist in Sunday's win against Creighton.

Florida shuts down Norfolk State

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
10:28
PM ET


OMAHA, Neb. - Pleased as he was with the victory, Florida center Patric Young responded to Sunday’s 84-50 shellacking of No. 15 Norfolk State with a sigh and a shoulder shrug.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Young said.

That’s not entirely true. Sunday’s victory propelled the seventh-seeded Gators into the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year, which is more than 52 other NCAA tournament teams can say after the opening weekend of postseason play.

But it was easy to see how it may not have felt like all that big of a deal to Young and his teammates after annihilating a Norfolk State squad that was so bad it was embarrassing.

Where was the Spartans team that shocked the world by upsetting Missouri on Friday? What happened to all those long, lanky 3-point shooters who couldn’t miss? And what about Kyle O'Quinn, the vivacious 6-foot-10, 240-pound center who had 26 points and 14 rebounds 48 hours earlier against the Tigers.?

O’Quinn had just four points and three rebounds Sunday.

“He didn’t come out with the passion and energy I thought he was going to have,” Young said. “That affected him and it affected his entire team.

“We hadn’t anticipated anything like that.”

Granted, Norfolk State probably didn’t realize just how good of an opponent it would be facing in the Gators, who have won their two NCAA tournament games by an average of 30 points. Florida defeated Virginia 71-45 in the Round of 64 on Friday.

[+] EnlargeErik Murphy
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireErik Murphy and the Florida defense held Norfolk State to 27 percent shooting from the field.
Florida will take on Marquette on Thursday in Phoenix. The Golden Eagles are the No. 3 seed in the West Region.

“I haven’t seen Marquette play a lot,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said, “but I’ve heard unbelievable things about them. Certainly, their seed is a reflection of who they are.

“Certainly, I will have a chance to watch them a lot starting tonight. I know they’re a good team. I know they play hard.”

So, too, do the Gators.

Sparked by their trademark, full-court defensive pressure, Florida rendered Norfolk State helpless. The same team that shot 54 percent from the floor against Missouri connected on just 27 percent of its field goal attempts Sunday.

The Spartans were just 4-of-24 (16 percent) from 3-point range and were outrebounded 48-31.

“They have a different type of athlete,” Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said of Florida. “Having (Erving) Walker and those guys get up and pressure you for 94 feet is different than some of the other teams we’ve played.

“Maybe it was fatigue, but we don’t want to make excuses about it. They did a great job. Hats off to them.”

Florida trailed 6-4 early but then went on a 25-0 tear that gave the Gators a 29-6 lead. Brad Beal scored seven points during the march while Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy added six apiece. It was a never a game after that, as Florida led by 28 points at intermission. It extended its lead to as many as 38 points in the second half.

Boynton led five Gators in double figures with 20 points. Beal added 14 points and a team-high 9 rebounds. Marcos Tamares scored 12 points for Norfolk State, which received a standing ovation and loud cheers from the thousands of Kansas fans who were waiting for their team to play Purdue in the nightcap at the CenturyLink Center.

Jayhawk supporters were thrilled that the Spartans defeated former Big 12 rival Missouri two days earlier. As bad as it played Sunday, no one can ever take that away from the Spartans, who are one of just six No. 15 seeds in history to defeat a No. 2 seed.

Norfolk State was playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

“If you look at where we came from, this is a big step,” O’Quinn said. “So for everybody to witness that step that we took as a university ... you’ve got to be proud. You have to be.

“We’re not satisfied with losing, but we knew coming in that you either win a national championship or you go home. That’s the nature of the game.”

Video: Breaking down Florida's win

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
9:11
PM ET


Hubert Davis analyzes Florida's NCAA tournament romp over Norfolk State.


OMAHA, Neb. -- Quick thoughts from Florida's 84-50 victory over Norfolk State at the CenturyLink Center.

Overview: Surprising as it was when it happened Friday, Norfolk State's upset of No. 2 seed Missouri seemed like even more of a shocker Sunday when the Spartans turned in a miserable performance in a 34-point loss to No. 7 seed Florida.

Norfolk State -- which became just the fifth No. 15 seed ever to defeat a No. 2 -- trailed by 28 points at intermission before things got even worse in the second half. Two days after shooting 54 percent against Missouri, the Spartans made just 27 percent of their field goal attempts against a Florida squad that advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.

Senior forward Kyle O'Quinn responded to his 26-point, 14-rebound effort on Friday with a 4-point, 3-rebound clunker in Sunday's loss. He was just 1-of-9 from the field. Norfolk State was outrebounded 48-31.

Anyone who wondered how Norfolk State could've lost to teams such as Division II Elizabeth City State had those questions answered Sunday. The only team that may have taken Norfolk State's defeat harder than the Spartans themselves was Missouri, which will now have an even tougher time living down Friday's epic choke job.

Overshadowed by Norfolk State's ineptitude was another impressive performance by Florida, which is one win away from its second consecutive Elite Eight appearance. The Gators, who will play Marquette in the next round, got 20 points from Kenny Boynton and 14 points and 9 rebounds from Brad Beal. Even though the win appeared to come easily for Florida, Billy Donovan's squad deserves loads of credit for entering the game with intensity and focus.

Turning point: Trailing 6-4 early in the first half, Florida went on a 25-0 scoring run to squelch any early momentum the Spartans may have had. Beal had seven points during the march while Boynton and Erik Murphy added six apiece. When it was all over, Florida led 29-6 with 9:46 remaining before intermission. The Spartans never threatened again.

Key player: Much like they have all season, the Gators exhibited tremendous balance on Sunday. Along with outstanding efforts from Beal and Boynton, Florida got 15 points from Erving Walker, 12 from Mike Rosario and 10 from Murphy.

Key stat: Norfolk State entered the NCAA tournament shooting just 31 percent from 3-point range. The Spartans made 10 of their 19 attempts in their win over Missouri. But they shot just 17.4 percent (4-of-23) from beyond the arc against Florida.

Miscellaneous: Thousands of Kansas fans rose to their feet and cheered Norfolk State's players loudly as the Spartans exited the court after the final. Jayhawks supporters took great delight in Norfolk State's victory over former Big 12 rival Missouri. ... Just like the previous four No. 15 seeds who upset No. 2 seeds, Norfolk State lost in the next round. No 15-seed has ever advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Up next: Florida improved to 25-10 and advanced to play Marquette in the Sweet 16 this week in the West Region in Phoenix. The Golden Eagles (27-7) defeated BYU and Murray State in their first two NCAA tournament games. Norfolk State -- which was making its first appearance in the Division I NCAA tournament -- ends its season 26-10.

Previewing Omaha: Sunday's games

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
12:15
AM ET

OMAHA, Neb. -- Previewing the round of 32 games in Omaha on Sunday:

No. 15 Norfolk State (26-9) vs. No. 7 Florida (24-10), 6:10 p.m. ET

For the Norfolk State Spartans, one of the most memorable moments of their first NCAA tournament experience occurred not on the playing court -- but on the team bus.

Head coach Anthony Evans said his players will never forget the police escort that guided the Spartans’ charter through the crowded streets of Omaha and into the CenturyLink Center on Friday.

Flashing lights, sirens, the works.

“They were in the back of the bus going crazy,” Evans said. “I was even in awe. The police were cutting everyone off and letting us go first. Everyone kept saying it felt like we were the president.”

And that was before No. 15 seed Norfolk State shocked second-seeded Missouri.

One day after the biggest NCAA tournament upset in recent memory, the Spartans feel like even bigger celebrities heading into Sunday's round of 32 game against Florida.

Before he could even sit down for dinner after Friday’s win, forward Kyle O'Quinn had picked up 2,100 new Twitter followers. On Saturday, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound senior did a live, nationally televised interview with CBS while players, coaches and administrators answered questions from reporters all over the country about their school and their team.

“It’s something none of us have ever experienced before,” O’Quinn said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”

But when will it end?

Norfolk State became the fifth No. 15 seed in history to knock off a No. 2 seed. The other four teams to accomplish the feat all lost in the next round. To avoid a similar fate, the Spartans know they must refocus and channel their attention toward the Gators.

Fast.

“I’ve never been around anything like this,” Evans said. “It’s great for the program and great for the kids, but we talked about preparing for the [Florida] game as if it’s ‘businesslike.’ That’s the attitude we’ve had all year and it’s helped us be successful.”

Norfolk State is confident in its chances against Florida -- mainly because the Gators employ the same four-guard offense as Missouri. Billy Donovan’s team finished in a three-way tie for second place in the SEC. But the Gators aren’t nearly as good as the Missouri squad that Norfolk State defeated Friday.

Just like Missouri had in Ricardo Ratliffe, Florida features a high-level center in Patric Young. The sophomore knows he’s in for a tough task guarding O’Quinn.

“[O’Quinn] is so skilled and talented, and he’s a good defender, really physical,” Young said. “He overpowers the guys he goes up against. Hopefully I can do my thing and hold him to less than 24 and 12.”

Donovan said Norfolk State’s victory over Missouri definitely caught his team’s attention.

“From a national perspective, people may say this is an interesting Cinderella story,” he said. “But really ... the best team won. How people will remember them, I don’t know. But clearly I think they had a high level of confidence, a belief in themselves and their system, and it showed [Friday]."

No. 10 Purdue (22-12) vs. No. 2 Kansas (28-6), 8:40 ET

Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor knows what everyone is thinking about the Jayhawks' game against Purdue on Sunday.

“On paper,” Taylor said, “it looks like a mismatch.”

Kansas players, however, are smart enough to not believe it. Purdue, the 10th seed in the Midwest Region, may not be as good as it's been in years past. But the Boilermakers are exactly the kind of team that gives the Jayhawks trouble.

In some ways they’re like Missouri, but with less talent.

“In the past,” guard Conner Teahan said, “we’ve had problems playing smaller teams because it takes Jeff [Withey, KU’s center] out of the game. Hopefully we can have them match up with us as much as we match up with them.”

One of the biggest challenges for Kansas will be guarding 6-foot-8 Purdue forward Robbie Hummel, who is averaging 16.1 points. Hummel is an excellent ball handler who scores a large number of his points from the perimeter, which makes him a tough matchup for Kansas’ post players.

Taylor said Hummel was a “Kim English type of player” who can stretch the floor at the 4 position.

“It’s tough to match up with guys like that who are so versatile and who do so many different things," Taylor said.

Kansas coach Bill Self agreed.

“You’re pulling natural ‘bigs’ away from the basket to defend the 3-point line,” Self said. “Not all teams are experienced with that or have had an opportunity to do that.”

As he did against Missouri, don’t be surprised if Self goes with a smaller lineup to try to slow down a Purdue squad that averages 72.2 points per game. That would mean less minutes for the 7-footer Withey and more minutes off the bench for Teahan, a shooting guard.

“They’re quick and they get into the paint very well,” Teahan said. “We’re going to definitely need to D up on them. Perimeter-wise, I feel good with our strength and quickness. We need to stop them, but we’ve faced people like that before.”


OMAHA, Neb. -- The Kansas basketball team spent Friday afternoon at the Embassy Suites hotel, watching Missouri lose to Norfolk State.

Hours later, moments before they trotted out of the locker room to play Detroit, the Jayhawks saw the final moments of Duke’s defeat against Lehigh.

It’d been 11 years since a No. 2 seed lost in the NCAA tournament. Now it had happened twice in one day.

Could Kansas make it No. 3?

[+] EnlargeThomas Robinson
AP Photo/Nati HarnikThomas Robinson scored 16 points and Kansas avoided the No. 2 seed upset bug by beating Detroit.
“It opened our eyes a little bit,” point guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “It made us understand that it can happen.”

Even before Friday, Kansas knew the pain of March upsets all too well. Since 2005 it has lost to mid-majors Bucknell, Bradley and Northern Iowa in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament.

On Friday the Jayhawks made sure it didn’t happen again.

Thomas Robinson scored 16 points and snared 13 rebounds to boost Kansas -- the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region -- to a 65-50 victory over No. 15 Detroit at the CenturyLink Center. Elijah Johnson added 15 points for the Jayhawks, who advanced to play No. 10 seed Purdue on Sunday for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.

“It’s great for the tournament when lower seeds win,” center Jeff Withey said. “But we were watching [the upsets] today, and we didn’t want to be the one to lose.”

Kansas closed the first half on a 15-3 march and led 34-24 at intermission. When the Jayhawks opened the second half on a 10-2 run, the game was basically over.

Still, a side story developed in an otherwise mundane game when Taylor, a fourth-year starter and the team’s leading scorer in Big 12 play, left the court with cramps with about 16 minutes remaining. He was taken to the locker room and didn’t return.

“The [cramps] started in my calf and kept coming up to my hammy, my feet, my back, all over,” said Taylor, who scored 10 points. “I’ve been taking stuff for a cold and it dehydrates you.

“I’ve been drinking a lot of Gatorade. I guess I’ve got to drink a lot more -- and some pickle juice. This happened to me the first game in Maui. I was fine the next two games.”

In an odd way, Taylor’s absence could’ve been good for the Jayhawks, because it forced players such as Johnson and reserve guard Naadir Tharpe into more pressure-packed roles. Tharpe’s 13 minutes were the most he’s played since Dec. 29.

“I kept thinking about [Taylor] sitting in the locker room,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘I know he’s back there watching. I want to keep him calm. I want to keep my senior guard calm.’

“Ty has been carrying us for a long time. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. People think, ‘He should be doing well. He’s been here for four years.’ But [he’s] playing with four people that haven’t done it. When everything goes bad, who do they point to? Tyshawn Taylor, whether he played good or not. I’m there to back him up whenever. Whatever he needs me to do, I’ll do it.”

The Jayhawks will need another banner effort from Johnson -- and plenty of others -- if they hope to beat Purdue. The Boilermakers may not be as strong as they’ve been the past few seasons, but Matt Painter is still regarded as one of the top defensive coaches in the country. There’s no doubt he’ll have his team ready.

Purdue upended No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s 72-69 earlier Friday.

“We can’t take anybody lightly, from today until whenever,” Taylor said. “Once you get into the tournament, those seeds go away. It really doesn’t matter. A No. 2 can beat a No. 15. It might mean they’re the better team, it might not. But all it takes is for them to be better that day.

“We’ve got to treat everyone like they’re Kentucky or a North Carolina.”
OMAHA, Neb. -- Moments after the most stunning NCAA tournament upset of the last decade, the Norfolk State Spartans reacted like typical college students.

They hurried into the locker room -- and pulled out their cell phones.

"We're trending on Twitter right now -- nationally," one player said.

A teammate spoke up from across the room.

"I just got a text. People are jumping into the fountain back on campus."

Soon it was revealed that the website for Norfolk State's student newspaper had crashed because of an overload of traffic.

Then came the announcement that only two of the 6.45 million participants in ESPN.com's bracket challenge still had perfect records -- mainly because of No. 15 seed Norfolk State's 86-84 victory over Missouri at the CenturyLink Center. Even U.S. president Barack Obama had No. 2 seed Missouri going to the Final Four.

Standing before a throng of television cameras, guard Jamel Fuentes flashed a cheesy grin.

"I'd like to personally thank President Obama," he said, "for allowing us to bust his bracket."

Yes, before their coach had even made it back from his postgame press conference, the magnitude of Friday's win had hit the Spartans hard. Three hours earlier they were unknowns, 22-point underdogs from a school of 5,000 undergrads participating in their first-ever NCAA tournament.

Now they're America's Little Engines That Could, a reminder of why even the most casual sports fan is so in love with March. Norfolk State's victory marked the first time since 2001 -- when Hampton defeated Iowa State -- and only the fifth time in history that a No. 15 seed had defeated a No. 2.

For the full story, click here.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas 65, Detroit 50

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
12:42
AM ET
OMAHA, Neb. -- Quick thoughts from Kansas' 65-50 victory over Detroit on Friday at the CenturyLink Center.

Overview: Thomas Robinson had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Elijah Johnson added 15 points to spark Kansas to an easy win over No. 15 seed Detroit in the Midwest Region. The No. 2 seed Jayhawks will play Purdue at approximately 9 ET Sunday night.

One of the biggest stories of the game was the health status of Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who left the contest with about 15 minutes remaining, reportedly because of cramps. Taylor was taken to the locker room and didn't return. He appeared to injure himself during a play in which he was called for a charge with about 16 minutes remaining. He went to the bench and then headed to the locker room about a minute later.

Detroit, which shot just 31.7 percent from the field, got 15 points from Doug Anderson and 10 from Eli Holman. Ray McCallum Jr., a McDonald's All-American in high school who chose Detroit over KU so he could play for his father, finished with just 8 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

Turning point: The Jayhawks ended the first half on a 15-3 run, which gave them a 34-24 lead at intermission. They opened the second half on a 10-2 tear that made it 44-26. At that point, the game was essentially over.

Key player: Robinson notched his NCAA-leading 24th double-double. The Jayhawks also got a boost from Johnson, who made three of his four 3-point attempts. Center Jeff Withey had 7 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.

Key stat: Detroit's 3-point shooting continued to be its Achilles' heel. The Titans were just 3-of-17 from long range (17.6 percent).

Miscellaneous: Kansas' 2008 NCAA title run began in Omaha.

Up next: Kansas takes on No. 10 seed Purdue on Sunday. The Boilermakers defeated No. 7 seed Saint Mary's earlier Friday. Detroit ends its season 22-14.

Video: Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
11:20
PM ET


Norfolk State head coach Anthony Evans joins SportsCenter to talk about upsetting No. 2 Missouri.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Quick thoughts from Purdue's 72-69 victory over Saint Mary's Friday at the CenturyLink Center.

Overview: Purdue made four free throws in the final 23 seconds to beat No. 7 seed Saint Mary's in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The victory propels the No. 10 seed Boilermakers into a third round game against either Kansas or Detroit on Sunday.

Purdue trailed 69-68 after Saint Mary's guard Jorden Page swished a 3-pointer from the left wing with 45 seconds remaining. But 22 seconds later, the Gaels' Stephen Holt fouled Purdue's Lewis Jackson as Jackson was driving to the basket. He made both free throws to put the Boilermakers ahead 70-69.

Saint Mary's had a chance to tie it on the ensuing possession, but this time Page air-balled a wide-open 3-pointer. Purdue's Robbie Hummel snared the rebound and was fouled with 8 seconds left. His free throws extended Purdue's lead to three, 72-69. The Gaels had one more chance, but Rob Jones misfired on a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired.

Turning point: Purdue controlled most of the game and led by 10 points with 7:17 remaining before a valiant comeback attempt by Saint Mary's made the game interesting. The Gaels' went on an 18-7 run that was capped by Page's 3-pointer at the 45 second mark that put Saint Mary's up by a point. The foul call on Holt, which was a bit questionable for that late in the game, put Jackson on the line for what would ultimately be the game-deciding free throws.

Key player: Guard Terone Johnson had 21 points and five assists for Purdue. Jones led Saint Mary's with 23 points and 14 rebounds.

Key stat: Saint Mary's shot just 4-of-25 (16 percent) from beyond the arc. Jones was just 2-of-10. Cousy Award finalist Matthew Dellavedova had just 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting overall. He had eight assists.

Miscellaneous: Purdue has now won 14 straight Round of 64 games in the NCAA tournament.

What's next: Purdue advances to play either No. 2 seed Kansas or No. 15 seed Detroit on Sunday. Saint Mary's, which won the outright West Coast Conference title, ends its season 27-6.

Video: Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
9:05
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ESPN.com's Jason King talks with Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn following the Spartans' 86-84 upset of second-seeded Missouri.

Video: Breaking down Norfolk State's upset

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
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Jay Bilas breaks down Norfolk State’s win over Missouri. The Spartans, making their first trip to the NCAA tournament, become the fifth No. 15 seed to knock out a No. 2 seed.

Who are the Norfolk State Spartans?

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
7:12
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A closer look at today's upset winners over No. 2 seed Missouri:

  • First NCAA tournament appearance.
  • Made transition from Division II to Division I in 1997-98 season.
  • Three winning seasons in 15 years in Division I (Division I school-record 25 wins this year).
  • Five alumni have played in the NBA.
  • Kyle O'Quinn: 48 career double-doubles entering today, tied for third-most among active players.
  • Norfolk State nearly beat Marquette on a neutral floor in November, losing 59-57.
  • Norfolk State also lost to Elizabeth City State in November, 69-57. Elizabeth City State plays in Division II.
15-seeds that have defeated 2-seeds
Since 1985 expansion

2012: Norfolk State over Missouri (Big 12)
2001: Hampton over Iowa State (Big 12)
1997: Coppin State over South Carolina (SEC)
1993: Santa Clara over Arizona (Pac-10)
1991: Richmond over Syracuse (Big East)

TOURNAMENT CHALLENGE

Out of the 6.45 million entries in ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge, Norfolk State was picked by the fewest number of people to win it all:

Norfolk State: 838
New Mexico State: 856
Loyola (Md.): 942
Lehigh: 1,020

After Norfolk State’s victory over Missouri, there are now just two perfect brackets left in Tournament Challenge. There were 1,607 remaining before the game ended. Just 1.2 percent of Tournament Challenge brackets have Norfolk State beating Missouri. Meanwhile, 7.1 percent of brackets had Mizzou winning it all, the fourth-most popular pick to win the championship. The Tigers were the third-most popular pick to reach the Final Four at 40.8 percent.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Quick thoughts from Norfolk State's 86-84 upset win over second-seeded Missouri.

Overview: As if George Mason and VCU weren't enough, another unlikely March hero has emerged from the state of Virginia.

Norfolk State -- a school of about 6,000 that had never appeared in the NCAA tournament -- shocked Final Four favorite Missouri before a sellout crowd of 16,843 fans Friday at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

The victory marked the first time since 2001, when Hampton defeated Iowa State, that a No. 15 seed has defeated a No. 2 seed. Kyle O'Quinn scored 26 points for Norfolk State, which advanced to play Florida on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16. Missouri ends its season with a record of 30-5.

Trailing by two points with 2.8 seconds remaining, Missouri had a chance to win. Tigers guard Phil Pressey took an inbounds pass near midcourt, took a few dribbles and got off a decent look from 3-point range. The shot clanged off the side of the rim as the horn sounded, setting off a wild celebration by Norfolk State.

Norfolk State took the lead for good with 34.9 seconds remaining when O'Quinn snared the offensive rebound of a teammate's air ball and put it back in for an easy two points while being fouled. O'Quinn converted the ensuing free throw to make it 84-81.

Missouri's Marcus Denmon missed an ill-advised, deep 3-pointer early in the shot clock on the Tigers' next possession. O'Quinn got the rebound and was immediately fouled. He made one of two free throws to put Norfolk State ahead 85-81 with 16 ticks left.

Pressey, who was brilliant down the stretch for Missouri, made a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to pull Missouri within a point, 85-84. Rodney McCauley was fouled by Missouri, and he made the first of two free throws to extend the Spartans' lead to 86-84. O'Quinn snared the rebound on McCauley's miss, and a jump ball was called when O'Quinn became tied up with a Missouri player. O'Quinn missed both foul shots, and Missouri called a timeout to set up the final shot by Pressey, which was off the mark.

Along with his 26 points, O'Quinn added 14 rebounds for Norfolk State. Chris McEachin had 20 points. Michael Dixon (22 points), Pressesy and Denmon (20 points each) all had good games for Missouri.

Player of the game: O'Quinn is an absolute beast. He clearly outplayed Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe and was a flat-out warrior throughout the entire game. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder has an exceptional shooting touch for his size and can handle the ball.

Key stat: Both teams were on fire Friday. Norfolk State shot 54 percent from the field, Missouri 52 percent.

Miscellaneous: Even though Omaha is somewhat close to Columbia, Missouri must have felt like the road team Friday. More than half the CenturyLink Center was filled with Kansas fans cheering for Norfolk State. The Jayhawks, Missouri's Big 12 rival, take on Detroit here later tonight.

Up next: Norfolk State will play Florida on Sunday for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. For Missouri, it's over. The next time we see the Tigers, they'll be official members of the SEC.

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