College Basketball Nation: A.J. Ogilvy

'Miracle' shot lifts Murray State

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
6:46
PM ET
Murray State RacersKyle Terada/US PresswireNo. 13-seeded Murray State celebrates a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas smiled widely and said he was simply "Option No. 3" on the play.

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy, who had scribbled something out with 4.2 seconds left in a tight first-round game with Vanderbilt, had a more colorful way to describe what transpired at the buzzer.

"That was a blessing," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said. "It's not a shot we've run or one we've worked on.

"It's a miracle."

The 6-foot-4 senior from New Orleans caught a pass from Isacc Miles, took one dribble, and fired at the horn to sink No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt 66-65.

Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy buried his head in his jersey and collapsed on the floor.

Murray State guard B.J. Jenkins did a flying fist pump.

And Thomas leaped in the air before striding down the other end of the court relatively calmly as if to get back on defense. Teammates tackled him onto the floor and then piled on top.

"I thought I was going to get smothered," Thomas mused. "I was trying to find a hole to breathe."

After hitting the big shot, he passed on the credit. Miles was the guy who gave up the ball. Kennedy was the one who drew up a play the team hadn't run before that ended up working.

"If I wouldn't have made it, one of them would have made it," Thomas said of his teammates.

The Racers have banded together to win 31 games and their first NCAA tournament game since 1988 -- when Thomas was two years old.

They had won the Ohio Valley Conference by two games, dealt with the death of the mother of guard Picasso Simmons the day before leaving for California, and then took down an SEC team in Vanderbilt that had finished second to Kentucky.

The rest of the nation found out they also play good basketball in that state in Murray. Vanderbilt, only about a two-hour drive from there, knew all about the Racers, and the Commodores still got their hearts broken.

"It goes down the drain with one kid making the shot," Ogilvy said in an otherwise silent locker room.

It's the No. 13-seeded Racers who will continue dancing after the shot heard from Murray to Northern California dropped through.

"It was big-time," Thomas said. "It's tournament time."

Halftime: Murray State 36, Vanderbilt 32

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
3:41
PM ET
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Quick halftime thoughts from what's been an evenly-matched game as expected.

  • It's a good thing Murray State has B.J. Jenkins healthy after he cut an index finger while cutting down the net. The junior guard has nine points to lead the Racers.
  • Vanderbilt continues to do well in getting to the free throw line, but has only made 8 of 15 foul shots. Jeffery Taylor leads the Commodores with nine points, but could have had more as he's 3 of 7 from the line.
  • A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt's 6-foot-11 center, has played only five minutes and has two points after picking up two fouls.
  • Vanderbilt has eight points from their usual leading scorer Jermaine Beal. Freshman John Jenkins continues to start alongside him in the backcourt.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mississippi State is halfway to a second straight appearance in the SEC Tournament championship game.

What’s more, the Bulldogs could be closing in on a trip to the NCAA tournament. They remain one of the first couple of teams “outside the field,” according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

Houston winning the Conference USA Tournament championship doesn’t help the Bulldogs any, because UTEP will also go from that league.

All Mississippi State can control is what’s right in front of it, and for a game and a half here at Bridgestone Arena, the Bulldogs have shown they want to keep playing.

They lead Vanderbilt 33-27 at the half after Barry Stewart and Phil Turner each tossed in 10 points in the first half. Turner came off the bench to hit 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

The Commodores have to get more from A.J. Ogilvy in the second half. He had two fouls in the first half with no points and one rebound and only played six minutes.
  • Bob Huggins was not pleased with the officiating in Monday night's loss to Connecticut, so much so that he earned himself an ejection in the final minute -- one of those "I'm sick of this, I'm getting kicked out, which ref do I insult first" coach's decisions you see from time to time. After the game, though, Huggins was less direct: "You saw it. You're allowed to report on it. I'm not," Huggins said when asked about the effect of 46 fouls and 65 free throws -- 42 of them by UConn -- on the way the game played out. "That's a tremendous advantage."
  • Northern State coach Don Meyer announced Monday that he will retire after the current season is over. Meyer is the NCAA's all-time wins leader in college basketball for all divisions, followed by former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight and current Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. Magee plans to stick around a little while longer; Jameson Fleming at the Bleacher Report picked Magee's brain and found out why.
  • Did BracketBusters work? And just what does "work" mean? The Dagger's Jeff Eisenberg writes: "If the purpose of the Bracket Buster event is to help more mid-major teams play their way into the NCAA tournament, then there's no denying that this year's event was a colossal failure. In addition to Old Dominion and William & Mary, Siena's at large hopes vanished after a blowout loss at Butler and Wichita State's did so as well after falling at Utah State. [...] The solution to this, of course, would be to pit mid-majors against big-name opponents in the BracketBuster event, except few if any teams from the power six conferences would have anything to gain by such a format." Ballin' Is A Habit responds: "The bottom line? No matter who you play, you must win games to make the tournament. Old Dominion, Siena, and Wichita State lost games that would have helped their tournament resume. William & Mary lost a game it should have won. If ODU and Siena had both won, and that win helped the two teams to earn an at-large bid, people would be singing a much different tune about BracketBusters. So until a situation arises in which a team winning their BracketBusters game has a negative effect on their tournament résumé, I think BracketBusters is working just fine."
  • Hokies fans are predictably giddy about their team's late-season rise into the NCAA tournament bracket; here's a roundup of Virginia Tech's newfound bracketology love.
  • Gasaway's Tuesday Truths. More on this later, but Maryland is much, much better than the RPI folks seem to think. Oh, and here's more Gasaway, this time taking on the Purdue homers who insist on claiming this team is "old-fashioned" and "hard-nosed" (which they are, sort of) while completely ignoring what's made the Boilermakers of 2010 so much better than last season's counterparts: the offense!
  • Nebraska is 1-11 in the Big 12 and 13-14 overall, but Nebraska's athletic director isn't putting coach Doc Sadler's head on the chopping block. Rather, he's extending the always-welcome-when-it-seems-sincere vote of confidence, saying Sadler is the "right guy to get this thing done."
  • Michigan State's Kalin Lucas was frustrated Saturday. After losing to Ohio State in East Lansing -- and scoring a mere nine points on 3 of 13 shooting -- Lucas decided to pull a LeBron and blow off the postgame media question-and-answer session. On Sunday, Lucas called head coach Tom Izzo to apologize and tell him he felt bad about "leaving his teammates to explain" the loss. On Monday, Lucas joined Izzo at the coach's weekly news conference, where Lucas apologized to the media for ditching out. All things considered, a pretty classy move.
  • Doug Gottlieb (Insider) says he's heard Jim Calhoun has five-year contract extension from UConn "on his desk" and that Calhoun should sign it, thereby ignoring folks like me who think now's as good a time as any to experience the joys of retirement.
  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp has some lighthearted fun with Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, and the many faces of A.J. (Of special note is Ogilvy's hair, which reminds of the kids I used to play club soccer with -- they loved to frost their tips. Like aging 90s country chicks and their relationship to mullets, I have an irrational soft spot for this hairstyle.)
  • Speaking of lighthearted fun, let's hope this budding Kent State sideline reporter -- and heir to the "Boom Goes The Dynamite" guy's legacy of student reporter hilarity -- can laugh at himself in the morning.
  • Barry Alvarez confirms: The Big Ten is indeed looking for another school, and has hired a research firm to look into 15 potential expansion additions. Not on this list? Texas and Notre Dame.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – His nickname is “Dolla Beal.”

And sure enough, Jermaine Beal was money Wednesday night in No. 23 Vanderbilt’s 85-76 victory over 14th-ranked Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Or better yet … straight cash.

[+] EnlargeJermaine Beal
Don McPeak/US PresswireJermaine Beal scored 25 points in Vanderbilt's win over Tennessee.
His coach, who’s not one to unnecessarily gush, called him spectacular and the ultimate security blanket, among other things.

“It’s one of the first things I said to the team after the game,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings recounted. “When your senior plays like a senior, things get a lot easier. And he certainly played like one tonight.

“He was awesome, really awesome.”

Indeed, Beal shot holes in the Vols’ defense and took over in the second half on his way to 25 points. He played 38 minutes and didn’t have a turnover. He made all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half. He was simply the best player on the court.

“He was the difference,” Tennessee senior guard Bobby Maze said. “And what made him so terrific was that he was able to knock down shots.”

Nobody needed to tell Beal that this was his last shot in Knoxville after some horrific shooting performances against the Volunteers the last couple of years, particularly in this building.

A year ago, Beal was 1-of-10 from the field for three points in a 69-50 loss in Knoxville. He missed both of his 3-pointers. He wasn’t much better in the game in Nashville, going 1-of-7 from the field in a 76-63 loss to the Vols. He missed all five of his 3-pointers in that game.

And two years ago in Knoxville, Beal was 1-of-5 from the field in an 80-60 loss to Tennessee.

So when the game was hanging there in the balance in the second half Wednesday, Beal never blinked.

“I haven’t won here forever,” said Beal, who scored eight straight points to turn a six-point game into a 74-60 runaway with 4:57 remaining. “My only chance to win here was tonight. The main thing was to go out and play hard and leave everything out there, and I feel like we did that.”

As a result, the 23rd-ranked Commodores (16-3, 5-0) extended their winning streak to 10 straight games. It was also their third straight road win in the SEC. The last time they won their first three away from home in the league was the 1964-65 season.

It’s a given these guys are pretty good in Memorial Gym with the funky setup and the benches at the end of the court. They’re a tough out at home and always have been.

But the makeup of this team makes you think the Commodores are going to be a tough out no matter where they play or who they play the rest of the way.

You name it, and the Commodores have it. They have depth, size, shooters and a senior point guard who knows when to take charge.

And when things got testy Wednesday, Vanderbilt proved to be the tougher, more physical team.

“We have a physical team,” Stallings said. “A year ago, we were not physical, and we could be taken advantage of in games like that. We are more physical this year. I don’t know that we’re the most physical, but we’re more physical than we’ve been.”

Getting Andre Walker back from his knee injury last season has been huge. His stat line every night is usually the same. He had nine points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks against the Vols.

The emergence of sophomore post players Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang has been equally important, and Stallings said 6-11 junior A.J. Ogilvy is in better shape.

“Our big guys do a decent job of giving us a presence in that lane area, and that’s a big key for our team,” Stallings said.

And when the Commodores shoot the ball the way they did against the Vols (15-4, 3-2), they can make a case for being the most complete team in the SEC.

Freshman John Jenkins has been a terror shooting the 3-pointer off the bench. His 3 at the 7:39 mark to answer Maze’s jumper was one of the biggest shots of the night.

The trio of Brad Tinsley, Jenkins and Beal was a combined 8-of-12 from 3-point range for the game.

“I think it’s the most complete team I’ve played on, definitely,” said Ogilvy, who scored 12 points and took advantage of an ailing Wayne Chism, who had 16 rebounds, but had trouble scoring after hyper-extending his knee Saturday at Georgia.

“We’re bigger and stronger and a lot more athletic than any team I’ve played on and have the ability to shoot the ball. We have every piece of the puzzle, really.”

Where it goes from here for the Commodores in the short term remains to be seen. They get Kentucky on Saturday in Lexington and then Mississippi State at home next Wednesday.

But if everyone stays healthy, this is a team built for a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

Don’t tell that to Stallings -- not yet anyway. He can’t see past the next practice.

“If you get to a point where you think you’ve arrived, then you’ve got some problems,” he said.

True enough.

But right now, these Commodores are full of answers.

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