SAN DIEGO >> The NCAA Tournament has a new darling after one of the most improbable finishes in the NCAA Tournament’s long bracket-busting history.
Pulling off a comeback for the ages, feisty Stephen F. Austin became the latest No. 12 seed to pull off an upset, tying the game on Desmond Haymon’s "did-that-just-happen?" four-point play with 3.6 seconds left, and then holding on in overtime for a 77-75 win over Virginia Commonwealth on Friday night.
"Well, miracles truly do happen," SFA coach Brad Underwood said.
Pretty regularly these days.
It’s been a wild ride in the NCAA Tournament already, a two-day run filled with upsets, buzzer-beaters and millions of crumpled brackets across the country. SFA’s victory marked the fifth overtime game during the round of 64, a tournament record.
SFA didn’t have the biggest upset of the opening two rounds — Mercer probably gets the nod there with its win over Duke — but the Lumberjacks certainly had the most jaw-dropping finish.
Here’s how it went down:
The South Region’s No. 5 seed, VCU (23-10) was firmly in control after its swarming defense flustered SFA during a big second-half run.
The scrappy Lumberjacks (32-2) kept hanging around and clawed their way back in the closing seconds.
Two missed free throws by VCU’s Jordan Burgess with 10 seconds left gave SFA a chance.
The Lumberjacks worked the ball around to the wing, where Haymon launched a 3-pointer and was fouled by JaQuan Lewis just before the ball fell through the basket.
"I just tried to get out and contest it," Lewis said. "(I) jumped to the side a little bit and kind of fell into him. The ref called a foul."
The crowd still buzzing, VCU coach Shaka Smart called a timeout, trying to ice Haymon. The senior didn’t seem to mind, returning to the court to calmly knock the free throw down.
"I was struggling shooting the ball and I knew to get it going, I was going to have to continue to try to find it (his touch)," Haymon said. "I guess I found that groove with the last shot."
The tension still wasn’t over.
Haymon put the ‘Jacks ahead in overtime on a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left.
VCU’s turn at glory came after SFA’s Thomas Walkup made 1-for-2 free throws put the Lumberjacks up 2 with 14 seconds left. The Rams got a good look on the final possession, working the ball around to Lewis for an open 3-pointer on the wing.
His shot went long, the Lumberjacks grabbed the rebound, then stormed the floor after extending the nation’s second-longest winning streak to 29 games.
STANFORD 58, NEW MEXICO 53
ST. LOUIS >> Chasson Randle scored 23 points and the 10th-seeded Cardinal (22-12) made an impression in their first NCAA appearance since 2008 by beating the No. 7 seed Lobos (27-7).
KANSAS 80, EASTERN KENTUCKY 69
ST. LOUIS >> Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points, Jamari Traylor (17 points, 14 rebounds) and Perry Ellis (14, 13) had double-doubles and the second-seeded Jayhawks (25-9) pulled away down the stretch to beat the pesky 15th-seeded Colonels (24-10).
UCLA 76, TULSA 59
SAN DIEGO >> Jordan Adams had 21 points and eight rebounds, and Norman Powell scored 15 points in his hometown to lead the fourth-seeded Bruins (27-8) over the 13th-seeded Golden Hurricane (21-13), spoiling the NCAA Tournament head coaching debut of Danny Manning.
Manning led Kansas to the 1988 title and won another championship as a Jayhawks assistant coach six years ago.
WICHITA STATE 64, CAL POLY 37
ST. LOUIS >> Cleananthony Early had 23 points and the unbeaten Shockers (35-0) faced no resistance from the Mustangs (14-20) of the Big West.
Wichita State, off to the best start in NCAA history, dominated from the tip-off against the only team with a sub-.500 record in the tournament. The losers managed 13 points in the first half and shot 21 percent.
TENNESSEE 86, MASSACHUSETTS 67
RALEIGH, N.C. >> Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded Volunteers (23-12) past the sixth-seeded Minutemen (24-9).
Jordan McRae added 21 points for Tennessee, which shot 54 percent from the field and handled UMass’ fullcourt pressure in a surprisingly one-sided performance.
KENTUCKY 56, KANSAS STATE 49
ST. LOUIS >> Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Aaron Harrison finished with 18 points and the No. 8-seeded Wildcats (25-10) of the Southeastern Conference held off the No. 9-seeded Wildcats (20-13) of the Big 12.
Marcus Foster had 15 points for Kansas State, which started in a 1-0 hole after a technical for a dunk in pregame warmups.
BAYLOR 74, NEBRASKA 60
SAN ANTONIO >> Cory Jefferson scored 16 points and the sixth-seeded Bears (25-11) kept the 11th-seeded Cornhuskers (19-13) winless in their NCAA Tournament history.
Baylor has won 11 of 13 after a dismal start in the Big 12. Terran Petteway scored 18 points for Nebraska (19-13), which fell to 0-7 in tournament history.
CREIGHTON 76, LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 66
SAN ANTONIO >> Doug McDermott scored 30 points and the third-seeded Bluejays (27-7) got three huge 3-pointers in the second half from Ethan Wragge to beat the Ragin’ Cajuns (23-12).
ARIZONA 68, WEBER STATE 59
SAN DIEGO >> Nick Johnson scored 18 points and Aaron Gordon added 16 as the top-seeded desert Wildcats (31-4) overcame a shaky start and a late run by 16th-seeded Wildcats (19-12) of the Big Sky.
Arizona blocked 12 shots and held Weber State to 30 percent shooting.
GONZAGA 85, OKLAHOMA ST. 77
SAN DIEGO >> Kevin Pangos scored 26 points and Gary Bell Jr. added 17 for the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (29-6), who beat Marcus Smart and the ninth-seeded Cowboys (21-13).
The refs called 61 fouls, and five players fouled out. Smart had 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals for Oklahoma State.
NORTH CAROLINA 79, PROVIDENCE 77
SAN ANTONIO >> James Michael McAdoo sank two free throws in the final 3.5 seconds, and the No. 6 seed Tar Heels (24-9) rallied to beat the 11th-seeded Friars (23-12).
Providence’s Bryce Cotton scored a career-high 36 points and made one dazzling shot after another down the stretch. But he also fumbled a long rebound in the final moments, robbing the Friars of a chance for a last-second miracle.
IOWA STATE 93, NC CENTRAL 75
SAN ANTONIO >> Georges Niang scored 24 points, but also broke his foot and will miss the rest of the NCAA Tournament, as the No. 3 seed Cyclones (27-7) pulled away from the 14th-seeded Eagles (28-6), who saw their 20-game winning streak snapped.
VIRGINIA 70, COASTAL CAROLINA 59
RALEIGH, N.C. >> Anthony Gill scored 17 points to help the No. 1 seed Cavaliers (29-6) pull away late and beat the 16th-seeded Chanticleers (21-13). Virginia trailed by 10 in the first half and five at halftime to 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina before pushing ahead for good with about 9 minutes left.
MEMPHIS 71, GEORGE WASHINGTON 66
RALEIGH, N.C. >> Michael Dixon Jr. scored 19 points and hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to help the eighth-seeded Tigers (24-9) hold off the ninth-seeded Colonials (24-9) in the second round.