A dream 21 years in the making was finally realized on Saturday night, and while it took an extra five minutes to accomplish it, New Orleans' men's basketball team made the wait worthwhile for their school and city. Timely free throw shooting and a dominating edge on the offensive glass propelled the Privateers to a 68-65 overtime victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Merrell Center, giving the program its first Southland Conference Men's Basketball Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the first for top-seed New Orleans since 1996. 'I told these guys at halftime that this has been an amazing story,' said New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger . 'It's a story about rebirth, renaissance and it's a story of commitment of when guys come together playing for a purpose and love of the game, our love for each other, our university and the city that we absolutely adore and love that some magic stuff can happen.' The Privateers (20-11) trailed by 10 points in the first half and were down nine early in the second half before forging their way back into the contest. Neither team led by more than four points after Michael Zeno (6'6''-G/F-95)'s layup drew New Orleans into a 42-42 tie with 12:22 left in regulation as the thriller became the first Southland Conference Men's Tournament final to go into overtime since Sam Houston State outlasted rival Stephen F. Austin to capture the 2003 title. Rebounding, especially on the offensive end, proved to be a golden ticket for New Orleans. The Privateers owned a 40-25 edge on the glass, but it was their 19 offensive rebounds that helped keep them in the contest. The ability to control the paint resulted in a decisive 21-2 in second chance points for the Privateers. 'That's what they do,' said Islanders head coach Willis Wilson , whose team fell short in the tournament final for a second straight season. 'They pound the glass.' Said Slessinger, 'We made a change of course in the off season to where we said we were going to make a concerted effort to play big. We put all our money into that race, and that's what we went with.' Nate Frye (6'0''-PG-94), who hit a three-pointer at the end of the first half to help rally the Privateers, forced the extra session by knocking home a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left to tie the score at 60-each, yet New Orleans had to survive another white-knuckle moment when Cole Martinez (6'2''-G-93) narrowly missed a potential title-clinching three-pointer with five seconds left in regulation. 'I just thanked God he missed it,' said Privateers guard Christavious Gill (5'8''-PG-94), who scored 10 points and provided just enough of a distraction for Martinez to miss his only three-pointer in six attempts from beyond the arc. Frye's jumper just 15 minutes into the extra session gave New Orleans the lead that was short lived as Martinez hit a triple that allowed the Islanders to seize a 63-62 advantage. The basket was the high-water mark for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, as it proved to be the last field goal they would score in the final 4:23. After Travin Thibodeaux (6'9''-F-96) hit one of two free throws to tie the score for the 11th and final time, Tevin Broyles (6'4''-G-95) gave New Orleans the lead for good with a jumper with 3:01 left. The Islanders stayed close and had a chance to force a second overtime, but Rashawn Thomas (6'8''-F-94) missed a three-pointer with eight seconds left that set the stage for the Privateers to return to the NCAA Tournament. For New Orleans, the moment was one the team, university and city will have frozen in time for years to come. 'It was unreal,' said Gill. 'I would watch it on TV and see other teams win tournaments, and I was like, 'I want to be there one day.' I just felt like it was a dream come true.' 'All our hard work and dedication just turned out for us,' said Tournament Most Valuable Player Erik Thomas (6'5''-F-95), who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. After an initial stretch of ebbs and flow for both teams, it was the shooting of Kilgore that began to give the Islanders an offensive groove. Playing in front of friends and family, the former Dekaney High School standout hit five of his eight attempts in the first half, including consecutive jumpers down the stretch that gave Texas A&M-Corpus Christi a 33-23 lead. The lead, and momentum, started favoring the Privateers when Frye sank a deep three as the horn sounded for intermission, cutting New Orleans' deficit to 33-26 at the half. Thomas was joined on the All-Tourney team by Gill, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Thomas and Martinez and Leon Gilmore (6'7''-F) III of Stephen F. Austin. For Slessinger, a longtime coach in the Southland Conference, the chance to carry the banner of the league is a task he'd long dreamed of doing as a head coach. 'It's a big banner for our program,' he said. 'I take a lot of pride in this.' Southland Conf. Tournament Final: New Orleans - A&M-Corpus Christi 68-65, OT Southland Conf. Tournament Semifinals: New Orleans - Sam Houston State 75-63 A&M-Corpus Christi - Stephen F. Austin 77-69
Player of the Year:Michael Mallory(6'1''-G) of S.Connecticut Rookie of the Year: Marshall Lange (6'2''-G) of Newberry Coach of the Year: Patrick Beilein of Le Moyne Honorable Mention Gerrel Irvin (6'8''-F) of Dominican, NY Hunter Leveau (6'5''-F) of King Michael Mallory (6'1''-G) of S.Connecticut Matthew Dogan (6'7''-G) of Gannon [read more]
Oregon Advances After Surviving Michigan's Buzzer-Beater Attempt - 8 hours ago
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The scoreboard had Oregon up by 2 points at the half, but it felt as though Michigan, the underdog, was about to overwhelm the Ducks. Michigan's point guard, Derrick Walton (6'1''-G-95) Jr., a senior, had deftly amassed seven assists, looking for all the world like a quarterback finding receivers like Duncan Robinson (6'8''-G/F-94) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman through thickets of defenders. D. J. Wilson, a junior with a tall haircut and short shorts, had hit two 3-pointers and contribut... [read more]
The scoreboard had Oregon up by 2 points at the half, but it felt as though Michigan, the underdog, was about to overwhelm the Ducks. Michigan's point guard, Derrick Walton (6'1''-G-95) Jr., a senior, had deftly amassed seven assists, looking for all the world like a quarterback finding receivers like Duncan Robinson (6'8''-G/F-94) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman through thickets of defenders. D. J. Wilson, a junior with a tall haircut and short shorts, had hit two 3-pointers and contributed a block and a steal in just seven minutes of play, his time limited by foul trouble. But Michigan's seemingly impending surge never materialized, as third-seeded Oregon, playing one of the country's most 3-point-happy teams, began to take more aim from deep and hit 3-pointers. And hit them and hit them and hit them. Five from sophomore Tyler Dorsey (6'4''-SG-96), two from junior Dillon Brooks (6'6''-F-96) - all in the second half. The Ducks, which entered making fewer than one-third of their shots from deep, made 47.1 percent (8-for-17) for the game. But Dorsey's most crucial shot came not from beyond the 3-point line, but on an acrobatic drive to the basket that put the Ducks ahead by a point with 1 minute 9 seconds remaining. Those proved to be the final points in a 69-68 victory for Oregon (32-5) over seventh-seeded Michigan (26-12), sending the Ducks to the round of eight on Saturday to play the winner of the later game Thursday night, between No. 1 Kansas and No. 4 Purdue. The Ducks were led by Dorsey and the junior Jordan Bell (6'9''-F-95). Dorsey had 20 points; Bell had a double-double, with 16 points and 13 rebounds - including, on the possession before Dorsey's lay-in, a crucial board on a missed Oregon free throw that he put back to cut Michigan's lead to 1 point. Michigan's Walton finished with 20 points and 8 assists, and his fellow senior guard Zak Irvin (6'6''-G/F-94) had 19 points and 8 rebounds. Moritz Wagner, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Berlin, who goes by Moe, was Michigan's leading scorer in the last game, an upset of second-seeded Louisville, but on Thursday he appeared physically overwhelmed in the low post and hapless elsewhere, at one point botching a clear layup after Oregon gave him the lane. He finished with 7 points on 10 shots and barely saw the court in the second half. When Brooks hit a 3 with a little more than 13 minutes left in the game, Oregon led by 50-44 and looked in control. But the Ducks let the Wolverines back in it, missing their next five field goals and going scoreless for more than three minutes. Wilson played terrific defense on Bell, forcing him into a miss one-on-one in the post and then grabbing the rebound. Michigan took a 51-50 lead with Walton sitting for the first time in the game. Then Oregon fought back and built a 56-51 lead, with Tyler Ennis (6'2''-G-94, college: Syracuse) contributing a 3-point play. Wilson brilliantly faked his defender with the ball down low, only to miss the layup. Later, Wilson found Irvin underneath in a Walton-like assist to cut Oregon's lead to three. The game continued to seesaw between 3- and 5-point Oregon leads until Wilson hit a 3 to cut Oregon's lead to 60-58 with less than five minutes left. On Michigan's next possession, Walton dribbled at the top of the key, and Oregon's defense dropped back, giving him room to hit his own 3-pointer for a 61-60 lead for the Wolverines with 4:15 remaining. The lead was short-lived: Another Oregon 3-pointer was in store, from Dorsey. On the other end? A 3 from Irvin. With fewer than two minutes left and the shot clock dribbling, Walton took it upon himself again, creating a fadeaway shot that seemed to take an eternity to decide whether to go through the hoop or not. It finally decided in the affirmative, making the score 68-65 - Michigan's largest lead since the first half. Bell grabbed a missed Oregon free throw and put it in to make it a one-point Wolverines lead. This was followed by Dorsey's athletic drive to make it 69-68 Oregon with one minute remaining. Walton had one last chance to go ahead, but his attempt at a buzzer-beating 3-pointer was short. Though a major-conference champion with a famous football team, Michigan might have been the closest thing to a Cinderella story among the 16 teams that entered the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament's second weekend. Fledgling through the end of the season, its plane bound for the Big Ten tournament skidded off the runway, spooking the team and causing light injuries. The Wolverines proceeded to tear through that tournament, winning it all. Ranked as high as fourth overall in the Associated Press poll this season, Oregon lost its top shot-blocker, senior Chris Boucher, to a season-ending knee injury in the Pacific-12 tournament. The Ducks now look to make just their second Final Four in program history - and their first since 1939, the very first Final Four of them all. Courtesy of: nytimes.com
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