Dayton, Ohio — A freshman guard overcame a frightful fall and helped Bobby Hurley — a two-time champion guard at Duke — get his first NCAA Tournament win as a coach.
Arizona State's Luguentz Dort shook off knee and hip injuries from a hard fall, scored 21 points and led the Sun Devils to a long-awaited NCAA Tournament victory Wednesday night, 74-65 over St. John’s in the First Four.
The 11th-seeded Sun Devils (23-10) will play Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo on Friday in the West Region, coming off their first NCAA Tournament win in 10 years.
“It was just great,” Dort said. “At the beginning of this year we knew that we wanted to do something special.”
Hurley’s first NCAA Tournament win as a coach was a family affair. Brother Dan, the head coach at UConn, was on hand for support.
“We’re so close, and we talk so much,” Hurley said. “And I’m sure he’s very familiar with our team and our players. Just getting a chance to spend time with him this afternoon a little bit – it means everything that he took the time out.”
Arizona State also provided a Pac-12 breakthrough: the conference’s first NCAA Tournament win in two years.
The Pac-12 was 0-3 in the tournament last season, with two teams — Arizona State and UCLA — falling in the First Four. Arizona then got knocked out in the round of 64.
The Pac-12 got three teams in again this year, with Oregon and Washington joining the Sun Devils.
St. John’s (21-13) was the last team picked for the tournament, sneaking in despite a late-season fade. The Red Storm wound up one of the first ones out as well.
Shamorie Ponds scored 25 points for St. John’s, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000. The Red Storm never led on Wednesday.
“It was probably one of our worst games of the season overall,” coach Chris Mullin said.
Arizona State’s physical defense brought the Red Storm to a halt. St. John’s missed 17 of its first 23 shots as the Sun Devils built an 18-point lead . A technical foul on Hurley as he argued over a blocking foul with 25 seconds left in the half helped St. John’s trim the deficit to 38-25.
Ponds had a steal and dunk as St. John’s cut the lead to 40-33 early in the second half while Dort was on the bench getting his lower right leg treated. The freshman guard landed hard after extending for a rebound and getting fouled. Mustapha Heron was called for a flagrant foul.
Dort returned and hit a pair of free throws and a layup that blunted the Red Storm’s comeback . His fast-break layup rebuilt the lead to 16 points.
Ponds hit a 3-pointer as St. John’s made a final surge, cutting it to 62-55 with 3:58 left. Dort made a pair of free throws that helped finish it off.
More NCAA Tournament
No. 16 North Dakota State 78, No. 16 North Carolina Central 74: North Dakota State is one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, and that’s what it came down to at the end of the Bison’s First Four win over North Carolina Central in Dayton.
Vinnie Shahid sank three foul shots in the last 8 seconds to secure the win for North Dakota State, which now moves on to play East Region No. 1 seed Duke on Friday in Columbia, S.C.
“I thought that was key to make free throws, something that we’ve pretty much done all year,” coach David Richman said. “Again, when it’s this time of year, it’s going to come down to possession here, possession there and those free throws.
"Every one of them is crucial.”
North Dakota State (19-15) won its second NCAA Tournament game since moving up to Division I 11 years ago. The team from Fargo upset Oklahoma in the opening round in 2014.
Tyson Ward scored 23 points for North Dakota State, posting his third 20-point effort in the last six games for the Summit League Tournament champions.
Shahid had 14 points, and Sam Griesel and Jared Samuelson each added 10 points for the Bison. Eight different North Dakota State players put up points against a tough N.C. Central defense.
“Early in the season we played a lot of teams that pressured like that, a lot of teams they had some athletes like that,” Shahid said. “And earlier in the year, when teams made a run, they were athletic and pressured like that, we kind of crumbled. As you can see, we’ve grown up a little bit.”
N.C. Central (18-16) squandered an outstanding night by senior center Raasean Davis, who scored 20 points and pulled down 16 rebounds — the 16th double-double of his career. Larry McKnight Jr. also had 20 points and Randy Miller Jr. scored 18 for the Eagles, who lost a First Four game for the third consecutive year.
DePaul 100, Central Michigan 86: In Chicago, DePaul broke a 48-48 tie early in the second half and steamrolled Central Michigan in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.
The Chippewas finished the season 23-2, after falling in last week's Mid-American Conference tournament semifinal to Buffalo.
"I'm proud of our team, been proud of our team all year," Central coach Keno Davis said. "There weren't very many games where we didn't play with the intensity that we needed to win. The second half tonight we didn't quite look like ourselves. I think we got disrupted and we weren't able to rally like we have all year."
Larry Austin and David DiLeo each scored 20 for the Chippewas. Shawn Roundtree added 16, Rob Montgomery 14 and Kevin McKay 12.
Central was outrebounded, 44-29.
For DePaul (16-15), Max Strus scored 33 and Eli Cain added 20. Paul Reed had 17 points and 10 rebounds.