College basketball fans didn’t have to wait until the round of 64 to witness impressive performances in the NCAA tournament.
Albany, behind a terrific day from DJ Evans, advanced over Mount St. Mary’s, and North Carolina State beat Xavier, thanks largely to ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren.
All Your Bracket Essentials
Here is a look at the final scores for the first two games of the Big Dance.
|NCAA Tournament First-Round Scores|
|Albany||Mount St. Mary's||71-64|
|North Carolina State||Xavier||74-59|
Albany 71, Mount St. Mary’s 64
Impressive performance: DJ Evans 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals
The first thing that stands out about Evans is his height. Rather, it is his lack of height.
Evans is listed at 5’9”, but if you ask teammate Peter Hooley, he isn’t even that tall, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
“He’s about 4-foot-8, so he’s really impressive. I don’t think there’s another 4-8 guard who could go in there and get that many boards. He did what he needed to do to get this win.”
Regardless of his size, Evans led the way for Albany Tuesday with 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. He put home two critical free throws with less than 13 seconds remaining to virtually ice the victory.
Hooley added 20 points of his own.
It was a contest of notable momentum swings, as the Great Danes seized the initial 13-0 lead, and each team went on a 21-2 run at one point.
Looking forward, Albany will now face the overall No. 1 seed Florida Gators on Thursday.
To make matters worse, the game will take place in Orlando, meaning there will probably be plenty of rowdy reptiles on hand. A No. 16 seed has never upset a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, and the only realistic chance the Great Danes have at keeping it close is if they receive another excellent performance from Evans.
Regardless of whether that will be enough or not, nobody can ever take away the fact that this team won an NCAA tournament game.
North Carolina State 74, Xavier 59
Impressive performance: T.J. Warren 25 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists
The headline matchup on Tuesday was a showdown between North Carolina State of the ACC and Xavier of the Big East.
It was supposed to be a back-and-forth battle between two superstars, but the Wolfpack’s Warren got the best of Xavier’s Semaj Christon. Warren poured in 25 points, grabbed five rebounds, tallied three steals and dished out two assists, while Christon finished with 14 points, four assists and a concerning seven turnovers.
The Musketeers simply didn’t have an answer for the 6’8” Warren, especially in the second half.
The ACC Player of the Year scored 16 of his 25 points after intermission and spearheaded runs to give North Carolina State a 51-42 and 57-47 lead late in the second half.
On the other side, Matt Stainbrook was impressive for Xavier with 19 points and nine rebounds, especially considering the fact he was dealing with a knee injury.
The Wolfpack will now play No. 5 seed Saint Louis on Thursday in what should be an interesting showdown between the Billikens’ swarming defense and Warren’s ability to score.
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