NCAA Tournament 2018: Winners and Losers of Day 1
The 2018 men's college basketball tournament tipped off Tuesday with a pair of exciting First Four matchups.
During the opening game, the Radford Highlanders dispatched the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 71-61. Radford advanced to face the Villanova Wildcats, who are the No. 1 seed in the East Region. Four players scored in double figures for the Highlanders.
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies closed the opening night of action with a 65-58 triumph over the UCLA Bruins. St. Bonaventure earned a chance to challenge sixth-seeded Florida in the East.
We've highlighted the standout performers and decisive stats while also pointing out a major concern for one of the winning teams. Read on for the winners and losers of Day 1.
Winner: Radford's NCAA Tournament History
For the first time in NCAA tournament history, the Radford Highlanders emerged as the winner.
The program previously had made two March Madness appearances, but those trips resulted in losses of 36 points to Duke in 1998 and 43 points to North Carolina in 2009.
However, the Highlanders notched their first-ever NCAA tournament win thanks to a strong second half. They outscored LIU Brooklyn 41-33 after halftime and 14-6 in the last 6:30 of the contest.
"It was a lot of laying the bricks for seven years, laying the foundation," head coach Mike Jones said on the truTV broadcast following the victory. "A lot of people put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, a lot of dedication and hard work."
Loser: LIU Brooklyn's Three-Point Shooting
Heading into Tuesday, LIU Brooklyn held a 14-3 record when it shot above 35 percent from three-point range. When the Blackbirds fell below that mark, though, they were 4-13.
Unfortunately for the Blackbirds, that trend stayed true.
The Northeast Conference champs only connected on 7-of-26 long-distance attempts (26.9 percent). Joel Hernandez—who averaged 20.7 points prior to Tuesday—made just one of his five triples, finishing with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting and six turnovers.
"Games this year where we've shot a low percentage from three and missed free throws are the games that we really didn't kind of come out the way I like to come out," head coach Derek Kellogg told reporters following the loss.
Winner: Carlik Jones, Radford
Carlik Jones, the buzzer-beating hero in the Big South tournament final, continued his hot streak Tuesday in Dayton.
In addition to tallying 12 points on 6-of-14 shooting, the freshman grabbed 11 rebounds, dished seven assists and nabbed two steals. He scored in double figures for the 10th straight contest.
Jones also set up two of Travis Fields Jr.'s three triples, and the reserve guard's 13-point contribution helped Radford hold a lead entering the closing stretch.
For the Highlanders to have any chance against Villanova on Thursday, Jones must have a similarly productive all-around game.
Loser: UCLA's Ball Security
St. Bonaventure mustered an ugly 30.3 shooting percentage in the first half, yet UCLA trailed 28-23 heading into the locker room.
Why? The Bruins forgot the "value the ball" part of the game plan.
They ceded possession 11 times during the first 20 minutes, and that problem carried over into the second half. Star guard Aaron Holiday committed 11 turnovers on the night, including three straight giveaways in the closing 30 seconds of regulation.
St. Bonaventure, which only had six turnovers, scored an amazing 28 total points off defensive takeaways.
Winner: Courtney Stockard, St. Bonaventure
Turnovers played a big role in St. Bonaventure's win, but it wouldn't have happened without Courtney Stockard.
"He's the reason why we won," head coach Mark Schmidt said on the truTV broadcast.
The junior poured in 26 points—his second-highest output of the season—on 9-of-20 shooting, burying a pair of threes. He also went 6-of-8 from the charity stripe and grabbed four rebounds.
When the Bonnies trailed 51-46 with eight minutes remaining in the second half, Stockard drained a three. After a LaDarien Griffin layup, Stockard swiped one of his career-best four steals and raced down the court for the go-ahead bucket.
Loser: St. Bonaventure's Range
When the Bonnies needed a critical shot, Jaylen Adams delivered. That's the good news—and even the most important thing.
But it sure wasn't pretty for St. Bonaventure's top two scorers.
Adams misfired on his first eight shot attempts, finally connecting with about three minutes remaining in the first half. He finished 2-of-16 and clanged all five of his three-point looks. Plus, Matt Mobley was 2-of-7 beyond the arc and only found the net four times in 12 shots.
Florida boasts the fifth-lowest turnover percentage in the country, per Sports Reference, so the Bonnies cannot expect their defense to bail them out Thursday during the round of 64.