South Region: No. 14 UAB upsets No. 3 Iowa State
Louisville, Ky. — The UAB Blazers may not have a football program anymore. They do have the first big upset of the NCAA Tournament and hope they can give their university something to rally around.
William Lee scored the last four points for 14th-seeded UAB, and the Blazers knocked off third-seeded Iowa State 60-59 on Thursday in their opening game in the NCAA Tournament. It's the third straight year a 14 seed has upset a No. 3 seed, and Georgia State followed up by joining the list within an hour with a 57-56 win over Baylor.
The Blazers (20-15) came in with the youngest team in the NCAA Tournament and with nobody having played in this tournament before. They wound up winning the program's first NCAA game since 2005 and ran over to celebrate in front of the fans of a school that shut its football program down in December.
"For us, it was just huge," UAB junior Robert Brown said. "We come here, not just to play games, but to actually make some noise and to win some games. To be able to do that and win for Birmingham, win for Coach (Jerod) Haase, it's a great feeling."
And it set off a wild celebration in the Blazers' locker room.
"We were celebrating because that was a really big win for us with us being the underdogs," UAB guard Tyler Madison said.
Haase estimated maybe four or five of the Blazers didn't even realize a month ago that the Conference USA Tournament champion earned an automatic berth, while another had never watched a selection show before Sunday.
"You're a product of your thoughts," Haase said. "There's been more talk right now about 14 seed or upsets than we've said the entire year. Our thoughts have been, when we play well, we think we can compete with anybody, and those thoughts have been expressed to our team, and our team has made the choice to believe in that. I think that's what you saw today."
The ninth-ranked Cyclones (25-9) came into the South Regional looking for a much longer run than a year ago when they reached the Sweet 16 without top scorer Georges Niang due to injury. But they just couldn't match the scrappy Blazers on the boards in a second half where the Cyclones couldn't hold onto a 55-51 lead with 3:13 left.
For Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, it's as tough a loss as he's had. His Cyclones came in having won five straight, rallying from double-digit deficits in each on their way to the Big 12 Tournament title. Hoiberg called that an emotional three days in Kansas City followed by playing the first game Thursday.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," Hoiberg said. "You've got to come out and play 40 minutes. .. I don't know. Maybe we should have let them get up double digits. That's kind of how we play our best."
The Blazers, who outscored Iowa State 9-4 down the stretch, will play either SMU or UCLA on Saturday.
Iowa State, which lost its opener as a No. 2 seed in 2001, last led at 57-56 on a basket by Monte Morris. But Lee hit a jumper with 24 seconds left putting UAB ahead to stay. Niang had a jumper blocked by Tosin Mehinti, and Lee got the rebound. Lee hit two free throws with 12.1 seconds left for the Blazers' final margin.
Naz Long missed a 3 that Morris tipped in with 0.4 seconds left, and the Cyclones couldn't get the ball back before the Blazers started celebrating their gutty win.
"We got lackadaisical," Long said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves. This one burns, man. It burns."
Brown led UAB with 21 points, Lee finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Madison also had 11 rebounds as the Blazers dominated the boards 52-37.
Morris finished with 15 points for the Cyclones, who were making a school-record fourth straight tournament appearance only to lose their opener for the first time since 2001. Niang and reserve Matt Thomas both added 11 points, and Jameel McKay had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Iowa State looked ready to finally put away an opponent as the Cyclones opened the game with a 12-2 lead. The Blazers settled down quickly enough and used a 14-4 run to turn it into a game taking advantage of repeated turnovers by the Cyclones.
The Blazers took a 31-28 halftime lead before a 6:52 scoring drought. Not that it hurt as the teams wound up swapping the lead a total of 17 times with eight ties.
UCLA 60, SMU 59: In Louisville, Kentucky, Bryce Alford made four 3-pointers in the final 3:40, his last on a rare goaltending call with 13 seconds remaining, to push 11th-seeded UCLA to an upset of sixth-seeded SMU.
Alford's points came on nine long-range shots but his last attempt was the most debated as his shot from the left side was touched by SMU's Yanick Moreira before it hit the rim. Officials awarded Alford, the son of coach Steve Alford, the basket, to the disbelief of SMU players and coach Larry Brown.
The Mustangs (27-7) had two shots to win in the final seconds, but Nic Moore missed a 3-pointer and then a 2-point attempt that sent the Bruins (21-13) into a wild celebration.
UCLA, the team many felt didn't even belong in the field of 68, advanced to Saturday's round of 32 against No. 14 UAB, an upset winner over No. 3 Iowa State.
However, the ending of this game had to be seen to be believed.
Before Alford's heroics, SMU's Moore, who had 24 points and six 3s, seemed destined to hold that title after three 3-pointers keyed a 19-0 run over 6 1 / 2minutes to put the Mustangs up by nine.
UCLA leading scorer Norman Powell, who had 19 points, broke the run with a layup and added two free throws that were sandwiched between a series of Alford's shots from behind the arc as he finished 9 of 11 from there and 9 of 13 overall.
Utah 57, Stephen F. Austin 50: In Portland, No big upset here. Just a strong performance for Jakob Poeltl and No. 5 seed Utah.
Poeltl had 18 points and eight rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Utes opened their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years by holding off Stephen F. Austin.
The high-scoring Lumberjacks were a trendy pick in brackets across the country, but the Utes used their stout defense to hold the Southland Conference Tournament champions well under their season average of 79.5 points. Ty Charles led 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin (29-5) with 14 points.
Jordan Loveridge added 12 points for Utah (25-8), which will play the winner of the late South Region game between No. 4 seed Georgetown and 13th-seeded Eastern Washington at Portland's Moda Center.
The Utes led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Lumberjacks closed to 48-44 on Thomas Walkup's layup with 3:33 left. Poeltl's tip-in made it 50-45, and he added two free throws to put Utah up 52-46 with 1:37 left.
Georgetown 84, Eastern Washington 74: At Portland, Oregon, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 25 points, Mikael Hopkins had 10 points and nine rebounds, and fourth-seeded Georgetown avoided another NCAA Tournament upset.
The Hoyas (22-10) had lost four of their last five tournament games — all to teams seeded 10th or worse — and fell behind by seven in the first half to the 3-point happy Eagles. But Georgetown got its groove back with its own long-range touch, going ahead by 23 early in the second half and holding off Eastern Washington's late rally.
The Hoyas will face fifth-seeded Utah on Saturday in the round of 32.
National-scoring leader Tyler Harvey finished with 27 points, and Venky Jois had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (26-9), who entered averaging 80.8 points behind Harvey's 22.9 per game. Instead, Georgetown tired Eastern Washington with its fast-paced approach.