West Region: Georgia State stuns Baylor
Jacksonville, Fla. — R.J. Hunter kept firing away, eventually lifting 14th-seeded Georgia State over third-seeded Baylor and knocking his father right off his seat with the biggest shot of his life.
Hunter's 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining capped a comeback from a 12-point deficit and lifted the Panthers to a 57-56 opening-game victory over the Bears in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
With Ron Hunter working the sideline on a rolling chair less than a week after tearing his left Achilles tendon celebrating Georgia State winning the Sun Belt Conference championship, R.J. shrugged off a poor shooting performance to come through when his team needed him most.
"It was a great game, but I'm not going to coach, I'm going to be Dad right now," said Hunter, who fell off his seat and had to be helped up after R.J. made the second of two long 3-pointers that helped the Panthers advance. "This is my son. Proud of him. … I haven't been able to do that for three years."
Baylor (24-10), which got 18 points and 15 rebounds from reserve Taurean Prince, did not score after going up 56-44 on two free throws with 2:54 remaining.
Pesky Georgia State's full-court trapping defense forced three critical turnovers and Hunter scored nine straight points, including a 3 that brought chants of "R.J. 3, R.J. 3, R.J. 3" from Panthers fans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The junior guard's steal and layup trimmed Baylor's lead to 56-53, and he drained another NBA-range 3 for the win after the Bears' Kenny Chery missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have put the game away for the Bears.
"He just made a contested 3. There was nothing we could do about it. We did our job and he just made it," Chery said.
Baylor coach Scott Drew felt the first long 3 got Hunter going, and that the Georgia State star "showed his versatility in different ways" the rest of the way. He was disappointed with how the Bears handled the Panthers' press at the end.
Baylor finished with 21 turnovers.
"All year we've executed down the stretch," Drew said. "We've been a tough team, and I feel bad the way the last 5 minutes went."
When Prince's desperation heave from beyond halfcourt bounced off the backboard at the buzzer, Ron Hunter sat on his stool holding his head while R.J. and teammates mobbed one another in the middle of the court.
"I saw him cannonball off his chair," R.J. said. "I told him, they've got to get him a chair with a back or something because that wasn't going to work."
R.J. Hunter finished with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Ryann Green scored 11 points and Markus Crider had 10 for Georgia State, which will play Xavier or Mississippi on Saturday.
Ron and R.J. Hunter aren't the only feel-good story lines for the Panthers. Thursday marked Kevin Ware's return to the NCAA Tournament, two years after breaking his leg while playing for eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight.
With second-leading scorer Ryan Harrow sidelined by a hamstring injury that's slowed him the past two weeks, Ware started Thursday and scored four points.
Hunter vowed to stand as much as possible on the sideline, and that turned out to be not much at all. Instead he scooted about on a blue rolling chair, his bare toes extending out of the cast on his left foot.
With Harrow out and R.J. Hunter off to his slow start, Georgia State fell behind 16-6 before settling down and putting together a 13-3 run to get back in the game. Ware's open jumper gave the Panthers their first lead, 26-24, and Georgia State looked like it might go into the locker room ahead at halftime before Prince made two free throws and a 3-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out before hitting the backboard and falling through to put Baylor up 33-30.
Baylor seemingly took control with Royce O'Neale and Lester Medford making 3-pointers during a 12-1 burst that turned a one-point deficit into a 52-42 lead. Rico Gathers made two free throws to put the Bears up by 12, but they couldn't finish the job.
"These kids are so resilient. It's been like this all year," Ron Hunter said. "We kind of laugh because nothing's been given to us. … This group is just unbelievable. We never gave up."
Ohio State 75, VCU 72 (OT): In Portland, Oregon, D'Angelo Russell scored 28 points and rallied Ohio State from an early 12-point deficit as the 10th-seeded Buckeyes beat seventh-seeded VCU in overtime.
Russell regrouped from a blow that sent blood streaming down the left side of his face near the end of regulation, showing just why many believe he will be a top pick in this summer's NBA draft. He made 10 of 20 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and added six rebounds, two steals and two blocks to bring the Buckeyes (24-10) back in both halves and overtime.
Amir Williams added 13 points, and Jae'Sean Tate scored 12 to help Ohio State avoid a second straight one-and-done showing in the tournament.
The Atlantic 10 champion Rams (26-10) lost another heartbreaker in the first round as coach Shaka Smart's team struggled to consistently create the "havoc" that carried them to an improbable 2011 Final Four run.
North Carolina 67, Harvard 65: In Jacksonville, Florida, Justin Jackson hit a tying jumper in the final minute, and then had a fast-break dunk to help fourth-seeded North Carolina edge Harvard.
The Tar Heels (25-11) wasted a 16-point second-half lead and briefly trailed before Jackson came to the rescue.
Siyani Chambers' four-point play put 13th-seeded Harvard ahead 65-63 with 1:15 remaining. It was the only lead of the game for the Ivy League champions.
Jackson finished with 14 points and Marcus Paige had 10.
Chambers misfired on a pair of 3-pointers in the closing seconds, and the Crimson's final chance for victory — Wesley Saunders' shot from beyond the arc — bounced off the back of the rim.
Saunders led Harvard (22-8) with 26 points. Chambers had 13.
Xavier 76, Mississippi 57: In Jacksonville, Florida, Matt Stainbrook scored 20 points, Dee Davis added 17 and sixth-seeded Xavier beat No. 11 seed Mississippi.
Stainbrook took advantage of his size in the post, making 8 of 10 shots in the paint and adding nine rebounds and five assists.
Davis was nearly as good from the outside, hitting 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range. Coach Chris Mack pulled them to a rousing ovation with 1:51 remaining and the game in hand.
Xavier (22-13) advanced to face 14th-seeded Georgia State on Saturday.
Xavier's inside-out duo was considerably better than Mississippi's two-man guard tandem. Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers finished a combined 5 of 26 from the field. Moody led the Rebels (21-13) with 14 points.
Maybe they had dead legs. After all, the Rebels exerted significant energy in overcoming a 17-point deficit to beat BYU in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, about 43 hours earlier.
Arizona 93, Texas Southern 72: In Portland, Oregon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 23 points, 16 in the first half, along with 10 rebounds and second-seeded Arizona overwhelmed No. 15 seed Texas Southern from the start.
Pac-12 freshman of the year Stanley Johnson added 22 points for the balanced Wildcats (32-3), who led by as many as 27 points at Portland's Moda Center. Arizona goes on to meet the winner of Thursday's game between seventh-seeded VCU and No. 10 seed Ohio State.
Madarious Gibbs had 15 points for Texas Southern (22-13), which won an automatic bid as the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament and defeated Michigan State early this season in East Lansing. Gibbs, also the Tigers' top scorer during the regular season, was the SWAC Player of the year.
It was the 12th straight win for the Wildcats, who were coming off an 80-52 thrashing of Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game last weekend.
Arkansas 56, Wofford 53: At Jacksonville, Florida, Michael Qualls scored 20 points, Southeastern Conference player of the year Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and fifth-seeded Arkansas held off No. 12 seed Wofford.
The Razorbacks (27-8) escaped a back-and-forth game in the West Region that featured 18 lead changes, 10 ties and neither team ahead by more than five points.
Arkansas advanced to play fourth-seeded North Carolina on Saturday. The Tar Heels edged Ivy League champion Harvard earlier in the night.
Arkansas at times looked as though it might become the latest No. 5 seed to get upset in the NCAAs, but Wofford (28-7) missed three 3-pointers in the final minute-plus, helping the Razorbacks hang on.
Spencer Collins led the Terriers with 16 points and nine rebounds.