New York — The lucky beard that makes Thomas Walkup look as if he could be the Stephen F. Austin mascot is staying on for at least a couple more days. The Lumberjacks’ winning streak reached 21 on Friday night with the biggest victory in school history.
Walkup scored 33 and the 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin faced down West Virginia’s full-court press with its own in-your-face defense, pulling off a rugged, 70-56 first-round upset of the third-seeded Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lumberjacks (28-5) will look to extend the nation’s longest winning streak and reach the round of 16 for the first time in school history against sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday in the second round of the East Region.
The beard Walkup started growing in November is safe.
“We’ve been winning so I kept it for that reason,” he said.
The Mountaineers (26-9) and Lumberjacks played physical, chest-to-chest defense, contesting not just every shot, but every pass. Neither team shot better than 31 percent from the field.
Walkup, the two-time Southland Conference player of the year, took it to the teeth of West Virginia’s D and went to the line 20 times. He made 19, including two to make it 60-47 with 5:15 left in the second after West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’ griping to officials drew a technical.
“When you don’t prepare the right way, not individually, but as a team, if we’re not dialed in as a team, that’s what happens,” West Virginia’s Devin Williams said.
Walkup said he could tell by the way West Virginia was talking in the media leading up to the game that the Mountaineers underestimated the Lumberjacks.
“We’re a smallish school, a mid-major school. They had never head of us,” Walkup said. “I’ve watched them play many times just on my own. They haven’t had that luxury. They know us now. Probably something that they won’t take for granted again.”
When Clide Geffard slammed home an alley-oop to make it 66-54 with 2:40 left, the Lumberjacks’ purple-clad supporters roared, knowing all that was left was the celebration.
Walkup followed with a 3 for good measure.
“It felt incredible. To do that for the team, for the city of Nacogdoches, for the school, for everyone that supported us,” the senior said.
West Virginia came in leading the nation in steals per game at just under 10. Press Virginia, the Mountaineers call it, but they met their match in Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks lead the nation in turnovers forced at nearly 19 per game, though they do it more with half-court traps and tight man-to-man. They turned over West Virginia 22 times and gave the ball away just seven times.
“I don’t know why anybody would waste energy pressing us,” Huggins said. “We’ll throw it to you regardless. That would be a waste of energy really. We’re very charitable. We’re one of the most charitable groups in college basketball. The second straight game we’ve turned it over 20 times.”
The Lumberjacks said they weren’t flustered by West Virginia’s frenetic defense and intensity because they play that way, too.
“It was like a practice out there,” SFA guard Jared Johnson said.
The Mountaineers from the Big 12 became the only No. 3 seed to be eliminated in the first round and joined No. 2 seed Michigan State and No. 4 seed California as Friday’s biggest surprise losers.
This is the third straight season Stephen F. Austin has reached the tournament under coach Brad Underwood and the Lumberjacks’ second tournament victory, but there was no doubt that this victory was their greatest achievement.
“I thought that our players … fought and competed and were just as good as them, and we had the best player on the court tonight,” said Underwood said.
No. 2 Xavier 71, No. 15 Weber State 53: James Farr had 18 points and 15 rebounds, fellow big man Jalen Reynolds added 12 points and Xavier pulled away late from pesky Weber State.
Remy Abell added 11 points and Trevon Bluiett had 10 for the Musketeers (28-5), who never trailed the Big Sky Tournament champs in advancing to play seventh-seeded Wisconsin for a spot in the Sweet 16.
Weber State (26-9) was within 54-47 midway through the second half when Farr and Reynolds, both of them heftier than anybody on the Wildcats’ bench, began to impose their will. The managed to power right through Weber State’s back line for easy buckets, allowing the Musketeers to slowly draw away.
Joel Bolomboy finished with 14 points and McKay Cannon 10 for the Wildcats.
No. 7 Wisconsin 47, No. 10 Pittsburgh 43: Ethan Happ had 15 points and nine rebounds, none bigger than one he pulled down in the closing seconds, as Wisconsin defeated Pittsburgh.
Nigel Hayes had 12 points and Vitto Brown scored 11 for the Badgers (21-12), who advanced despite an awful shooting night. Hayes was just 3 for 17 from the field, Bronson Koenig failed to hit a 3-pointer for the first time in 44 games and the Badgers finished 4 of 19 from beyond the arc.
It was the fewest points scored by the winning team in an NCAA Tournament game since Butler beat Mississippi State 47-46 in 2003, according to STATS, but it was still enough to knock off the equally cold-shooting Panthers.
Jamel Artis had 13 points to lead Pittsburgh (21-12), which started the season 14-1 before struggling when it hit ACC play. Leading scorer Michael Young was held to six points and five rebounds.
No. 2 Villanova 86, No. 15 UNC-Asheville 56: Ryan Arcidiacono scored 14, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first half, and Daniel Ochefu had 17 points inside as Villanova beat UNC Asheville to roll into the second round of the Tournament.
The Wildcats (30-5) will face seventh-seeded Iowa and are looking to reach the second weekend of the Tournament for the first time since their 2009 Final Four run.
Dylan Smith led UNC Asheville (22-12) with 14 points as the Big South champions bowed out quietly.
Kris Jenkins scored 12 and Jalen Brunson had 10 points for the Villanova, which spent three weeks at No. 1 this season but is under pressure to return to the Sweet 16.
No. 5 Maryland 79, No. 12 South Dakota State 74: Maryland needed a turnover in the closing seconds to ensure it would avoid a place with all the other top seeds that lost in the first round of this topsy-turvy Tournament, holding off South Dakota State behind a career-high 27 points from Jake Layman.
Deondre Parks fumbled a pass from Keaton Moffitt for the 12th-seeded Jackrabbits (26-8) and Rasheed Sulaimon picked up the ball and stuffed it for the final score. South Dakota State was seeking its first victory in the Tournament, but was undone by cold shooting in the first half.
Melo Trimble added 19 points and Jared Nickens 14 for Maryland (26-8), which made 51 percent of its shots, including nine 3-pointers.
Parks scored 22 for the Jackrabbits.
No. 7 Iowa 72, No. 10 Temple 70 (OT): Adam Woodberry put back a missed shot at the overtime buzzer to lift Iowa past Temple.
With the game tied at 70, Mike Gesell worked his way to the baseline and put up about a 10-foot jumper that missed the rim and went right to Woodberry, who put it in as the red lights around the backboard lit up.
The Hawkeyes (22-10) got the chance at the game-winner when Daniel Dingle of Temple, who played just 6 minutes and was in the game because Devin Coleman had fouled out a minute earlier, missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Jarrod Uthoff led Iowa with 23 points, while Peter Jok had 16 and Woodberry finished with 10.
Quenton DeCosey, who made three free throws with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, had 26 points for the Owls (21-12).
No. 13 Hawaii 77, No. 4 California 66: Hawaii won its first Tournament game in school history, when the Warriors ended California’s tumultuous week with a upset victory.
The Golden Bears’ played without popular assistant coach Yann Hufnagel, dismissed amid allegations of sexual harassment, and the loss of leading scorer Tyrone Wallace, who broke his hand Wednesday in practice. As if the Bears (23-11) needed more obstacles, guard Jabari Bird had back spasms during warmups and never played.
Quincy Smith scored a career-high 19 points, Roderick Bobbitt had 17 points and Stefan Jankovic 16 for the champions of the Big West Conference regular season and tournament. Hawaii (28-5) used a strong first half from Jankovic to lead by as many as 11, then withstood Jankovic’s foul trouble in the second half thanks largely to Smith.
Smith scored 11 in the second half and keyed Hawaii’s surge midway through after California had pulled within one.
Jordan Mathews led California with 23 points.
No. 1 Oregon 91, No. 16 Holy Cross 58: Carrying the marquee for the underachieving Pac-12, Oregon showed no nerves playing as a top seed and rolled past Holy Cross.
Chris Boucher led Oregon (29-6) with 20 points , while Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook both added 11 points as the Ducks won their ninth straight and advanced to the round of 32 for the fourth straight season.
With nearly all of the Pac-12 making a quick exit out of the Tournament, the Ducks used their overwhelming athleticism to quickly build a double-digit lead and never allowed the Crusaders to sniff a potential 16-seed upset. Boucher slammed a trio of lob dunks in the first 12 minutes and the expected blowout quickly developed.
Robert Champion led Holy Cross (15-20) with 22 points off the bench.
No. 2 Oklahoma 82, No. 15 Cal State-Bakersfield 68: Senior guard Buddy Hield scored 27 on 8-for-12 shooting, including 3 of 6 3-pointer, to lead Oklahoma.
Isaiah Cousins scored 16 and Jordan Woodard added 15 for the Sooners (26-7), who made 11 of 20 3-pointers and shot 50 percent overall.
Oklahoma enjoyed a homecourt advantage at Chesapeake Energy Arena, just a half hour’s drive north of their Norman campus.
Aly Ahmed had 16 points and eight rebounds, Kevin Mays had 14 points and eight rebounds and Dedrick Basile added 13 points for Bakersfield (24-9), the Western Athletic Conference Tournament champions.
The Sooners won, despite making just 15 of 25 free throws.
No. 3 Texas A&M 92, No. 14 Green Bay 65: Danuel House scored 20 as Texas A&M pulled away in the second half to win its first Tournament game since 2010.
The Aggies (27-8) trailed by as many as eight points in the first half before using a 26-9 first-half run to take control on the way to a comfortable victory.
House was 8 of 12 from the field and hit a pair of 3-pointers for Texas A&M, which shot 56.1 percent (32-of-57) in the win.
Khalil Small scored a career-high 22 to lead the Horizon League Tournament champion Phoenix (23-13), who were making their first tournament appearance in 20 years, while Jamar Hurdle added 11 in the loss.
No. 8 Saint Joseph's 78, No. 9 Cincinnati 76: Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli will take the victory over Cincinnati. He just wishes it had ended a little differently.
Isaiah Miles sank a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left to lift Saint Joseph's to the win after officials waved off a Cincinnati basket at the buzzer. Octavius Ellis appeared to tie the game with his two-handed dunk as time expired, but officials after a lengthy review determined that the shot came too late.
"In a small way I wish it hadn't ended like that," Martelli said. "I wish it would have ended with Isaiah making the 3 and us getting a stop. From what I could see it was the right call."
DeAndre Bembry scored 20 of his 23 points in the first half and Miles finished with 19 to lead Saint Joseph's (28-7). Jacob Evans scored 26 points for Cincinnati.
No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth 75, No. 7 Oregon State 67: JeQuan Lewis had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead Virginia Commonwealth its first Tournament win since 2013.
The tournament appearance is the sixth straight for VCU (25-10), and the experience showed as the Rams led by eight points at halftime and held off a charge by the Beavers in the second half.
Mo Alie-Cox added 20 points and was 7 of 8 from the field in the win, while Melvin Johnson also finished in double figures with 12 points.
Gary Payton II scored 19 points to lead the Beavers (19-13), who were making their first tournament appearance in 26 years, while Derrick Bruce finished with 15 and Drew Eubanks 13.
No. 11 Northern Iowa 75, No. 6 Texas 72: Paul Jesperson banked in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to lift Northern Iowa to a thrilling victory.
Northern Iowa passed the ball in under its basket after Isaiah Taylor tied the game on a layup with 2.7 seconds to play. Jesperson caught the ball, took a few dribbles and heaved.
Wes Washpun scored 17, Jeremy Morgan 16 and Jesperson 14 for the Panthers (23-12), who claimed their fifth Tournament win in school history.
Taylor scored 22, Eric Davis Jr. 13 and Javan Felix 12 for the Longhorns (20-13).
Jesperson’s shot came in the same building where Golden State’s Stephen Curry hit a dramatic game-winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder last month.
No. 10 Syracuse 70, No. 7 Dayton 51: Malachi Richardson scored 21 as Syracuse stumped Dayton with its trademark zone and rolled victory in its return to the Tournament.
Tyler Roberson added 10 points and 18 rebounds for Syracuse (19-13), which was banned from the field last season following an NCAA investigation into academic misconduct and improper benefits.
The Orange looked back at home in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
Tyler Lydon had 14 points, Trevor Cooney had 13 and Michael Gbinije added 10 as Syracuse advanced to play No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State on Sunday.
Charles Cooke led the Flyers (25-8) with 14 points, but he was just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc, as the regular-season Atlantic 10 champions shot 32 percent from the field.