HARTFORD, Conn. — The game was in hand for Murray State and sensational point guard Ja Morant, who dominated Marquette in every way. With a chance to make some NCAA Tournament history, Morant’s coach told him to hit the boards and grab the rebound that would push him to an elusive triple-double.
Morant went up for a missed shot, snatched the ball away from an eager teammate, and that was it. Murray State fans began chanting “Tri-ple dou-ble!” to celebrate an upset in the first round of the West Region.
Morant seized the moment on college basketball’s big stage, slicing through Marquette with 16 assists, 17 points and 11 rebounds as Murray State trounced the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles 83-64 on Thursday.
The triple-double was the ninth in the tournament since the NCAA started tracking them in 1987 and first since 2012. Murray State (28-4) continued a trend of 12 seeds beating 5s in March. It has happened every year but three since 2001, but this looked nothing like an upset. The Racers have won 12 consecutive games, including the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. “They’d be good without him, but with him, they’re pretty unique,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said.
Auburn 78, New Mexico St. 77: SALT LAKE CITY — After a teammate passed up an open layup that could have tied the game, New Mexico State’s Terrell Brown was fouled behind the arc and missed two of three free throws as the Aggies dropped a heartbreaker to fifth-seeded Auburn.
Maryland 79, Belmont 77: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Maryland’s Eric Ayala deflected a pass to set up a steal by Darryl Morsell that stopped Belmont’s last-second attempt at an upset and the Terrapins escaped with a victory.
Florida 70, Nevada 61: DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida nearly squandered a double-digit lead before finally stopping a Nevada comeback and pulling off the upset.
Villanova 61, Saint Mary’s 57: HARTFORD, Conn. — Phil Booth scored 20 points and defending NCAA Tournament champion Villanova held off Saint Mary’s in a hard-fought win. Fellow senior Eric Paschell added 14 points for the sixth-seeded Wildcats, who led for almost 33 minutes, but never by more than eight points.
Wofford 84, Seton Hall 68: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Fletcher Magee set the Division I career record for 3-pointers, poured in 24 points and led seventh-seeded Wofford to a victory over Seton Hall. Magee hit seven treys against the No. 10 seed Pirates to help the Terriers to their first tournament win in five tries. Wofford also won its 21st consecutive game overall.