NCAA Tournament recap: Round 1, Day 1

March Madness got off to a great start on Thursday with an exciting opening slate of games

Jon Simon
March 22, 2019 - 2:28 am

Photo: David Butler II - USA TODAY Sports


The first day of March Madness lived up to its name on Thursday afternoon as the NCAA Tournament officially began with an action-packed 16-game slate.

We saw a number of double-digit seeds advance, a few top-seeded teams get put on upset alert, and a few drubbings as well. There was also triple-double in the tournament for the first time in seven years, and a new record-holder for for career three-pointers. The first day of Round 1 had all a college basketball fan could truly ask for.

If missed anything and wanted to catch up, or take a look back, here's a recap of Thursday’s games:


East Region:

(2) Michigan State – 76, (15) Bradley – 65:

The 15-seed Bradley Braves had the second-seeded Spartans on upset alert for roughly 37 minutes on Thursday afternoon. The Braves came out in the first half and hit Michigan State with a gut punch, going 6-for-9 from three and led the Spartans 35-34 at the midway point. After a Bradley opened the second half on a 4-0 run, Michigan State finally woke up and went on 14-2 run over the following 4:30 to go up 48-41 with 13:30 to go. Bradley would get back in the game and eventually take the lead again. Michigan State trailed 55-54 with 7:00 left; the Spartans proceeded to go on a 9-0 run and led by eight with 2:45 to go. Bradley cut the Michigan State lead down to five in the final two minutes, but clutch defense and free throw shooting sealed the victory for the Big Ten champions as they pulled ahead down the stretch. Cassius Winston lived up to they hype he’s generated as the Big Ten Player of the Year. The junior led the Spartans with 26 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Sophomore Xavier Tillman had a huge second half, scoring 14 his 16 points in the final 20 minutes. Tillman also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, with eight of them coming in the second half. The Spartans will take on 10-seed Minnesota in the Round of 32 on Saturday.

(10) Minnesota – 86, (7) Louisville – 76:

It was only fitting that the first game of the tournament ended with a double-digit seed getting a win. The 10-seed Gophers led by five at halftime and used a 16-5 run early in the second half to take a convincing 59-43 lead with 11:51 to go. Minnesota stayed ahead by double-digits for most of the way following the run. Louisville cut the Gophers' lead to seven with 2:05 left, but wouldn’t get any closer. Gabe Kalscheur had a great day shooting the ball for Minnesota, finishing with 24 points and going 5-for-11 from three. All-Big Ten second team forward Jordan Murphy went down with a back injury midway through the second half and sat out for a good stretch, but came back and finished the game strong, scoring 18 points and pulling down six rebounds. The win over the Cardinals may have been a bit sweeter for Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, as his father, Rick, once coached at Louisville and had a rocky departure.

(3) LSU – 79, (14) Yale – 74:

Before Bradley shocked Michigan State with a possible bracket-busting upset, 14-seed Yale gave the three-seed LSU Tigers quite a scare as well. There were some who questioned LSU heading into the tournament, considering they’re playing without their suspended head coach Will Wade. However, the Tigers played a great first half and took a commanding 45-29 lead into the locker room. LSU led by as much as 18 in the second half, but Yale climbed back into the game possession-by-possession and found themselves down just 65-60 with 2:35 to play. The Bulldogs never took the lead during the second half, despite the impressive fight. The closest Yale got was 77-74 with nine-seconds left. The Bulldogs were abysmal from behind the arc most of the afternoon, but in the final minute, Yale hit three-pointers when they needed them most. The Bulldogs finished the game 8-for-37 from three, but hit four in the final minute to keep the score close. LSU had to sweat it out as the Bulldogs showed no quit until the final buzzer. The Tigers will now prepare for six-seed Maryland, who they’ll battle on Saturday for a trip to the Sweet 16.

(6) Maryland – 79, (11) Belmont – 77:

The 11-seed Bruins came close to winning their second tournament game in three days, but fell just short to six-seed Maryland. Belmont led the Terrapins 40-34 at halftime, but Maryland opened the second half on a 14-0 run to get back into the game. The rest of the second half became a dogfight, as neither team led by more than six points in the last 6:30. The game came down to the last possession, as Belmont held the ball for the last shot, down 78-77 with 30-seconds to go. With four-seconds left, Belmont’s Grayson Murphy attempted to hit a cutting teammate with a pass in the lane, it got tipped by Maryland defender and Darryl Morsell ended up with the steal for the Terps. Morsell hit one of two free throws after being fouled; giving Belmont a chance to win with a Hail Mary-shot at the buzzer, but the attempt didn’t come close. Maryland and LSU will be an interesting matchup in the rRound of 32.


West Region:

(4) Florida State – 76, (13) Vermont – 69:

The trend of double-digit seeds giving their opponents a major scare continued in this first-round matchup from Hartford, Connecticut. The 13-seed Catamounts hung with the four-seed Seminoles for the majority of the contest and even led 40-37 with 14:00 to go. Florida State would go back in front 46-45 with 10:15 to go and would not lose their lead the rest of the way. Florida State stretched their lead to as much as 12 in the final two minutes, but similar to Yale against LSU, Vermont showed no quit until the game clock hit zero. A pair of Vermont three’s in a 10-second span cut the Seminoles’ lead to 74-67 with 28 seconds to go, but nothing big would transpire from there as Florida State held on to advance to the second round for a third-straight season.

(12) Murray State – 83, (5) Marquette – 64:  

This was one of the more intriguing first round matchups when the bracket was released. Marquette came in as a five-seed with a lot of potential to be upset, having lost five of their last six games before Thursday, while 12-seed Murray State seemed to be a popular double-digit seed pick amongst the public. Two of the best players in college basketball were also featured in this game. Marquette’s Markus Howard was this year’s Big East Player of the Year. On the other side, Murray State’s Ja Morant has become social-media star with highlight-reel dunks and is a projected top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Racers jumped out to a 20-10 lead 7:00 into the game and set the tone early. Marquette never led after the 16:42 mark in the first half and were lucky to only trail by seven at halftime. The Racers came sprinting out of the gates to start second half and led 53-40 with 16:15 to play and wouldn’t look back from there. Murray State led by as much as 22 in the second half, completely drubbing the Golden Eagles and making it look easy. Morant had one of the more historic first-round performances in recent memory. The guard finished the game with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds, earning him the 17th triple-double in NCAA tournament history. It was the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since Draymond Green had one for Michigan State in 2012. Morant became the first guard to record a triple-double in the tournament since Dwayne Wade recorded 29 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds for Marquette (ironically) in 2003 against Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Morant also finished with 55 points created, the most in the NCAA tournament in the last 10 years. Howard shot a poor 9-for-27 from the field, but still finished with 26 points for Marquette. Murray State will face Florida State in the Round of 32 on Saturday.

(10) Florida – 70, (7) Nevada – 61:

The Florida Gators became the second 10-seed and third double-digit seeded team to advance to the round of 32 on Thursday with a hard-fought win over the seven-seed Nevada Wolf Pack. The SEC’s top-rated defense held Nevada to almost 20 points below their regular season average (80.7 ppg). The Gators led by nine at halftime and stretched their lead out to as much as 18 with a 12-0 run in the second half. Nevada went on a run of their own to cut the deficit to single-digits, thanks to a full-court press that rattled the Florida offense. A Caleb Martin steal and dunk made it a seven-point game with just under seven minutes to play. Nevada narrowed the score to 63-61 with 2:02 to go after a pair of made free throws from Martin, but that was as close as the comeback would get them. The Gators locked down it down defensively in the final two minutes and ended the game on a 7-0 run, putting down the Wolf Pack and advancing to the Round of 32.

(2) Michigan – 74, (15) Montana – 55:

The second-seeded Wolverines had a relatively easy time taking care of the 15-seed Grizzlies late Thursday evening. Michigan led 34-21 at halftime and went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to go up 44-26 with 16:00 to go. The Wolverines led by as much as 27 in the second half. Charles Matthews finished the game with a double-double, leading the Wolverines with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Ignas Brazdeikis finished with 14 points and seven assists. Zavier Simpson was the only starter to not finish in double figures, but he had a team-high 10 assists along with seven rebounds. With the victory Michigan advances to the Round of 32 for a third-straight year. They’ll face 10-seed Florida on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.

(1) Gonzaga – 87, (16) Fairleigh Dickinson – 49:

The there were some discussions following the bracket unveiling on whether the Gonzaga still deserved a one-seed despite losing to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament final last week. On Thursday, the Bulldogs sure looked like a top seed, disposing of the 16-seeded Knights from Fairleigh Dickinson in dominating fashion. The Bulldogs led by 20 points midway through the opening period and were up 53-17 at halftime. The Knights shot 30-percent from the field and finished just 6-of-21 from three. Rui Hachimura led Gonzaga with 21 points and tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight. The Bulldogs will face nine-seed Baylor in the Round of 32 on Saturday. 

(9) Baylor – 78, (8) Syracuse – 69:

On Wednesday afternoon it was announce the eight-seed Syracuse Orange would be without guard Frank Howard for their first round matchup against nine-seed Baylor. While Howard wasn’t the team’s top scorer this season, he is a senior and not having the upperclassmen may have brought the Orange down on Thursday night. The Bears shot right through the famed Syracuse 2-3 zone, hitting six three-pointers in the first six minutes of the game. Baylor finished with 16 three-pointers and shot 54-percent from the field in the nine-point win. The Bears and Orange combined for 28 total three-pointers, the most ever in a non-overtime NCAA tournament game. Makai Mason led the Bears with 22 points to go with four assists and rebounds. Elijah Hughes led the Orange with a game-high 25 points, shooting 7-for-15 from three. Baylor snapped a four-game losing streak with the win late Thursday night.


South Region:

(6) Villanova – 61, (11) Saint Mary’s – 57:

The defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats have a completely different image coming into this year’s tournament. Last season, Jay Wright’s crew included National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Final Four MVP Donte DiVincenzo, who are now both playing in the NBA. Seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth played key roles on Nova’s championship-winning team last season, but also had big shoes to fill this year. Booth put up a team-high 20 points and six assists on Thursday on 7-of-13 shooting. Paschall finished second in scoring with 14 points to go along with six rebounds. Villanova led for 33 minutes but were never ahead by more than eight points. The 11-seeded Gales played a slow tempo that limited the scoring; neither team scored more than 33 points in a half. Saint Mary’s was able to pull within three points. Jermaine Samuels provided the dagger for Villanova with a dunk that put the Wildcats up 61-53 with 1:03 to go.  Nova is now 14-1 in their last 15 NCAA tournament games. 

(3) Purdue – 61, (14) Old Dominion – 48:

The three-seed Boilermakers ended the first half on an 11-0 run to take a 32-19 lead over the 14-seed Monarchs, who failed to score a point over the last 6:17 of the opening period, into the locker room. The regular season Big Ten co-champions continued to roll at the start of the second half, going up 17 with 16:50 to go following a rare three from big-man Matt Haarms. Purdue maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the second half. Old Dominion got within nine, trailing 55-46 with 4:26 left on the clock but would fail to score over the next four minutes. Ahmad Caver scored with 12-seconds left to break the drought, but Purdue had sealed the victory minutes before. Junior guard Carsen Edwards led the Boilermakers with 26 points and seven rebounds. Haarms was the only other Purdue player to finish in double figures, scoring 13 points along with four rebounds and two blocks. Purdue will face the six-seed Villanova Wildcats, last year’s champions, on Saturday.


Midwest Region:

(4) Kansas – 87, (13) Northeastern – 53: 

It was a bit ironic that the four-seed Jayhawks were the first team in this year’s tournament to win a game via blowout. For the first time in 15 years, Kansas came into the tournament without a Big 12 championship. The Jayhawks were written off by a lot of experts due to their troubles in conference play during this year; but the postseason must’ve given them new life, as they were the first team on Thursday to be the better team from start to finish. Kansas held a 12-point lead at halftime and out-scored the Huskies 50-28 in the second half en route to the 34-point victory. Junior forward Dedric Lawson led all scorers with 25 points and added 11 rebounds.

(5) Auburn – 78, (12) New Mexico State – 77:

This matchup between the five-seed Tigers and 12-seed Aggies wasn’t exactly wire-to-wire from the opening tip-off all the way to the final buzzer, but it did have one of the more thrilling finishes out of all the games from Day 1. Auburn led 32-29 at halftime and jumped out to a 12-point lead just 3:00 into the second half. The underdogs from New Mexico State, however, were able to hang around without letting Auburn blow the game open. The Aggies were down by as much as 13 points with 7:10 to go, but managed to cut the Auburn lead down to one, trailing 77-76 with eight-seconds left on the clock following a three from Jo Jo Zamora. New Mexico fouled right away to send Auburn’s Samir Doughty to the free throw line. Doughty missed his first free throw but made the second, giving the Tigers a 78-76 lead with six seconds to go. A.J. Harris took the inbound pass, bolted up the court and found a huge open lane right to the basket. The junior had plenty of time and space to go right to the hoop and tie the game with a layup; but, Harris opted to swing the ball out to Terrell Brown, who spotted-up from behind the arc for the game-winner. Brown missed the shot, but got fouled and went to the line for three shots with 1.7-seconds remaining. Harris’ decision to pass up an easy basket to go for the win was an unexpected one. Auburn’s Bryce Brown committed the foul because he was late closing out on the open shooter, who he didn’t think was going to get the ball when Harris had the open lane to the basket. Brown missed his first free throw but made the second attempt, making his last shot the most important one. Brown’s third shot bounced around the rim and out, but the Aggies were given one more chance as Auburn knocked the ball out of bounds with 1.1-seconds left. Trevelin Queen got a pretty good look from the corner off the baseline inbound but shot an air ball. As the buzzer sounded, the Tigers could exhale, as they move on to the second round to face Kansas on Saturday.

(2) Kentucky – 79, (15) Abilene Christian – 44:

It was a pretty one-sided fight in the matchup of the Wildcats as Kentucky dominated Abilene Christian from the opening tip. Kentucky jumped out to an 18-3 lead just eight minutes into the game and led 39-13 at halftime, holding the 15-seed Wildcats to just 5-of-26 shooting from the field. The second-seeded Wildcats’ dominant win was an impressive one, considering P.J. Washington, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, was on the sidelines in a cast. Keldon Johnson led Kentucky with 25 points while E.J. Montgomery grabbed 11 rebounds in 23 minutes.

(7) Wofford – 84, (10) Seton Hall – 68:

It was a historic night for the seven-seed Wofford Terriers on Thursday, who defeated 10-seed Seton Hall for their first NCAA Tournament win in school history. Going into the matchup with the Pirates, Wofford was the highest-seeded team from the Southern Conference in the league’s history. With the win, the Terriers extend their program-record win-streak to 21 games and earn a shot at two-seed Kentucky in the Round of 32. Wofford’s Fletcher Magee finished with 24 points and set the NCAA record for career three-pointers (509), shooting 7-for-14 from behind the arc on Thursday. Wofford led 40-30 at halftime and were up 12 at one point in the second half but found themselves down 54-53 with 11:00 to go. Myles Powell led Seton Hall with a game-high 27 points, scoring 23 of them in the second half. Following a made free throw from Powell that cut the Pirates’ deficit to one, Wofford’s Nathan Hoover drilled a three to put the Terriers up 70-66 with 4:20 left in the game. Hoover finished the game with 18 points and shot 4-for-7 from three. Hoover’s three was the start of a 17-0 run that put the game out of reach. Seton Hall went scoreless for over four minutes down the stretch before Romaro Gill threw down a garbage time dunk in the final 30 seconds. Wofford appeared to gain a lot of confidence in the dominant win. Kentucky will be without P.J. Washington again on Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see if the Terriers can give the Wildcats a game.

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