A tough draw, not only is Mount St. Mary’s looking to become the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1, they have the unenviable task of facing a defending champion more than capable of a repeat.
It was just one point that gave the Mount a win in what’s considered a play-in game into the NCAA tournament.
Those big plays came in the game’s pivotal moments, as New Orleans clawed back to take a one point lead late in the seesaw battle.
While this year’s Privateers are champions of both the Southland Conference regular season and the conference tourney, not since 1987 has UNO won a NCAA Tournament game.
The Mountaineers are 0-6 SU against tournament qualifiers West Virginia, Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas and Bucknell, losing those games by an average of 19 points.
While the “Cats lack a game-changing presence up front, their lack of size – only one player taller than 6’7 averaged more than six minutes per game this season – has yet to be their Achilles” heel.
And No. 11 and No. 12 seeds were the surprises of last year’s tournament, with those lower seeds winning outright in five of eight Round of 64 matchups.
Mount Saint Mary’s will take on number one seeded Villanova in Buffalo, New York on Thursday. The Mountaineers responded again, with a 3-pointer from Alexander and a three-point play from Robinson, and extended their lead to 49-43. As they get their postseason underway on the big stage, I think the Wildcats will step it up here.
“I know a couple of players on that team, so yeah, I was definitely tuned in”, said Mount St. Mary’s sophomore guard Elijah Long.
UNO had the ball inbounds under the Mountaineers’ basket with 2.6 seconds left but Erik Thomas’ inbounds pass sailed over Michael Zeno’s hands and was picked off by Chris Wray to seal the victory. Mount St. Mary’s is 82-80 (55-33 in NEC play) under Christian, who was a three-year captain at the school as a player before he graduated in 2004. Neither player is likely to see the floor Thursday, but they’re part of a team that heavily recruits the mid-Atlantic, an area long dominated by coach Jay Wright’s Wildcats. “It’s for the city, the program, the university, it’s for everyone in New Orleans who has been in New Orleans”.
“I feel like me and Eli are the best backcourt”, he said.
“There’s just an excitement in the air”, said student Michael Carolan. I thought it was in the best interest of our team moving forward for the half. “We’ve got to pick up speed and keep building off what we did this year and I, personally, would say I’m proud of what we accomplished as well”.
After Gill made it 67-66 with 34.2, UNO declined to foul and Wilson missed a drive to the basket, leaving only 2.6 seconds on the clock.