The 2023 NCAA Tournament got started Tuesday night with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Pittsburgh picking up victories.
TAMU-CC held on for a 75-71 win over Southeast Missouri State while Pitt outlasted Mississippi State in a 60-59 thriller.
Here are five things to know about the games:
1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earned the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
The triumph was especially sweet after they lost the opening game of last year’s tourney to Texas Southern.
“We had a great group of guys come back,” said TAMU-CC’s Jalen Jackson, who broke a 64-all tie with under three minutes to go and finished with a team-high 22 points. “We lost three players last year, but we had a good group of guys come back. And we all set out to make history, first by winning conference, then winning the conference tournament, and winning some games in the March Madness tournament. To be in this moment right now, it’s amazing.”
2. The Islanders won the game at the free throw line.
TAMU-CC was in the double bonus for more than 11 minutes in the second half, and they made it count by making 21 of 27 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
For the game, Jackson went 14 for 18 himself, eclipsing the total for SEMO (9 for 20).
“That’s probably a first,” he said with a smile. “I can’t think of any high school or middle school or game where I’ve done that.”
3. Pittsburgh and Mississippi State traded the lead 21 times in their game.
The nightcap was tied nine times, and neither team led by more than six, but most of it was played in the one-possession range.
That’s how it ended, too, with Jamarius Burton hitting a go-ahead, mid-range jumper with 10 seconds left after the teams traded 7-0 runs in the final five minutes.
Pitt won despite being outrebounded 49-28 and shooting only 38.9 percent from the field, but coach Jeff Capel’s squad held MSU to 38.1 percent shooting.
4. The Panthers made one last defensive stand to pull out the win.
The Bulldogs had three chances to reclaim the lead, but Pitt big man Guillermo Dias Graham swatted MSU star center Tolu Smith’s shot out of bounds with 2.7 seconds left, Shakeel Moore missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner off the in-bound pass, and D.J. Jefferies put-back attempt was off the mark as time expired.
Nelly Smith led Pitt with 15 points while Greg Elliott had 13, Blake Hinson scored 12 and Miami transfer Nike Sibande pitched in 11 for Pitt.
Dashawn Davis led Mississippi State with 15 points while Moore had 14 and Smith had 13.
5. Next up for the Islanders is a date with No. 1 Alabama while the Panthers are set to take on No. 6 seed Iowa State in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday.
The Crimson Tide figure to have a decided home crowd advantage playing in Birmingham.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Islanders coach Steve Lutz said. “Obviously it’s going to be in their favor. It is what it is, but those fans don’t make 3s or free throws or layups, right? So you still have to go into the game and play the way you know how to play.”
Texas Southern vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 6:40 p.m.
Arizona State vs. Nevada, 9:40 p.m.
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