Spokane, WA – It was a great atmosphere for the four NCAA tournament first round games played today at the Spokane Memorial Arena. The venue is smaller and more intimate than most venues for the NCAA tournament, seating slightly more than 12,000. To the delight of most of the crowd, the day featured an upset in the opening game as No. 13 seed Hawaii took care of No. 4 seed California 77-66.
The Golden Bears were missing Tyrone Wallace (broken hand) and Jabari Bird (illness). They were also plagued by foul trouble as freshman sensation Jaylen Brown and replacement point guard Sam Singer both fouled out. Brown was particularly ineffective scoring only four points on 1-of-6 shooting and committing seven turnovers in his limited 17 minutes of action. Jordan Matthews did his best to keep California in the game scoring a game-high 23 points. Hawaii won the game despite being outrebounded 12-2 on the offensive boards. They made up for that by shooting over 50 percent from the field and a solid 20-of-25 from the charity stripe. 6-1 senior guard Quincy Smith led the winners with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The second game of the afternoon session was also a thriller as No. 5 seed Maryland withstood a late South Dakota State surge to escape with a 79-74 win. The Terrapins had an 18-point lead with 14 minutes to play before the Jackrabbits made their comeback, cutting the lead to two points in the final minute. Maryland helped get South Dakota State close by committing two fouls on three-point attempts in the final minute, one of which fouled out point guard Melo Trimble. 6-1 senior guard Deondre Parks led the Jackrabbits with 22 points, making all three of his attempts from long distance and shooting 7-of-9 overall. 6-9 senior Jake Layman played perhaps his best game of the season for the Terrapins, with a game-high 27 points, hitting 5-of-8 from long distance. Trimble was solid also, minus his silly foul, with 19 points. Maryland will face Hawaii on Sunday.
The Oregon Ducks have been playing as well as anyone in the country the last few weeks and they showed no mercy in destroying an overmatched Holy Cross team 91-52, in the first game of the evening session. The game was never in doubt with the Ducks taking an 18-point lead into halftime. Oregon had a +18 advantage on the boards, shot 56 percent from the field and only committed seven turnovers. 6-10 Chris Boucher celebrated the NCAA’s approval of his appeal for an additional year of eligibility with 20 points including four exciting dunks, three on lob passes. 6-6 senior Elgin Cook added a double-double for the Ducks with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The nightcap featured what appeared to be an evenly matched contest between No. 8 seed St. Joseph’s and No. 9 seed Cincinnati. The first half went back-and-forth as St. Joseph’s took a 41-40 lead into halftime. 6-7 Deandre’ Bembry, one of the most underrated players in the county was outstanding with 20 points at the break, hitting all three of his three-pointers. The Hawks took a 61-51 lead but the Bearcats battled back and made this one of the more memorable contests of the first round. Cincinnati pulled even at 66 on a three-pointer by Jacob Evans (26 points, nine rebounds) and took a 71-68 lead on another three-pointer from Evans. St. Joseph’s then scored the next seven points, taking the lead on a layup by Isaiah Miles and extended the lead to 75-71 on a three-pointer from Aaron Brown. Farad Cobb’s three-pointer narrowed the lead to one and an Evans dunk with 16 seconds remaining gave the Bearcats a 76-75 lead. With nine seconds remaining Miles hit a shot from long distance to put the Hawks in front 78-76.
Cincinnati then rushed down court and appeared to tie the game on a last-second dunk by Octavious Ellis. However after a video review the officials determined that the ball was on Ellis’s fingertips as time expired. The shot was disallowed and St. Joseph’s escaped with the win. The Hawks reward will be a contest against No. 1 seed Oregon on Sunday evening. Bembry led the winners with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks, The game was very well played with the teams combining for only 15 turnovers.
It was an exciting, and long, day of basketball in Spokane,