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Morant leads Murray State to win in Hartford; Villanova, FSU, Purdue prevail

HARTFORD, March 21 – Murray State made history when they won their fourth game in the NCAA basketball tournament Thursday at the XL Center with an 83-64 win over No. 5 Marquette.

Racer sophomore Ja Morant secured a spot for himself in the tournament record book by becoming the 12th player to record a triple double in a NCAA tournament game with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds.

“I was just reading the defense,” Morant said. “Early on I seen that they was trying to pack it in on my drive and whenever I have the ball. And I just that just opened up opportunities for my teammates to be open. So I just attack and just drive and kick or and have an easy dump now.”

Other player to record an NCAA tournament triple-double, according to Sports-Reference.com, including Oscar Robertson, Draymond Green, Magic Johnson, Cole Aldrich, B.H. Born, David Cain, Artis Gilmore, Gary Grant, Andre Miller, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.

“He’s just got some special intangibles to him in addition to the athleticism, the explosiveness, and ridiculous court vision and feel for the game,” Racer coach Matt McMahon said. “He’s got an unselfishness and competitiveness about him that’s been contagious within our program, in our locker room.”

Murray State, the No. 12 seed in the NCAA West Region, will take on No. 4 Florida State Saturday in Hartford at 6:10 p.m.

Patrick Tiscia, columnist with Litchfield County Sports, shared his thoughts from seat at the XL Center.

It is the first time since 1998 that Hartford and the XL Center are hosting first and second round games in the NCAA Tournament.

HARTFORD, March 21 — Down to No. 11 seed St. Mary’s 30-28 at halftime, defending national champion Villanova used a 12-3 surge at the start of the second half to gain some breathing room and then held off every Gaels’ charge over the final 16 minutes to earn a 61-57 victory over Saint Mary’s.

Senior guard Phil Booth led the way for No. 6 Villanova with 20 points and six assists. Eric Paschall added 14 points and six rebounds while sophomore Jermaine Samuels had 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Villanova (26-9) limited Saint Mary’s to 41 percent shooting from the floor. It was the sixth straight opening round victory for the Wildcats.

“We have to give a lot of credit to St. Mary’s,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “That’s a very skilled and intelligent team that just knocked off the No. 1 team in America. They have a style they play and you can’t really speed them up. I’m proud of our guys for grinding through it.”

Villanova will play Purdue on Saturday night around 8:45 p.m. in Hartford.

HARTFORD, March 21 — Terance Mann, a 6-foot-7 forward from Lowell, Mass., scored 19 points – 17 in the second half – and Mfiondu Kabengele added 21 points and 10 rebounds as No. 4 Florida State topped No. 13 Vermont, 76-69 in a West Region game. The Catamounts (27-7) had an early 7-2 lead but FSU wore down Vermont in the second half.

“I thought we played really hard and battled a very good Florida State team,” Vermont head coach John Becker said.”I’m really proud of this team and it always hurts when the careers of our seniors come to an end. I also want to thank all of our fans who came down from Vermont, New England, and all over the country. We felt you, we heard you out there, and it meant a lot to us to see all of the green and gold.”

Anthony Lamb, the America East conference player of the year, led Vermont with 16 points and eight rebounds. Vermont drained 16 three-point shots during the game.

“I thought they were shooting the ball well from the perimeter, but I didn’t think they would make 16 threes,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “But that’s why they call it March Madness. People going to step up and do some things that are extra in order to win games.

“I thought we did a much better job defending the second half than we did the first half. I thought we got the ball inside a little more and attacked the basket and got the ball inside to Mfiondu and Christ a few times, and we were able to survive and advance. I’m not taking anyway from them. I thought Vermont was very well-prepared,” Hamilton said.

 

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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