It was a fun-filled, drama-laced weekend at Bridgestone Arena. The NCAA tournament started on Thursday. Music City played host to parts of the South and West regions, which had games on Friday and Sunday. Of course, right on cue, there was plenty of Madness downtown by the Cumberland River.
Cincinnati took care of Georgia State in the first game on Friday afternoon. The first half was a doozy, but the Bearcats, as expected, pulled away in the second half. The attendance for the first game/first session was off the charts. It was almost sold out, with over 17,000 in the stands. Nevada and Texas went down to the wire in game number two, with Nevada forcing overtime and coming out with a victory in that contest. Xavier demolished Texas Southern in the third game.
The Seminoles outdueled Missouri in the fourth and final contest of the night. The first day/first round was complete, and then here came Sunday. Florida State would face Xavier. Nevada would take on Cincinnati.
The twins prevailed!
Nevada rallied from 22 points down to stun number two seed Cincinnati, earning their second ever Sweet 16 appearance. The final score was 75-73. Cody Martin led Nevada’s furious rally by collecting 25 points, six rebounds and seven assists with no turnovers. His twin brother Caleb tied the game by making a fade away three with 50 plus seconds remaining. Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound with nine seconds left to break the tie and give Nevada its only lead of the night. Cincinnati’s Cane Broome, then, raced up the court, getting his shot attempt blocked by, who else, Caleb Martin. The final seconds ticked away.
The only bigger comeback in NCAA history came in 2012, when BYU beat Iona after trailing by 25 points.
Nevada’s rally is tied for second place with Duke, which erased a 22-point deficit to beat Maryland in the 2001 Final Four.
“That locker room right now—I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Nevada Coach Eric Musselman.
Hall ended the game with 14 points.
Nevada’s rally came two days after the Wolf Pack erased a 14-point, second-half deficit to defeat Texas, 87-83 in overtime, for its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2007.
“It’s crazy,” said Caleb Martin.
Cincinnati led 44-32 at the half. They extended their lead to 65-43 with a little over 11 minutes left. Nevada outscored the Bearcats 32-8 the rest of the way. The Bearcats failed to make a single basket in the final five minutes. Cincinnati outrebounded Nevada 44-33 and outscored the Wolf Pack 20-9 in second-chance points. Nevada committed only two turnovers against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.
“We had a big lead,” said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. “It got real physical around the rim. When we had chances around the rim, it was unbelievable what was happening.”
The Bearcats won the American regular-season and tournament titles, while tying a school single-season record for wins. This was a special season, but this second-round collapse was gut wrenching. Cincinnati’s defense, that ranked second among all Division I teams, allowed 32 points in the last 11 minutes.
Cincinnati forward Gary Clark, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, had 11 points and 10 boards. Jacob Evans II had 19 points. Jarron Cumberland had 17, but the two combined for just eight in the second half.
The seventh-seeded Wolf Pack is on its way to Atlanta to take on 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago on Thursday night. Nevada’s only previous regional semifinal appearance came in 2004.
With one Ohio team down, surely the other Ohio favorite would take care of business, right?
Leonard Hamilton, who played his college ball at the University of Tennessee at Martin, watched his squad lose by 25 to this same Xavier team a year ago, in the same round. However, this time would yield a different result.
With an Ohio filled Arena, Florida State would get some sweet revenge versus the number one seed, who made it to the Elite eight last year, with expectations even higher for this season.
Trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, sophomore guard Trent Forrest would lead his Florida State Seminoles on a comeback to knock off the Musketeers in exciting fashion. The final score was 75-70. For the first time in nearly seven years, the ‘Noles are dancing in the Sweet 16, earning its fifth appearance in program history.
The Musketeers showed their high-octane offense, but the Seminoles hung around, and with Xavier senior and the game’s leading scorer J.P. Macura fouling out late in the second half, Forrest would basically take over the game, in every way.
With a minute remaining, the ‘Noles took their first lead of the second half, 71-70, following a trifecta by junior guard P.J. Savoy. After a timeout, senior forward Kerem Kanter attempted a three-point shot on the other end. The result of that was an air ball, which gave possession of the ball to the Seminoles with just seven seconds remaining. Four successful free throws later, the game was history.
The Seminoles withstood the runs, got consecutive stops, made enough shots and knocked down critical free throws at the end game to secure the victory. They also shot 44 percent from the field.
Braian Angola finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Seminoles. Forrest added 14 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. Savoy concluded with 11 points. Terance Mann and Phil Cofer added 10 points apiece.
Macura ended the game with 17 points on six of eight shooting. Kanter and Macura combined for 32 points. Despite a phenomenal shooting performance between the two seniors, the Musketeers shot just 38% from beyond the arc and connected on only 63% of their free throws.
FSU is slated to square off against number four-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday, in Los Angeles, California.