DAYTON, Ohio – Alabama State entered the opening round game of the NCAA Tournament with hopes of winning its first Division I postseason contest, posting the first NCAA win for a Southwestern Athletic School since 1993 and extending its season until at least Friday. But the Hornets were unable to capture the magic that had led them to the SWAC regular season and tournament championships as they lost 58-43 to Morehead State.
Morehead State did not play especially well, but was able to do enough to defeat ASU Tuesday night in front of a record crowd of 11,346 at University of Dayton Arena – the biggest crowd for an NCAA opening round game.
The victory advances the Eagles into a match against No. 1 seed Louisville. The Hornets end their season with a 22-10 record.
Andrew Hayles and Brandon Brooks – the Hornets’ top scorers and the back-to-back winners of the SWAC Players of the Year award – struggled in their final game for Bama State. The seniors combined to make only 10-of-30 shots in a game that ASU never led. Four MSU players scored in double figures, led by Leon Buchanon and Kenneth Faried with 14 each.
Alabama State had trouble knocking down shots in the early going but trailed only 16-12 with nine minutes left in the first half. But the shooting slump worsened over the next six minutes. During that stretch, ASU missed eight straight shots between baskets by Tramaine Butler and Roland Fitch and turned the ball over three times. That enabled the Eagles to extend their lead to 13 points.
The Eagles had no trouble with their rebounding, especially Faried. The sophomore forward had eight boards in the first half and 21 for the game as MSU outrebounded ASU 47-26.
ASU missed all eight 3-point attempts during the first 20 minutes, producing its lowest score this season for the first half of play. MSU took full advantage of the shooting slump to grab a 29-18 halftime lead.
Bama State tried to fight its way back at the start of the second half. The Hornets started with a bang as Wesley Jones slammed home a dunk and Rashad Provitt hit ASU’s first 3-pointer of the game at 18:23 of second half. A solid defensive effort held MSU scoreless for the first five minutes, allowing ASU to pull to within eight points.
But the Hornets weren’t able to sustain the momentum as their shooting woes continued and turnovers killed any opportunity for ASU to whittle away at the MSU lead.
Hayles scored a team-high 14 points for ASU while Brooks added 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Rashad Provitt (four points, four rebounds) and Chief Kickingstallionsims (three blocked shots, two rebounds) closed out their collegiate careers while Wesley Jones (seven points) and Roland Fitch (six points) hope to build on the experiences gained in this year’s campaign.