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Conference Tourney Wrap Up: 3/2

Oodles of great stuff around the country on Friday, including a pair of thrillers in the MVC quarters, a classic semifinal in the SoCon, and the first true buzzer-beater of March.

Here's what went down:

Missouri Valley

The two Arch Madness quarterfinals that were billed as potential classics were, and the two that weren't, weren't on Friday.

In the second game of the day, Will Franklin hit an off-balance 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to lift No. 4 Bradley to a 51-48 victory over a Northern Iowa team that had beaten them twice in the regular season.

After NIU missed a shot in the final minute with the game tied at 48, Franklin held for the final shot before driving toward the basket and momentarily losing the ball. He regained control and took an awkward fall-away shot with Jared Josten closely guarding him for the game-winner.

"I thought Jared made a great play," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "He got a deflection and knocked the ball loose. And that's tough, to pick it up off the ground and go right into the shot."

It was Franklin's third game-winning moment of the season. He also made a basket to beat Southern Illinois and two free throws to win at Evansville.

"After the game I told him, `You're money,'" Bradley coach Jim Les said.

Northern Iowa had 2.7 seconds to try and match Franklin's 3-pointer, but Franklin batted away Brooks McKowen's in-bounds pass at halfcourt to end the game.

The Braves, a sweet 16 participant a year ago, will now play top dog Southern Illinois tomorrow afternoon. The Salukis topped a pesky Drake team 71-59 on Friday. The two teams split in the regular season with both winning on their home floor.


You should have been watching this game instead of working

In the final game of the night, No. 3 Missouri State improved its NCAA Tournament resume by nipping a Wichita State team that finished the season just 17-14 after being ranked as high as No. 8 in the country earlier in the year.

The game was an amazingly fierce contest throughout, but Missouri State took a five-point lead at 66-61 with 1:05 left courtesy of a Tyler Chaney lay-up. Karon Bradley then cut the lead to 66-64 with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 49.3 seconds left and the Bears' Nathan Bilyeu left the door open when he made just one of two free throws with 15.1 seconds left.

But the Shockers' Matt Braeuer, who was 5-for-7 from behind the arc, missed a 3-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer that would have tied the game.

The win moves Missouri State to 22-9 on the year, the same mark as the Bears had in 2005-06. Missouri State was left out of the NCAA Tournament last year after losing to Northern Iowa in the first round of the conference tournament.

The environment at this game was amazing, and anyone who watched knows what I'm talking about. These two teams slugged it out in front of a crowd of 16,651, which was the largest ever to see an MVC quarterfinal game, and it felt like a second-weekend NCAA Tournament game.

I forever became a Missouri State fan after last year's NIT game when Barry Hinson had so many wonderful things to say about our program, city and fans. When you show that much class after an 18-point loss it's probably very indicative of your character and your team's character.

The Bears will take on second seeded Creighton in tomorrow's second semifinal. The Blue Jays demolished No. 10 Inidiana State 59-38. The Sycamores' 38 point total was the lowest in the history of the MVC Tournament.  

Southern Illinois and Bradley will tip at 1:35 with Missouri State and Creighton following 15 minutes after the conclusion of game one. Both semifinals can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest.

Horizon League

No. 4 Wisconsin-Green Bay took out No. 5 Youngstown State (Penguins we hardly knew ye) 72-55, and No. 3 Loyoloa outlasted No. 6 Illinois-Chicago 66-62 in quarterfinal action of the Horizon League Tournament at the Wright State Nutter Center (hehe).

UWGB and Loyola now get No. 1 Wright State and No. 2 Butler respectively, both of which were granted automatic byes to the semfinals.

Loyola, which split with Butler during the regular season with the Bulldogs topping the Ramblers 70-66 in overtime in Chicago and Loyola besting the dogs 75-71 in Indianapolis, will rely heavily on the heroics of senior guard Blake Schilb as they try to spring the upset. Schilb, a three-time first-team all-Horizon League choice, dominated UIC on Friday, hitting 12-of-17 shots and scoring 31 points.

Top seed Wright State has handled Green Bay in both meetings this season, beating them 78-67 on Jan. 13 at home, and again 65-54 on Jan. 29 at their place.

ESPNU will televise both semifinals, starting with Butler/Loyola at 5. The championship game will be played Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Ohio Valley

Mike Rose made a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds left to help No. 2 Eastern Kentucky hold off No. 3 Tennessee Tech 57-54 Friday night in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournament in Nashville.

The Colonels advanced to this evening's championship game against Austin Peay in what will be a rematch of the title game two years ago when Eastern defeated Peay 52-46 for its first trip to the NCAA tourney in a quarter century.

The Governors, the OVC's top seed, squandered a six-point halftime lead and trailed No. 5 Samford by as many as five points in the second half before rallying for a 65-55 win.

Tonight's championship game will start at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

Atlantic Sun

The top two seeds expectedly advanced to the championship game as No. 1 East Tennessee State beat No. 4 Lipscomb 77-72, and defending champ and second seed Belmont topped No. 6 Campbell 79-63.

Conference Player of the Year Courtney Pigram saved the day for ETSU by burying a 15-foot jumper with 27 seconds to play to give the Bucs a three-point lead, and then adding a free throw moments later to seal the win. He finished the game with 21 points.


A-Sun Player of the Year Courtney Pigram hits the
dagger with 27 seconds remaining

ETSU enters Saturday's 4 p.m. title game with history working against them.

Not since 2001 has a host team captured the tournament title on its own court, and the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun hasn't dropped a tournament game since 2003.

Regardless of who wins, if today's game is anything like the first two between these teams, then viewers will be in for a treat.

Both games between ETSU and Belmont this season have gone to overtime, with the Bruins winning on the road 75-74 on Jan. 2, and the Bucs returning the favor 80-70 on Jan. 25.

ESPN2 will cover the game.

Southern

In arguably the game of the day, No. 3 College of Charleston topped No. 2 Appalachian State 89-87 in overtime of the second SoCon semifinal.

Charleston senior Dontaye Draper was the star of stars, pouring in 38 points, including eight in overtime to get the Cougars and head coach Bobby Cremins one game away from the NCAA Tournament.

"After the game was over, the crowd was with us, everybody was with us, the whole town back with us. We just got to make it happen," Draper said.

Appalachian State had a chance to win in regulation, trailing 73-72 with Donte Minter at the foul line with 2.2 seconds remaining. But Minter's second attempt bounced off the rim, sending the game into overtime, where Draper took over.

He had a 3-pointer and two foul shots to put the Cougars up 80-76. When the Mountaineers ahead 81-80 after Jeremy Clayton's tip in, Draper drilled his final 3 to put Charleston ahead to stay.

"My hand's in his face and he's making shots," said Mountaineers guard Demetrius Scott, tasked with guarding Draper.

When Jermaine Johnson jammed home the Cougars final basket in the closing seconds, Cremins threw his arms in the air, turned to the large Charleston crowd and leaped in the air in celebration.

Cremins couldn't stop praising Draper. "This guy here, he's something isn't he?" the coach said. "I've coached Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury, but this guy, he's got a different mentality."


CofC head coach Bobby Cremins celebrates
with Marcus Hammond after their overtime
win over Appalachian State

At the other end of the spectrum was ASU all-conference guard D.J. Thompson who was just 2-of-16 from the field with both of his makes coming in overtime, the latter being a meaningless three at the buzzer.

"I just let my team down, the school down, the fans down," Thompson said.

The Mountaineers now have to hope that their 25-7 record, which includes wins over Vanderbilt and Villanova, will be enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament.

In order to cap off one of the most miraculous turnarounds in recent memory, Charleston will have to dethrone current SoCon king Davidson, which dominated No. 5 Furman 91-68 on Friday.

This will be the Wildcats' third championship appearance in six years.

Tip-off between Davidson and Charleston is slated for 2 p.m. on ESPN 2.

America East

Bo Taylor hit a turnaround 12-foot jumper from the baseline as time expired and Hartford held Stony Brook without a field goal for the final 16:40 as they rallied for a 49-47 victory over the Seawolves (said it right) in the first-round of the America East Conference tournament.

The win advances the eighth-seeded Hawks to Saturday's quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Vermont, a team that will undoubtedly punish them severely for winning.

In all, four quarterfinal games will be played on Saturday in the nine-team tournament.

Colonial Athletic Association

The signature moment of Championship Week thus far came from a likely source: the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament.

The league that produced the Cinderella to beat all Cindrellas a season ago, also produced March's first memorable buzzer-beater as Leonard Mendez's desperation 28-foot jumper found all net and No. 9 Georgia State upset No. 8 William & Mary 70-68.

William & Mary's Adam Payton capped an 11-1 run with a three-point play that gave the Tribe a 68-67 lead with 4.7 seconds left. Moments later Mendez grabbed the inbounds pass, lost control of the ball as he crossed midcourt, regained possession and then launched the miracle game-winner.


Leonard Mendez gets a hug from teammate
Ryan McBride after his game-winner

Georgia State advances to tomorrow's quarterfinals where they will meet top seed Virginia Commonwealth.

Speaking of the world's most famous CAA member, No. 6 George Mason got a career-high 26 points from junior Dre Smith and defeated No. 11 James Madison 73-62.

Smith made his first seven attempts, one short of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament record.

The Patriots will play No. 3 Hofstra at 8:30 tonight. The Flying Dutchmen eliminated George Mason 58-49 in last year's semifinals.

The other winners on Friday were No. 5 Northeastern (77-67 over No. 12 Delaware) and Towson (67-52 over No. 10 UNC Wilmington, last year's champion). Northeastern will play No. 4 Drexel, while second seeded Old Dominion awaits Towson.

Tomorrow's quarterfinals from the Richmond Coliseum will begin at noon with VCU/Georgia State.

Metro Atlantic Athletic

No. 8 Canisius snapped an eight-game losing streak by bouncing No. 9 St. Peter's 62-48 in opening round action of the MAAC Conference Tournament in Bridgeport, CONN.

The Golden Griffins will begin a one-game losing when they are pummeled by Jared Jordan and top seed Marist at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

In the only other game of the day, No. 7 Rider put a merciful end to No. 10 Iona's season by pounding the Gaels 77-62.

Iona, league champions just a season ago, finished with a record of 2-28.

Rider gets No. 2 Niagara tomorrow at 7:30. The other two quarterfinals will pit No. 4 Siena against No. 5 Manhattan, and No. 3 Loyoloa against No. 6 Fairfield.

West Coast

No. 5 San Diego got past No. 8 Pepperdine 95-82, and No. 7 Portland (the host school) picked up its first WCC Tournament win since 1996 by beating No. 6 Loyola Marymount 55-41 in opening round action on Friday.

San Diego will play No. 4 San Francisco tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. while Portland gets No. 3 St. Mary's at 11.

Top seeds Gonzaga and Santa Clara received automatic byes into the semifinals.

There will be a quiz on all this later today.