St. Mary’s won its third NCAA tournament game in four years Tuesday night, beating Middle Tennessee State 67-54 in a First Four game in front of 12,027 fans at UD Arena.
The 11th-seeded Gaels (28-6) advance to face another Tennessee team Thursday when they take on No. 6 Memphis in a Midwest Region second-round game in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The Blue Raiders, who were making their first tournament appearance since 1989, finish 28-6.
They closed to within three midway through the second half, but hot-shooting St. Mary’s (8 of 14 from 3-point range) kept the lead in double digits for most of the final 10 minutes.
The first game of the night came down to the final second, but Liberty junior guard John Caleb Sanders missed a layup at the buzzer enabling North Carolina A&T to escape with a 73-72.
Aggies junior Lamont Middleton missed the front end of a one-and-one with seven seconds remaining, and Sanders took the ball all the way up the court, but A&T senior Austin Witter forced Sanders left of the block and his shot fell short of the rim.
With the first NCAA tournament win in program history, the 16th seeded Aggies (20-16) advance to play No. 1 Louisville in a Midwest Region second-round game Thursday in Lexington, Ky.
Liberty, the second team to make the tournament with 20 losses, finishes 15-21.
St. Mary’s senior Matthew Dellavedova, the school’s all-time leader in points, assists, 3-pointers and games, made 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range and finished with game highs in points (22) and rebounds (six) while adding four assists.
“I knew he was going to go to the rim, and I just wanted to play off of him. I saw him a couple times during the game trying to jump into our players’ body. So I just tried to jump back, keep my hands back, and use my length to alter the shot. I believe I got a little piece of it, but I’m not really sure. I think I did just enough.” – North Carolina A&T’s Austin Witter on the final play.
N.C. A&T, which ranked 289th in total offense out of 345 Division I teams, shot 51.9 percent from the floor, put three players in double figures and scored 10.5 points more than their season average.
Long Island-Brooklyn (20-13) brings the No. 5 scoring offense in the country into UD Arena for a 6:40 game against James Madison (20-14) in a matchup of East Region No. 16 seeds battling for the right to stay in town and face top-seeded Indiana on Friday.
In the 9:10 nightcap, a pair of West Region No. 13 seeds who earned at-large bids will face off when La Salle (21-9) takes on Mountain West representative Boise State (21-10). The winner advances to play Friday in Kansas City against fourth-seeded Kansas State.