March emotion was on display Tuesday night in the First Four at UD Arena. St. Bonaventure, Radford and the crowd made sure of that.
St. Bonaventure won its first NCAA Tournament game since its Final Four run in 1970 with Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, defeating UCLA 65-58. Radford defeated LIU Brooklyn 71-61 in the opener for the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.
St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt was emotional after the game on the court. Then he had to compose himself before coming into the interview room. He had so much to say he almost didn’t know where to start.
“It can’t get better,” he said. “Our guys just fought. We persevered we just had some toughness. We made some big shots. In 1970 Bob Lanier got hurt and didn’t have a chance to play UCLA. This is for him.”
In a battle of No. 11 seeds, the crowd clearly favored the Atlantic 10 Bonnies, roaring louder at every basket as the game of runs came to a crescendo.
Stockard on a roll: Courtney Stockard had the big night for the Bonnies with 26 points to continue his recent hot stretch.
“He played unbelievable,” Schmidt said. “He’s the reason we won. He hit big shots.”
Stockard keyed a 9-0 run with five points that put the Bonnies up 58-51 with 4:10 to play.
“I have to give it all to my teammates,” Stockard said. “If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t have been impossible. I just played my game.”
Jaylen Adams, the Bonnies’ leading scorer this season, had a bad shooting night until he pulled up at the foul line with 49 seconds left and scored with a defender’s hand in his face to break a 58-58 tie. He then made three free throws to seal the win and finish with eight points.
Next for the Bonnies is East Region No. 6 Florida on Thursday in Dallas.
Low seeds, high excitement: Radford and LIU Brooklyn showed the First Four crowd that No. 16 seeds can get them excited, too. And it wasn’t just the Radford throng in red behind its bench that made all the noise.
Both teams were playing for their first NCAA Tournament win. Radford won in its third try. LIU is 0-7 in NCAA play.
“It’s huge,” said Radford star Ed Polite Jr. “It’s a blessing to be able to play with these guys and make history. It’s an amazing feeling right now.”
Last run wins: Radford (23-12) jumped to a 20-11 lead before settling for a 38-20 halftime lead. The Blackbirds (18-17) continued to control the game early in the second half and led 38-35 after consecutive 3-pointers by Julian Batts.
Radford responded with a 14-2 run keyed by a flurry of plays by freshman Carlik Jones, who played in high school at Cincinnati Aiken and played in three tournament games at UD Arena. His two buckets, rebound, steal and assist helped forge a 49-40 lead. After LIU rallied again, Radford closed with a 12-3 run.
The Highlanders earned a trip to Pittsburgh to face East Region No. 1 seed Villanova.
“I’m hyped about it,” Jones said. “I’m just happy we got this win and I’m looking forward to playing them.”
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