Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

12th-seeded UALR refuses to go down

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DENVER — All looked lost for Little Rock. An underappreciated but no longer unknown guard named Josh Hagins wasn't quite done playing.

The 6-foot-1 senior made a 3-pointer from the edge of the halfcourt logo to force overtime and a high looper off the glass to send it into double overtime. He kept right on scoring — 31 points in all — until his team had beaten Purdue 85-83 and grabbed a spot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"Don't ever count the little guys out," first-year coach Chris Beard shouted toward press row as he ran off the court after his team joined Yale as the second No. 12 seed to beat a 5 Thursday.

Hard to blame anyone who did, though.

The Trojans (30-4) were trailing by 13 and going nowhere with 3:33 left in regulation.

Suddenly, the champions of the Sun Belt — the same league that gave us Georgia State and coach Ron Hunter falling off his chair in last year's tournament — started making shots and injecting the madness into this March.

"I'm a senior," said Hagins, who added six assists and five steals to his career-high point total. "I've waited 22 years, to be honest, to get to this point, this one game. I wasn't going to go out like that. I wasn't going to go without a fight. I made shots, missed them. I was going to go out swinging."

Trailing 68-64 with 33 seconds left, Hagins missed a 3 badly, but it rimmed sharply to the corner and into the hands of 6-foot-11 Lis Shoshi. His 3-point attempt struck iron, bounced straight up and dropped.

Vince Edwards, who led the Boilermakers with 24 points, hit two free throws to extend the lead back to three. Then Hagins worked the ball across halfcourt looking only for one thing — a shot. Working against Purdue's P.J. Thompson, Hagins couldn't find room until he backed to the edge of the "March Madness" logo, about 30 or 35 feet away, and launched. It went, and the game moved to overtime, tied at 70.

On Little Rock's last possession in the first extra period, Purdue tried to stop Hagins with Rapheal Davis, but he didn't have any luck, either. Hagins drove, stopped on a dime and arched a shot that kissed off glass to tie it at 75.

"I live for those situations, man," Hagins said.

In the second overtime, Hagins opened with a pull-up 12-footer that gave the Trojans a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Other Hagins highlights: A dribble drive to the baseline then a fadeaway pull-up for an 83-79 lead with 1:01 left. Hagins also made the game's last free throw, and after the buzzer sounded, Beard went to center court and kissed the floor.

Beard, a longtime assistant for Bob Knight at Texas Tech, coached with a splint on his right hand, courtesy of a motivational haymaker he threw at a greaseboard on Sunday at halftime of the Sun Belt title game. At halftime of this one, Hagins had a grand total of two points.

"I challenged him a bit at halftime," Beard said. "I thought about using my left hand this time, but I stayed away from it."

VIRGINIA 81, HAMPTON 45: The Cavaliers sure got a scare in their NCAA Tournament opener.

Not from Hampton, but from coach Tony Bennett.

Top-seeded Virginia (27-7) routed the 16th-seeded Pirates in Raleigh, N.C., after Bennett collapsed in the final seconds of the first half.

Saying he felt sick earlier in the week, Bennett blamed his collapse on dehydration.

"I've had more Powerade than I've ever had in my life right now," Bennett said.

Bennett fell with 34.1 seconds left in the first half. He sat on the bench talking to his assistants for a few moments, appearing to be in noticeable pain. Team trainers helped the 46-year-old to the locker room with 5.3 seconds left and both teams still on the court.

BUTLER 71, TEXAS TECH 61: Kelan Martin hit consecutive 3-pointers during a critical second-half stretch to help the ninth-seeded Bulldogs (22-10) advance in Raleigh, N.C. Kellen Dunham scored 23 to lead Butler, including a critical 3 of his own with 2:29 left as the Bulldogs pulled away in the final minutes. Butler shot 52 percent after halftime to rally from an early eight-point deficit and push ahead midway through the second half.

IOWA ST. 94, IONA 81: Monte Morris showed no lingering effects of his right shoulder injury, scoring 20 and dishing out eight assists for the No. 3 seed Cyclones (22-11) in Denver. Georges Niang's 28 points led Iowa State, and all five of its starters scored in double figures.

UTAH 80, FRESNO ST. 69: Sophomore 7-footer Jakob Poeltl had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds to lead the third-seeded Utes (26-8) in Denver. Utah used a blistering 19-2 run down the stretch to regain control after falling behind for the first time all night with 10:32 left.

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