DAYTON, Ohio — D.J. Evans is charitably listed at 5 feet 9. His coach and teammates tease him that he looks a foot shorter.
He stood awfully tall for Albany on Tuesday night.
Evans scored 22, including two clinching free throws with 12.6 seconds left, to lead the Great Danes to their first NCAA Tournament victory, 71-64 over Mount St. Mary's in the First Four.
Evans belied his height with nine rebounds.
"He's about 4-foot-8, so he's really impressive," joked fellow guard Peter Hooley, who had 20 points. "I don't think there's another 4-8 guard who could go in there and get that many boards. He did what he needed to do to get this win."
It was a signature victory for the America East tournament champs, who had come up empty in three previous NCAA trips.
"It means a lot," an emotional coach Will Brown said. "There's no better feeling. Like I told our kids, we're going to be in the history books at the University of Albany forever."
The Great Danes (19-14) advance to meet overall No. 1 seed and top-ranked Florida on Thursday in Orlando. But that was a concern for another day.
It was a wild game of incredible turnarounds, with the Great Danes bolting to leads of 13-0 and 21-2 only to have the Mountaineers (16-17) bounce back with a 21-2 run.
Hooley, one of three Australians on the Albany roster, hit two free throws with 2:43 left to stretch the lead to 65-62. After Julian Norfleet countered with a basket, Hooley again pounded his way to the basket and lofted a shot over a defender for a 67-64 lead with two minutes left.
It stayed that way with the teams missing big shots. Rashad Whack and Norfleet each missed potential tying 3s; Whack's rolled almost inside the rim then bounded away.
"When it hit the rim, I thought it was going to go in," Whack said softly.
Evans was fouled with 12.6 seconds left and hit both shots to increase the lead to five, out of reach of another long-range shot.
Evans was most proud of his rebounding.
"They shot a lot of 3s and there were a lot of long rebounds," he said with a grin. "I was just at the right place at the right time."
After playing two years of junior college ball and sitting behind a senior starter a year ago, Evans was told by Brown that his day would come.
"He's the happiest kid in the world right now," Brown said.
N.C. STATE 74, XAVIER 59: Given a second chance, T.J. Warren put on a show in the NCAA Tournament.
The hard-to-guard sophomore forward scored 16 of his 25 in the second half, showing why he was the ACC's player of the year, and the Wolfpack led most of the way.
North Carolina State (22-12) headed to Orlando for a game on Thursday against St. Louis in the Midwest Region.
Warren had the most to do with it. He made up for a freshman tournament flop on the same floor a year earlier and prevented the Musketeers (21-14) from getting any traction in the second half.
"He's just a great player," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "It's hard to keep him down for a whole 40 minutes."
Center Matt Stainbrook led Xavier with 19 points and nine rebounds despite an injured left knee. Leading scorer Semaj Christon had only 14, and Xavier made only 2 of 14 3-pointers.
Xavier was playing less than an hour from campus, but fans of the Dayton Flyers — a long-time rival — booed loudly as they took the court.
TONIGHT: Mike Davis, who led Indiana to the 2002 national championship game, will coach his third team in the NCAA Tournament as Texas Southern faces Cal Poly. Also, Tennessee, winner of five of six, faces Iowa, loser of six of seven. Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery flew to Iowa City so he could be with 13-year-old son Patrick, who is having surgery this morning to remove a thyroid tumor. He expects to be back in time for tonight's game.