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'Miracle' shot lifts Murray State

No. 13-seeded Murray State celebrates a 66-65 victory over No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt. Kyle Terada/US Presswire

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danero Thomas smiled widely and said he was simply "Option No. 3" on the play.

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy, who had scribbled something out with 4.2 seconds left in a tight first-round game with Vanderbilt, had a more colorful way to describe what transpired at the buzzer.

"That was a blessing," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said. "It's not a shot we've run or one we've worked on.

"It's a miracle."

The 6-foot-4 senior from New Orleans caught a pass from Isacc Miles, took one dribble, and fired at the horn to sink No. 4-seeded Vanderbilt 66-65.

Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy buried his head in his jersey and collapsed on the floor.

Murray State guard B.J. Jenkins did a flying fist pump.

And Thomas leaped in the air before striding down the other end of the court relatively calmly as if to get back on defense. Teammates tackled him onto the floor and then piled on top.

"I thought I was going to get smothered," Thomas mused. "I was trying to find a hole to breathe."

After hitting the big shot, he passed on the credit. Miles was the guy who gave up the ball. Kennedy was the one who drew up a play the team hadn't run before that ended up working.

"If I wouldn't have made it, one of them would have made it," Thomas said of his teammates.

The Racers have banded together to win 31 games and their first NCAA tournament game since 1988 -- when Thomas was two years old.

They had won the Ohio Valley Conference by two games, dealt with the death of the mother of guard Picasso Simmons the day before leaving for California, and then took down an SEC team in Vanderbilt that had finished second to Kentucky.

The rest of the nation found out they also play good basketball in that state in Murray. Vanderbilt, only about a two-hour drive from there, knew all about the Racers, and the Commodores still got their hearts broken.

"It goes down the drain with one kid making the shot," Ogilvy said in an otherwise silent locker room.

It's the No. 13-seeded Racers who will continue dancing after the shot heard from Murray to Northern California dropped through.

"It was big-time," Thomas said. "It's tournament time."