Bucknell wins first NCAA tourney game in school history
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Kansas Jayhawks flirted with first-round elimination several times in the last 15 NCAA Tournaments but always avoided it. They weren't able to Friday night against a No. 14 seed with zero NCAA Tournament victories in its 110-year history, five scholarship players and even a borrowed band.
|Upsets since '85|
11 over 6
12 over 5
13 over 4
14 over 3
15 over 2
16 over 1
That would be the Bucknell Bison, who beat the third-seeded Jayhawks 64-63 and shook up the Syracuse Regional when Chris McNaughton banked in a hook shot over Wayne Simien with 10.5 seconds left and Simien missed an open 15-foot jumper at the buzzer.
"Unbelievable," said guard Kevin Bettencourt, who led Bucknell with 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
As crushing as the loss is for preseason No. 1 Kansas, it's even more stunning for the winners. They've been playing since the first season of Division I play and were 0-for-2 in the NCAAs, losing their previous tries by 22 and 23 points in the 1980s. No team from their conference, the Patriot League, had ever won an NCAA tourney game in 13 tries.
Bucknell (23-9) is the first No. 14 seed to win since Weber State beat North Carolina in 1999. The Bison will go for another Sunday against sixth-seeded Wisconsin (23-8), which beat Northern Iowa 57-52 earlier Friday.
"Certainly it's the biggest win we've ever had," said coach Pat Flannery, a 1980 Bucknell grad. "Our kids battled their big kids all night long. Our kids made them work for everything they got."
The Jayhawks (23-7) had reached the second round every year
since 1984 and in their last 21 tries. Although they had some
scares along the way, including one by Utah State in Oklahoma City
two years ago, this was their first opening-round exit since being
eliminated by UCLA in 1978.
"I think everybody's kind of in a moment of shock," said coach Bill Self, in just his second season at KU. "These seniors have looked to this moment for a long time. To have it end so abruptly of course is devastating to those guys. I really don't have any words to try to comfort them right now."
Kansas seemed vulnerable because it had lost five of its last eight and second-leading scorer Keith Langford was slowed by a lingering flu problem and a creaky left ankle. However, the Jayhawks weren't too concerned because four of those recent losses were to teams that won first-round NCAA games.
But Bucknell opened its scoring with a four-point play from Bettencourt and led by as many as seven midway through the first half. Kansas closed the half with a 10-0 run to take the lead, but with Simien the only consistent threat (24 points, 10 rebounds), the Jayhawks were never able to take control.
They had a chance to play up to their pedigree in the final minute, when Langford hit two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to put KU up 63-62.
Bucknell opted not to use a timeout, went straight up the court and fed McNaughton in the lane.
"It came off the backboard and rimmed in somehow -- I don't even know how, but I don't care," said McNaughton, who was 6-of-7 for 14 points.
Langford had another attempt but missed short. Bucknell's John Griffin got the rebound and was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one and Simien grabbed it with 2.4 seconds left.
After a timeout, Kansas tried the Grant Hill-to-Christian Laettner play Duke used to beat Kentucky in the NCAAs. Michael Lee's heave to Simien went perfectly and Simien spun for a good look at the basket. But his shot hit the rim and bounced away.
"It went over my right shoulder, which is a very comfortable move for me," Simien said. "It felt good on the release, but I didn't hit it."
Bucknell knew it could hang with the big boys after winning at Pittsburgh this season when the Panthers were undefeated and ranked No. 7. The Bison also beat NCAA team Niagara and won at Saint Joseph's. In fact, all three of those wins came in a row. Soon after, however, Flannery took a 3½-game leave because he was overwhelmed by stress.
Bucknell lost two of those games but regained its poise and won the conference tournament for the first time. No wonder Flannery said Thursday that this season felt like a roller coaster. On Friday night, he called the ride "the best one in the country."
Alas, the Bucknell band wasn't part of the fun. They were off for spring break and couldn't be gathered in time to make it here, so the Northern Iowa crew filled in. They were faxed sheet music earlier Friday, received a box of orange Bucknell T-shirts when they got to the arena and did a great job leading what grew to be a legion of fans.
For instance, with 1:04 left, a chant of "Here we go, Bison, here we go!" was so contagious that even Wisconsin players -- who will be playing Bucknell in two days -- were among those clapping and screaming along.
When the game ended, Bucknell celebrated wildly at midcourt -- as you'd expect from a program that once had Jim Valvano as its coach. Simien walked straight to the locker room, his college career over. So are the playing days of Langford, the fifth-leading scorer in school history, and Aaron Miles, the career assists leader.
"There's no need to go into words about it," said Simien, who may also lament a missed foul shot with 1:41 left, the only one of 16 second-half free throws that didn't fall the Jayhawks.
This is the fourth time the NCAAs have held first- and second-round games in Oklahoma City, and every time a bottom seed has won at least one first-round game. This site has already sent a No. 12 and a No. 13 into the second weekend of the tournament, and the Bison would love to add a No. 14 to this locale's unique bit of NCAA lore.
- Randy McCall
- Ray Natili
- Tom Wood
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