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MINNEAPOLIS REGIONAL PLAY-IN AT DAYTON OH
16-16, 7-8 Away
49
Final
12T
HAMP202949
MONM353671
71
19-14, 8-4 Home

Monmouth crushes Hampton in NCAA opening round

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A hot shooter and an imposing center won over a neutral crowd and helped Monmouth finally measure up in the NCAA Tournament.

Chris Kenny set an opening-round record with six 3-pointers Tuesday night and 7-foot-2 center John Bunch entertained the crowd with his bulk and his blocks during a 71-49 victory over Hampton in
the opening-round game.

Monmouth (19-14) moves on to Philadelphia to play No. 1 seed Villanova in the Wildcats' backyard on Friday, looking to pull off that elusive 16-over-1 upset.

Even if they don't get it, the Northeast Conference champions have already had a breakthrough tournament. A school with a history of NCAA blowouts opened this tournament on the other side of one.

Monmouth lost by 24 points to Marquette in 1996, by 43 points to No. 1 seed Duke in 2001 and by 33 points to Mississippi State in 2004. The conference hadn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 1983.

"The big difference is I feel like a winner," said Kenny, who played on the 2004 team. "We got crushed against Mississippi State. I'm on cloud nine right now and I'm going to stay there for a while."

Only a handful of students from both schools made the short-notice trip for the tournament opener at the University of Dayton Arena. The crowd of 7,764 waited to choose a rooting
interest.

Midway through the first half, it made its choice -- the one from Jersey.

Kenny made five 3-pointers in the first half, matching his career high and the record for an NCAA opening-round game. After one long-range swish, he and Dejan Delic retreated down the court flicking their trigger fingers at each other as if in a shootout.

Kenny finished with 18 points, and Delic had 14. Overall, Monmouth went 10-of-26 from behind the 3-point arc.

As if that wasn't enough, Hampton (16-16) had to contend with the game's most imposing player. Bunch weighs 320 pounds and stood at least a head taller than almost everyone else on the court.

"He's a big kid," said Hampton's Jeff Granger, who had 10 points. "Everywhere you went, he was there. He did exactly what a big man is supposed to do."

Bunch has one of the most unusual recruiting stories of the entire tournament. He didn't play all four years in high school and was working at a movie theater showing "Ice Age" when a college coach's wife noticed him and passed his name along.

The former theater employee initially wasn't ready for the NCAA's showtime.

"Before the game, I was nervous," said Bunch, who finished with seven points, six rebounds and five blocks. "It was a big atmosphere, the first time I've played in something like that. After my first block, I was feeling real comfortable."

Bunch had four of Monmouth's eight blocks in the first half. He also inadvertently set up a steal when a Hampton pass went off his head as he trailed a play, setting up a fast-break layup.

The behemoth center got a super-sized ovation when his turnaround short-range jumper gave Monmouth its biggest lead of the first half, 35-18. Every time he touched the ball, a murmur went through the crowd.

It was that kind of a half for Hampton, which had more shots blocked (eight) than made (seven). The Pirates shot only 23 percent from the field against Monmouth's match-up zone and never recovered.

Bunch's three-point play off a dunk pushed the lead to 23 points midway through the second half, drawing the loudest ovation of the game.

Hampton opened the season in a 1-7 slump and finished it on a 1-6 downturn before running the table in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to move its record above .500.

No surprise, then, when the Pirates were consigned to the play-in game for their third NCAA appearance. Hampton pulled off one of the tournament's biggest upsets in 2001, when the 15th-seeded Pirates eliminated second-seeded Iowa State.

This time, they weren't even close.