Kudos to Robert Morris and Portland State for winning their respective tournaments on last second baskets to get an automatic bid to the dance. On their home court, Robert Morris defeated Mount Saint Mary's 48-46 to win the Northeast Championship. This was the second game in the past week that featured a player's only points came off the game winning basket. In this Dallas Green(NOT the former Mets and Phillies manager) picked up a loose ball and hit a jumper with 2.5 seconds left to win the game for the Colonials. Last Saturday, Morehead State's Steve Peterson hit a late game winning jumper for his only basket of the game. Again, March Madness gives us the unlikeliest of heroes.
Meanwhile in Ogden, Utah, Portland State got a last second basket from Julius Thomas to beat Montana State 79-77 to win the Big Sky Tournament. After the Bobcats' Branden Johnson buried a three to tie the game at 77, the Vikings' Dominic Waters barreled down the lane, drew contact with a Montana State defender (watching the game I was cringing for the charge to be called but it wasn't) and dished it to Thomas for a thunderous dunk with 3.5 seconds left.
Then came the strangest thing as I watched the game on ESPN2. Montana State first calls timeout. Then they inbound the ball to midcourt...and call a timeout again! Huh? What, they didn't have a set play ready so the coach said "Throw the pass to midcourt, call timeout. By that time, we should figure a play out". I am still scratching my head on that one.
Then guess who they setup a play for....
1) Their guard, Branden Johnson, who hit the tying three and was the second leading scorer on the night with 17 points
2) Their center, Divaldo Mbunga, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds on the evening.
3) Their guard, Erik Rush, who had 16 points
4) Their leading scorer on the year, Will Bynum who had 10 points on the night
5) Their forward Bobby Howard who had zero points on the night and was averaging the second lowest FG percentage of our five choices.
If you guessed #5, you were correct. However you must have been in the huddle with the Montana State coaches during the timeout, because no other person in their right mind would have guessed that. Yes Johnson is their third leading scorer and averages 10 points per game, but he attempted two shots the entire night. Well anyway, Johnson got the ball with 2.5 seconds left and was immediately stuffed by a Vikings defender. Never got a shot off. Ball game.
My favorite 5 foot 6 point guard in the nation, Jeremiah Dominguez had 22 points to lead the way for the Vikings who made the dance for the second season in a row. Congrats!