College Basketball

March Madness Top Moments: NCAA Tournament tips off with First Four drama

March 19

When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the First Four can be just as nail-biting as the Final Four.

That was certainly the case this time around.

Thursday's First Four round of play started with dramatics, as the Texas Southern Tigers defeated the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers, rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit to win 60-52.

The Tigers now get a chance to play the East Region's 1-seed, the Michigan Wolverines.

After that, the Drake Bulldogs held off the Wichita State Shockers late to claim the No. 11 seed in the West Region and the right to play the 6-seed USC Trojans.

That was followed by a nail-biter between Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Norfolk State Spartans for the 16-seed in the West Region.

After building a 16-point halftime lead, the Spartans held off a furious comeback from the Mountaineers to win 54-53. They will advance to play the top overall seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

To cap off the opening night of action, two programs rich with history squared off as the UCLA Bruins faced the Michigan State Spartans for the 11-seed in the East Region.

UCLA trailed by 11 points at halftime but stormed back in the second half to force overtime and win 86-80.

The Bruins will advance to play the sixth-seeded BYU Cougars.

Here are all the top moments from Thursday's First Four:

Chuck's picks

In case you were clamoring for Charles Barkley's Final Four picks, here they are.

THE TOURNAMENT HAS STARTED

Has a tipoff ever been this exciting?

Turning defense into offense

Mount St. Mary's started the tournament with a bang.

Starting center Nana Opoku's block turned into a fast break that resulted in a thunderous transition dunk from Mezie Offurum.

Just in time

It was all Mount St. Mary's in the first half, capped by a buzzer-beating floater from point guard Damian Chong Qui as time expired before halftime.

Texas Southern responds

A 10-point halftime deficit? No problem for the Tigers.

Texas Southern opened the half with an 11-0 run to take the lead.

Bringing down the hammer

It was a monster second half for the Tigers, punctuated by a monster putback dunk from forward Karl Nichols.

Posterized

Drake guard Joseph Yesufu scored seven points in the first half against Wichita State, and none were louder than this huge transition dunk.

High-flying act

Wichita State guard Dexter Dennis took the elevator to the top floor for this rim-rattling dunk against Drake.

The Jalen Hawkins show

The Norfolk State guard came off the bench to score 20 points in the first half against Appalachian State, including this nifty and-1 bucket.

His 20 points single-handedly matched the entire point total from the Mountaineers in the first half.

A huge first half from Norfolk State

It was all Spartans in the first half against the Mountaineers, with Norfolk State taking a 16-point lead into the break.

On the comeback trail ...

The Mountaineers put together a fierce rally to take the lead, including this long-range bomb.

Survival

Norfolk State avoided disaster and held on to defeat Appalachian State, getting a last-second stop to secure the victory.

Paint patrol

Michigan State forward Marcus Bingham Jr. imposed his will on defense with three blocks, none more emphatic than this one.

Things get heated

And it was between the Spartans themselves.

Back and forth

There was no backing down between the Spartans and the Bruins, with UCLA retaking the lead on this tough finish from Jules Bernard.

Headed to overtime

An and-1 from UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez tied the game for the Bruins, which led to free basketball between UCLA and Michigan State.

The Bruins triumph

The Spartans offered little resistance in overtime.


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