Morehead St. 58, Alabama St. 43
DAYTON, Ohio (AP)—Kenneth Faried flexed his arms in a muscleman pose after Morehead State’s first NCAA tournament victory in 25 years.
One enormous drought was finally over. An even deeper one is yet to come.
The Eagles ended their long-standing frustration Tuesday night, dominating the backboards in a 58-43 victory over Alabama State in the NCAA tournament opener. They hadn’t won a tournament game—hadn’t even made it back—since 1984.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Faried, who led the upfront domination with 14 points and 21 rebounds.
Enjoy it for now.
The Eagles (20-15) played themselves into the first round of the tournament and a rematch Friday with top-seeded Louisville, the school at the other end of Interstate 64 in Kentucky that seems to be able to beat them without trying all that hard.
Think 25 years between wins is a long time? Try 52.
The Cardinals have won their last 12 games against Morehead State since the 1956-57 season, most of them by margins that produce a cringe. They met last Nov. 22 in Louisville, and the Cardinals had their way in a 79-41 win.
“I think we’ll do a lot better,” said Maze Stallworth, who added 11 points. “That game is a big blur to us. A lot of us don’t remember that game— or don’t want to remember that game. It’s great to play them one more time on a neutral court.”
At least they’re staying in Dayton a few more days.
Alabama State (22-10) had won 13 of its last 14 games, but the Southwestern Athletic champs didn’t make much of a showing, extending the conference’s streak of futility in the tournament to 17 straight losses.
This one stung. The Hornets shot poorly, got outrebounded 50-27 and trailed by double-digits most of the game.
“They crashed the boards hard,” guard Brandon Brooks said. “We just didn’t play our game tonight. We came out timid. We should have come out like we wanted to win this game, and we didn’t. The better team won.”
The Hornets brought the biggest name of the tournament—by vowels and consonants, that is—and hoped to set the tone defensively behind shot blocker Grlenntys Chief Kickingstallionsims Jr., a 7-foot-1 center whose reach is as long as his name. He swatted away three shots, but wasn’t much help where he was needed most—on the boards.
Two of the officials turned toward the public address announcer and smiled supportively when he pronounced the center’s last name correctly during introductions—it’s KIK’-een-stal’-yun-sy-ems. A murmur went through the crowd of 11,346 when he blocked the game’s first shot.
It was downhill from there. He finished with no points, two rebounds and the three blocked shots.
Instead, Faried (pronounced fuh-REED’) was the name on everyone’s tongue. The Ohio Valley’s defensive player of the year had his 24th double-double of the season, outplaying Kickingstallionsims and everyone else who got between him and the basket.
Faried chose to go to Morehead even though he thought someone was playing a joke on him the first time he heard the school wanted to recruit him.
“I’m from northern New Jersey, and to hear about Morehead—that was amazing,” Faried said. “I thought it was a pretty funny name, that they were playing around with me. I didn’t know who they were.”
The Eagles won only four games as recently as 2005-06, hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1984, and were pretty much an afterthought in a state where basketball comes in shades of Kentucky blue and Louisville red.
Now, there’s a little more room to brag in the Bluegrass.
“For every fan out there, this is for you,” Faried said. “Even for those in the last 25 years when we haven’t made it, this one is for them.”