America has found its latest March Madness hero: a blur in green and gold named Kyle O'Quinn.
The 6-foot-10 senior out of Queens, N.Y., who barely knew the basic terminology of basketball when he came out of high school, led tiny Norfolk State to one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history – an 86-84 stunner over 20-point favorite Missouri on Friday night in Omaha, Neb.
It marked only the fifth time a No. 15 seed had knocked off a No. 2 seed, and it was largely due to O'Quinn's 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Unheralded Norfolk State, champion of the unheralded Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, got its first win against a ranked opponent on the biggest of stages. The upset came in the program's first-ever NCAA tournament game and sets up a meeting with Florida on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
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O'Quinn had only one scholarship offer – from Norfolk State, whose in-state annual tuition is slightly more than $7,000. Yet he dominated the Tigers with aggressive rebounding and ferocious energy at both ends of the court. He had the play of the game with 34.9 seconds to play when he rebounded a teammate's airball and dropped in a layup to begin a three-point play that gave the Spartans an 84-81 lead they would not relinquish.
In a nerve-wracking turnabout, O'Quinn missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left and Norfolk nursing a two-point lead. He could have clinched the game. Instead, Norfolk had to weather Phil Pressey's last-second 3-point attempt for Missouri.
Pressey was open but the shot missed and it was O'Quinn who grabbed the ball and stomped down the court in victory. His wide eyes and gaping smile told the story of shock and excitement.
Missouri came into the game pinned to the largest point spread in the tournament's round of 64.
Interviewed by TNT's Craig Sager after the game, O'Quinn said he owed his coaches "everything" for taking a chance on him.
[Y! Sports Radio: Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans]
O'Quinn, who was only 5 feet 11 as a freshman in high school, is now 21 and a towering 250-pounder. His basketball knowledge has grown, too.
His points-per-game average went from 5.3 as a freshman to 15.9 this season. His 26 points was one short of his season-high, which came against Coppin State in January.
Norfolk State shot 44.3 percent from the field during the season, but hit 54.2 percent against Missouri, including 62.5 percent in the second half. In addition, a team that was horrible from 3-point range during the season (31.1 percent) was 10-of-19 against the Tigers.
It's the type of upset that makes March Madness what it is. And it was a bracket-buster all over the country.
"We even messed up my bracket," O'Quinn said.
Missouri players gave credit to O'Quinn and Co.
"We knew they were capable," guard Matt Pressey said. "We knew who was capable. But, I mean, gosh, they made some tough shots. We just didn't take care of the things that we could take care of and that's what hurt us. I feel like if we'd have done those little things, we might have got out of here with a four or five-point win."
Other No. 15 seeds which have won
2012: Norfolk State over Missouri, 86-84. Spartans center Kyle O'Quinn dominated the smaller Tigers, going for 26 points and 14 rebounds in the shocker in Omaha, Neb. The game was tied at halftime and remained close the rest of the way. Missouri had a chance for the win at the buzzer, but Phil Pressey missed a long 3-pointer. The win came in Norfolk's first-ever NCAA tournament game.
2012: Lehigh over Duke 75-70. Guard C.J. McCollum poured in 30 points and added six assists as the Mountain Hawks shocked the Blue Devils in Greensboro, N.C. Lehigh shot just 38.6 percent, but played solid defense, as Duke shot only 35.8 percent. The Blue Devils were just 6-of-33 from 3-point range. It was Lehigh's first victory in its fifth NCAA appearance.
2001: Hampton over Iowa State, 58-57. Tarvis Williams hit a 4-footer in the lane with 6.9 seconds left to lift the Pirates to the improbable win in Boise, Idaho. The lasting image is of then-coach Steve Merfeld being carried around by Pirates reserve David Johnson, pumping his fists in celebration. An unbelievable-but-true fact: Williams scored on an assist by Marseilles Brown, who was a guard on the Richmond team that won as a No. 14 seed in 1998, then transferred. Hampton lost in the second round to Georgetown by 19.
1997: Coppin State over South Carolina 78-65. The Eagles took the lead, 55-54, with 6:12 left and steadily pulled away down the stretch for the stunner in Pittsburgh. "They took it to us, and we were passive. We should have been a lot more aggressive," Gamecocks guard B.J. McKie told reporters afterward. Coppin State lost by one to Texas in the second round.
1993: Santa Clara over Arizona 64-61. The Broncos overcame a 25-0 run by Arizona that spanned the end of the first half and the start of the second, then held the Wildcats without a field goal for more than 15 minutes in Salt Lake City. Santa Clara missed four free throws in the final 7.5 seconds, including two by Steve Nash, but still hung on. The Broncos lost in the second round to Temple by 11.
1991: Richmond over Syracuse 73-69. The Spiders never trailed and hit three free throws in the final 21 seconds in ousting Syracuse in College Park, Md. Richmond, which flummoxed Syracuse with a match-up zone, lost in the second round to Temple by 13.
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- Norfolk State