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They were down 22. Twenty-two points with 11 minutes left, surely the last 11 minutes of their season. Their win probability had dipped to one-tenth of a percent – below that of the New England Patriots at 28-3.
And then the Nevada Wolf Pack pulled off the unbelievable. The inconceivable. The miraculous.
They erased that 22-point deficit with a 32-8 closing run to beat second-seeded Cincinnati, 75-73. Cody Martin led the comeback, scoring 25 points, and adding seven assists and six rebounds in one of the performances of the NCAA tournament so far. Head coach Eric Musselman couldn’t help but rip off his shirt in glee as a water fight broke out in the joyous locker room.
But it wasn’t Martin who had played the role of hero. It wasn’t his twin brother, Caleb, either. It wasn’t any of Musselman’s five starters. It was sophomore Josh Hall, the only Wolf Pack player to get in the game off the bench.
Hall rebounded Martin’s miss with the score tied, and his floater gave Nevada its first lead of the game:
Cincinnati had one final chance to save face and force overtime, but couldn’t.
The Bearcats had led wire to wire, and appeared destined for the Sweet 16. They appeared destined for a regional that would have included no other top-four seed, and would have presented them with a favorable road to the Final Four.
But immediately after Jarron Cumberland put the No. 2 seed up 22, Nevada fueled up for a furious charge. It scored 16 consecutive points in less than three minutes, capped off by a Cody Martin 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Cincinnati steadied itself, but began to stumble again when Cumberland picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a span of 1:05. The Bearcats scored just two points thereafter. They didn’t make a field goal over the game’s final 5:48, and finally saw the lead escape from their previously firm grasp with under a minute to go.
The Bearcats still, however, had the ball with the score tied and under a minute to go. Jacob Evans correctly tried to get a 2-for-1, attacking with around 45 seconds on the game clock. But he forced up a contested prayer of a runner, handing the ball back to Nevada. Hall then won the game at the other end.
And instead of one top-four seed next week in Atlanta, there will be zero. For the first time in NCAA tournament history, No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in a single region all lost on the first weekend. On a day of upsets and chaos, Nevada simply piled on.
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More NCAA tournament coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Nevada stuns Cincy with comeback better than Pats over Falcons
• Jim Boeheim uses controversial tactic to outcoach Tom Izzo and clinch upset
• Michigan player stops celebrating to console heartbroken opponent
• UMBC gets a special gift from Steph Curry before Kansas State game