Pitt, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi win First Four games as men's NCAA Tournament begins

DAYTON, Ohio — Mississippi State basketball's return to March Madness was short-lived. MSU, in a thrilling game filled with runs, fell 60-59 against Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the First Four at University of Dayton Arena.

Mississippi State guard Shakeel Moore had an open look from beyond the arc with a chance to win the game in the final seconds. Forward D.J. Jeffries couldn't get the tip-in to fall at the buzzer.

“It was a heck of a look,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said of Moore’s missed 3. “Fortunately we got it off quick enough where we had at least one tap at it. I don’t think the second one was probably in time, but at that point it’s all you can ask for, a chance – the ball is in the air – to win an NCAA Tournament game and still have enough time to get a putback.”

Jans' first season at the helm ends in heartbreak with Mississippi State returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019 but failing to advance to the first round.

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Mississippi State’s hot start quickly cooled

Few would expect the nation’s worst 3-point shooting team to make an NCAA Tournament appearance, but it’s part of what has made MSU’s success all-the-more surprising this season. However, the game’s first five minutes sent a different message.

The Bulldogs made four of their first five attempts from deep to jump out to a 14-8 lead before the first media timeout. Jeffries, who made two of his last 20 shots from beyond the arc entering Tuesday, made a pair in that stretch.

However, the law of averages quickly took over. Mississippi State had a scoring drought last nearly six minutes after the hot start. The Bulldogs trailed 35-34 at halftime after missing nine of their last 10 attempts from deep.

Pittsburgh, the nation’s No. 79 3-point shooting team, was 8-of-13 (62%) in the first half.

“We showed toughness, resiliency,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We were who we’ve been all year, and it wasn’t pretty – but it was beautiful.”

Pittsburgh's Jamarius Burton reacts after hitting the game-winning shot.
Pittsburgh's Jamarius Burton reacts after hitting the game-winning shot.

Pitt without Federiko Federiko

The Panthers were shorthanded with 6-foot-11 sophomore center Federiko Federiko sidelined due to a knee injury. Freshman Guillermo Diaz Graham, a 7-foot center out of Spain, started in his place despite averaging 10 minutes per game.

Diaz Graham blocked Tolu Smith’s driving layup attempt out of bounds with 2.7 seconds left, setting up the final sequence.

“I did a block – I don’t even know how – with my left hand,” the exhausted 6-foot-11 freshman said. “I usually don’t use my left hand. And I blocked it, and I knew it was a big play, so I just let the energy go out.”

Contributing: Associated Press

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earns first NCAA Tournament win

DAYTON, Ohio – Isaac Mushila had 15 points and 12 rebounds as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi held off Southeast Missouri State 75-71 on Tuesday night to earn the first NCAA Tournament win in program history.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi went 3 of 4 at the free-throw line in the final 15 seconds to ice the game and advance to play top-seeded Alabama in the South Region.

“To find a way to win, I couldn’t be more excited and more proud for those guys, obviously for the city, for the university and all of the Islander fans that are across the country watching this game,” Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Steve Lutz said. “They’ve got to be pretty excited.”

The 16th-seeded Islanders (24-10), winners of the Southland Conference, returned to the First Four for a second straight season and led for all but 23 seconds.

— Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: March Madness begins: Pitt, Texas A&M Corpus Christi get First 4 wins