So how did you enjoy Buzzer-Beater Weekend?
Yeah, the big headline was how the last two unbeatens fell within about six hours — Michigan at (formerly) struggling Wisconsin, then Virginia at Duke, in their epic top-ranked showdown, mano No. 1 a mano No. 1. By the way, the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers can stand down. They’ll remain the last perfect national champion for at least another year.
But did you happen to notice what else happened the past couple of days? Besides a winter storm in the East? The game-winning shots fell like snow. Out of 150 Saturday games, 39 were decided by one possession or in overtime. And 11 — eleven — were won with points in the final four seconds of play. P.S. A 12th was added on the pile Sunday.
Bucknell and Lehigh colliding for the top spot in the Patriot League, for example. There were 20 lead changes, and Lehigh scored five points in eight seconds to tie the game with five seconds to go. All that work, and the tie didn’t last long. Jimmy Sotos quickly drove the length of the court for layup with 1.2 seconds showing, to make Bucknell an 85-83 winner. “We practice that sequence every day,” coach Nathan Davis said afterward. Lehigh hit 14 of 23 from the 3-point line, and still lost.
Top that, Duke.
And that wasn’t even the tightest finish of the day in the Patriot League. Loyola Maryland beat Holy Cross 67-65 in overtime on Andrew Kostecka’s layup at 0.2 seconds.
Conference leaders felt the last-shot blues.
Troy over Georgia State 77-75? That was Jordon Varnado’s deep 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. Georgia State had won seven in a row to start 5-0 in the Sun Belt.
Eastern Illinois 85, Austin Peay 83? Shareef Smith scored two points for Eastern Illinois in the first 37 minutes. But he accounted for all 10 Panther points in the final three minutes, including the game-winning 15-footer with four seconds left. Ohio Valley Conference co-leader Austin Peay blew a 14-point lead in the second half.
Elsewhere, there was Grambling’s 88-87 overtime win over Texas Southern, an Ivy Smith Jr. production. Smith tied the game with a layup with 1.7 seconds left in regulation, then won it with a floater with 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
Penn State was up 11 on Minnesota in the second half, but lost 65-64 on Dupree McBrayer’s free throw with 2.7 seconds left.
Rice let a 16-point lead get away in the final seven minutes against North Texas, and lost on Michael Miller’s left-handed layup at 0.6 seconds. At 6-3, he was the tallest Mean Green player on the court at the end. “He has that look in his eye,” coach Grant McCasland told reporters afterward. “He always believes he’s going to make the shot, and we’re going to win.” He’s been mostly right about the last part. North Texas is 17-2.
“Everything slows down and gets quiet,” Otis Livingston II of George Mason said about what it’s like, trying to make a play at the end of a game. It must have seemed calm and peaceful to him Saturday against Fordham, when Livingston hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left for a 71-68 victory.
Southern blew a 16-point lead in the second half but won at Arkansas-Pine Bluff 69-67 on two Sidney Umude free throws with .5 seconds left in overtime. There was some disagreement over the foul call, but the Jaguars can use any break they can get. They went into the game with a 1-16 record.
Eastern Kentucky performed a last-second magic trick. Again. This time, the Colonels led Southeast Missouri State by 11 points with 3:30 left, managed to get caught and tied with eight seconds go, and then won 85-83 when JacQuess Hobbs went coast to coast to hit a floater as time ran out. It was Eastern Kentucky’s third buzzer-beater this season.
North Alabama beat Stetson 63-62, when Christian Agnew banked in a half-court shot as time expired. Until then, he had only two points, and was 1-for-9 shooting.
NORTH ALABAMA FROM HALF-COURT FTW! 🚨 @UNA_MBBpic.twitter.com/MjoVZCeGfs— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 20, 2019
Finally, on Sunday, there was the redemption of Monmouth’s Ray Salnave. His turnover gave Iona a chance to tie the game 81-81 with 14 seconds left. Atonement was swift and certain, when he dashed back down the court to bank in a winner with 1.1 seconds left. “My thought was, I can’t have two mess-ups in a row,’” he said later.
And that list doesn’t even include Jermaine Haley’s layup with 8.5 seconds that sent West Virginia over Kansas. Or Ricky Council II, who played only seven minutes, burying a 3-pointer for UMBC with nine seconds to go in overtime to beat Albany 65-64. Or the nation’s leading scorer, Chris Clemons, giving Campbell a 73-72 win over Charleston Southern with a 3-pointer with 16 seconds showing.
All three were part of the weekend drama, too. But compared to some of the others, they were cake.