It wasn’t supposed to be a memorable Sunday in college basketball. Only three ranked teams were scheduled and all would win. Only 26 games in all. But then the shooting started and the day turned extraordinary.
Eleven games were decided by one or two points or overtime, seven of them either won or saved in the final five seconds. It was a Sunday buffet of beating the buzzer, and an example of how you don’t need the biggest names to find magic in college basketball. So let the highlights roll . . .
Cincinnati 73, UCF 71
What happened: David DeJulius’ runner with 0.2 seconds left made the Bearcats a winner at Central Florida. That was after Cincinnati lost a 71-66 lead in the final minute because of two turnovers.
What it meant: Relief for the Bearcats, who had dropped three consecutive close road games, including in overtime at Tulane when DeJulius had a game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation rim out. “He shouldn’t because he’s been terrific all year, but he took it hard and the neat thing is that he keeps coming back to work,” coach Wes Miller said. “He wanted the ball again in that same situation.”
YAHTZEE! DEJULIUS SENDS EM HOME WITH A BUZZER BEATER!@ESPNU | https://t.co/BLm7GlwPwb pic.twitter.com/SrwNEipFTI— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) February 19, 2023
Bradley 50, Southern Illinois 48
What happened: Leading scorer Rienk Mast’s 4-point play with 20 seconds left rallied Bradley past Southern Illinois. “He stepped up big time for us,” coach Brian Wardle said after Mast hit a 3-pointer and drew a foul. “The star was a star.”
What it meant: Bradley’s eighth win in a row kept the Braves tied with Drake for the lead in the Missouri Valley Conference. Take away that 4-point play and Southern Illinois would have been one game out of first place.
Quinnipiac 90, Rider 88, 2OT
What happened: Quinnipiac came from 16 points behind in the second half and had a chance to win in regulation, but Allen Powell’s putback with 1.7 seconds left in regulation for Rider forced overtime. However, the Bobcats finished the job with two free throws in the final 21 seconds of the second overtime, the second coming when it was ruled Dezi Jones was fouled as he tried to flip a shot over his head. Quinnipiac was considerably aided by a 29-11 gap in free throws. “I’m not sure if half of them were fouls until I go back and look at it,” Rider coach Kevin Baggett told the media afterward. “I know the last one was not a foul. You can’t throw the ball backwards while your back is turned and get a foul. It’s not possible.”
What it meant: The loss dropped Rider two games off the lead in the MAAC.
MEN'S TOURNAMENT: 2023 March Madness schedule, dates, times
Mount St. Mary’s 75, Canisius 74
What happened: After 13 lead changes and 11 ties, Mount St. Mary’s built a late lead and was able to hang on.
What it meant: Mount St. Mary’s has a thing about close games. The Mountaineers are 6-11 in the MAAC and their last five conference victories were by a combined 17 points.
Manhattan 73, Fairfield 72
What happened: Would you believe five free throws for a team in the last second? Manhattan led 73-69 when things really got weird. Fairfield’s Jalen Leach was fouled on a 3-point attempt with under a second left. He made two free throws and purposely missed the third, which was rebounded by teammate Supreme Cook, who was fouled with 0.3 seconds still remaining. Suddenly, Fairfield had two more free throws and a chance to tie, but Cook missed the second. “I told Supreme in the locker room not to worry about the free throw; next time he’ll make it,” Fairfield coach Jay Young said.
What it meant: The escape moved Manhattan to within half a game of fifth in the MAAC, which is the last spot to get a bye in the league tournament. Fairfield would have been tied for that fifth position with a win.
George Washington 83, St. Bonaventure 81 OT
What happened: George Washington blew an 11-point lead in the last 140 seconds of regulation — a jumper by St. Bonaventure’s Kyrell Luc with half a second left forced overtime — but pulled out a victory on three free throws by James Bishop with 2.2 seconds left in the extra period. “It was almost like (George Washington) won, we won and then we gave it back to them,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said.
What it meant: The only three wins George Washington has since Jan. 21 all went overtime.
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Purdue Fort Wayne 77, Wright State 75
What happened: Wright State’s Trey Calvin appeared to win the game with a turnaround jumper that put the Raiders ahead 75-74 with 2.8 seconds left. Except he didn’t. Damian Chong Qui threw in a 40-footer at the buzzer to take the game back for Purdue Fort Wayne. "Life is made up of moments like this," Wright State coach Scott Nagy said on his postgame radio show. "It's all about being able to deal with it."
What it meant: It was the second Horizon League game this month that Wright State lost at the buzzer. And a Senior Day that Chong Qui will never forget.
🌟MASTODON MAGIC 🌟— Josh Ayen (@Josh_Ayen) February 19, 2023
Damian Chong Qui's last-second prayer is answered as @MastodonMBB stuns Wright State on Senior Day!@GoMastodons wraps up @HorizonLeague play with a pair of road games next weekend.@ESPNAssignDesk pic.twitter.com/ye3mBUckmb
UIC 74, Valparaiso 73
What happened: This was a little odd from the start when Valpo scored the first nine points for a 9-0 lead and UIC scored the next nine to tie. They went from there, changing the lead 13 times before UIC edged in front to stay with 30 seconds left.
What it meant: A bittersweet day for Valparaiso senior Ben Krikke from Alberta, Canada. Tough loss, but he scored 34 points with his parents seeing him play in person for the first time in his college career.
Cleveland State 64, Northern Kentucky 63
What happened: Neither team ever led by more than six points but Cleveland State broke the final tie with 56 seconds left and stayed in front with free throws.
What it meant: Cleveland State is in second place alone in the Horizon League and assured of a quarterfinal home game in the conference tournament. That would have been Northern Kentucky with two more points.
MEN'S TOURNAMENT: 2023 March Madness schedule, dates, times
Bellarmine 68, Central Arkansas 67
What happened: Curt Hopf’s putback with five seconds left won it for Bellarmine, the 13th lead change of the night.
What it meant: Timing is everything. The putback was Hopf’s first rebound of the night, and was able to make up for Bellarmine being wiped out on the boards 40-25. “It’s a funny game,” coach Scott Davenport said. “There were 16 timeouts. Do you think I talked about rebounding in those timeouts? Every one of them. And we win on an offensive rebound.”
Nebraska 70, Maryland 66, OT
What happened: Sam Hoiberg — that last name might ring a bell — scored four points and had a steal in the last 31 seconds of overtime to help get Nebraska to the finish line. He’s the son of Cornhuskers coach Fred Hoiberg, walked on last year and had scored only 50 points all this season until Sunday, when he had nine.
What it meant: This was Nebraska’s third overtime win, its most in a season in 36 years.
LET IT FLY, @keiseitominaga! 🎯 @HuskerHoops with the big 3 in OT! pic.twitter.com/Bd3KAHHZVn— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 20, 2023
Georgetown 68, Butler 62
What happened: Yeah, this one didn’t go to the buzzer but the Hoyas did rally from 13 points behind and the result was significant. Why? See the next section.
What it meant: A true road win for Georgetown. Finally. The Hoyas had lost 22 in a row and had not seen a victory on the road since February of 2021. It had been 722 days, but this Sunday would be one to cheer. It was in a lot of places.