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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Northwestern State Makes Its Big Statement: We're No. 64

Midwest Regional: Demons defeat Winthrop, 71-67, in play-in game and earn shot at top-seeded Illinois.

March 14, 2001|From Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio — Josh Hancock made another last-minute shot and Northwestern State won the NCAA tournament game no one wanted to play.

Hancock's three-point basket with a minute left overcame Winthrop's torrid three-point shooting Tuesday night and set up a 71-67 victory in the tournament's play-in game between its two lowest-seeded teams.

Northwestern State (19-12) earned two things with its victory: the first NCAA tournament victory in school history and a first-round matchup against Illinois, the region's No. 1-seeded team. The Southland Conference champions have only two days to get ready for the Fighting Illini (24-7), a team with a pronounced size advantage.

A team seeded No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1 since the tournament adopted its current format in 1985. In those 64 games pitting Nos. 1 and 16, the underdog has lost by an average of 25 points.

Hancock, who won two other games for the Demons with last-minute baskets, put them in control with his three-point basket from the right corner as the shot clock ran down.

Winthrop (18-13), the Big South representative, made 11 of 20 three-point tries, but Tywan Harris missed two of them in the final minute and the Demons made their free throws to hold on.

To get a shot at Illinois, the play-in teams had to overcome two days of hectic travel, little sleep and disappointment over getting sent to the tournament's pseudo-opener. Neither had time to rest or prepare and it showed. There were double dribbles and blown alley-oops, shots off the side of the backboard and one too-hard jump shot that actually went over the backboard, slamming off the front of the shot clock above.

Chris Thompson led Northwestern State with a game-high 18 points.

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