There must be something in the Shark Tank that gets underdogs inspired.
March Madness hit San Jose’s SAP Center on Friday when little UC Irvine, the 13th seed in the South Region which had never won an NCAA Tournament game, shocked fourth-seeded Kansas State — an Elite Eight team last year — 70-64.
Hours later on the same court, Liberty, the East Region’s 12th seed, got its first NCAA Tournament win, 80-76 over fifth-seeded Mississippi State.
UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said the Anteaters (31-5) often feel like a little brother to Southern California Pac-12 powers UCLA and USC. Now they’re the only school in California left standing.
“Well, little brother has been in the weight room, getting better, getting ready for a chance like this,” Turner said. “So I’m really happy for these players to be able to work so hard for something everybody can see and then accomplish it.
“You know, we need to stick our chests out a little bit right now.”
Photo: Chris Carlson / Associated Press
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Evan Leonard and Max Hazzard each scored 19 points to send UC Irvine into the second round against Oregon on Sunday.
Kamau Stokes led the Wildcats (25-9) with 18 points.
For Liberty, Caleb Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to make the Flames (29-6) a winner in their fourth tournament trip in school history.
“We just have an incredible belief throughout this entire team,” said Cabbil, who had 18 points. “Even when we got down by 10, everyone was still yelling, ‘We can get back into this.’”
Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs (23-11).
MORE EAST REGION
Duke 85, N.D. State 62: At Columbia, S.C., Zion Williamson had an explosive NCAA Tournament debut with 25 points to lead the top-seeded Blue Devils (31-5) to a second-half laugher over the Bison (19-16). RJ Barrett led Duke with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
UCF 73, VCU 58: At Columbia, Tacko Fall had 10 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks as the ninth-seeded Knights (24-8) won their first NCAA Tournament game, beating the Rams (25-8).
Virginia Tech 66, St. Louis 52: At SAP Center, Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 20 points to lead the Hokies (25-8) to their first NCAA Tournament win in 12 years by beating the No. 13 seed Billikens (23-13).
MORE SOUTH REGION
Iowa 79, Cincinnati 72: At Columbus, Ohio, Luka Garza scored 20 points, Jordan Bohannon made a three-point play during a closing surge and the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes (23-11) rallied past the No. 7 Bearcats (28-7) to get their first NCAA win in four years.
Tennessee 77, Colgate 70: Also at Columbus, Admiral Schofield had 19 points and the second-seeded Volunteers (30-5) held off a second-half rally by the No. 15 Raiders (24-11).
Oklahoma 95, Mississippi 72: At Columbia, Rashard Odomes and Christian James scored 20 points apiece, Kristian Doolittle had 19 points and 15 rebounds and the ninth-seeded Sooners (20-13) blitzed the eighth-seeded Rebels (20-13) with a season high in points.
Virginia 71, Gardner-Webb 56: Also at Columbia, the top-seeded Cavaliers (30-3) rallied from 14 points down to beat the No. 16 seed Runnin’ Bulldogs (23-12) and avert a second straight first-round exit as a top seed. De’Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 23 points.
Washington 78, Utah St. 61: At Columbus, Noah Dickerson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the ninth-seeded Huskies (27-8) made a successful return to the NCAA Tournament after an eight-year absence. Jaylen Nowell, the Pac-12 player of the year, had 19 points and five assists. Pac-12 coach of the year Mike Hopkins got a $17.5 million extension through 2025 on the eve of the game. The eighth-seeded Aggies (28-7) haven’t won an NCAA game since 2002 (0-8).
N. Carolina 88, Iona 73: At Columbus, Cameron Johnson scored 21 points and the No. 1 seed Tar Heels (28-6) quickly erased a five-point halftime deficit to roll past the 16th-seeded Gaels (17-16).
Houston 84, Georgia St. 55: At Tulsa, Okla., Corey Davis scored 26 points to help the third-seeded Cougars (32-3) rout the 14th-seeded Panthers (24-10).
Ohio St. 62, Iowa St. 59: At Tulsa, Kaleb Wesson had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 11th-seeded Buckeyes (20-14) over the fifth-seeded Cyclones (23-12).
Buffalo 91, Arizona St. 74: At Tulsa, Jeremy Harris and Nick Perkins each scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds to help lead the No. 6 seed Bulls (32-3) past the No. 11 Sun Devils (23-11). Zylan Cheatham scored 22 points and had eight rebounds for Arizona State.
Texas Tech 72, W. Kentucky 57: At Tulsa, Jarrett Culver had 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the third-seeded Red Raiders (27-6) get past the 14th-seeded Norse (26-9).
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Irvine-Liberty-pull-SAP-Center-shockers-in-NCAA-13710779.php.