March Madness scores: Ja Morant stars, Michigan State survives

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The greatest postseason in sports has arrived. For the next three weeks, the 2019 NCAA tournament will capture the imagination of a nation as 64 teams compete to cut down the nets in Minneapolis. The national championship favorites are ready to flex their muscles, the Cinderellas are putting their dancing shoes on, and millions of brackets have been painstakingly filled out.

Below, Molly Geary and Eric Single will be recapping every game of the first full day of tournament action as it goes final.

No. 6 Villanova 61, No. 11 Saint Mary’s 57

The reigning champs survived an past an upset-minded Saint Mary’s, winning a low-scoring affair, 61–57, despite some key missed free throws late. Villanova seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall combined for 34 points, while Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey added two three-pointers apiece to lead an offense that got just enough to outlast the Gaels. Saint Mary’s guard Jordan Ford, who averaged over 21 points on the season, was held to a 6-for-17 effort from the field, including making just of seven attempts from deep.

No. 1 Gonzaga 87, No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson 49

Fairleigh Dickinson simply had no answer for Gonzaga’s lethal frontcourt as the West Region’s No. 1 seed rolled to an 87–49 win in Salt Lake City. Rui Hachimura finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Brandon Clarke added 14 points and nine rebounds. A thunderous dunk by Killian Tillie capitalized a 17-point night for the junior forward, who was playing just his third game since returning from a monthlong injury absence.

No. 10 Florida 70, No. 7 Nevada 61

Nevada has 17 comeback wins when trailing by 10 points or more under coach Eric Musselman, and it nearly pulled one off for the second straight year in the NCAA tournament’s first round before falling to an opportunistic Florida team, 70–61. The Wolf Pack appeared to be done in by a scoreless stretch of nearly six minutes just after the start of the second half, during which Florida’s lead ballooned from six to 18. But as has happened so often this season, Nevada stormed back down the stretch with help from an offensive resurgence and a heaping helping of Gator mental mistakes to cut it to two. Finally, sophomore forward Dontay Basset’s and-one dunk with 47 seconds left broke the Wolf Pack’s momentum, ending the careers of Cody and Caleb Martin and athletic forward Jordan Caroline.

No. 2 Kentucky 79, No. 15 Abilene Christian 44

Despite not having PJ Washington, Kentucky easily dispatched Abilene Christian, 79–44, to advance on Thursday night. Keldon Johnson had a big night for the Wildcats, going 10 for 16 from the floor as part of a 25-point effort, while Reid Travis stepped up down low in Washington’s absence with 18 points. The Wildcats crushed Abilene Christian on the boards, collecting as many rebounds (44) as its opponent had points to make up for a 4-for-14 performance from the arc.

No. 12 Murray State 83, No. 5 Marquette 64

The Ja Morant Show hit Hartford early Thursday evening, and the Murray State star didn’t disappoint. Morant had the first NCAA tournament triple double since Draymond Green in 2012 as part of a stellar 17-point, 16-assists, 11-rebound effort, as well as a series of jaw-dropping highlights. Behind Morant, the Racers not only upset Marquette, but did it in statement fashion, winning 83–64. Tevin Brown led Murray State with 19 points, and K.J. Williams added 16. Marquette star Markus Howard finished with 26 of his own, but struggled from the field, going 9 for 27 and 4 for 14 from three.

No. 4 Kansas 87, No. 13 Northeastern 53

The first real smackdown of the tournament took place in Salt Lake City, where the Jayhawks got whatever they wanted on offense and held Northeastern under 30% shooting from the field in an 87–53 win. Dedric Lawson hit three three-pointers and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Devon Dotson added 18. Northeastern got as close as one point on a Vasa Pusica three-pointer with 8:02 left in the first half, then was virtually doubled up the rest of the way, outscored 67–34.

No. 6 Maryland 79, No. 11 Belmont 77

Maryland survived a scare from Belmont thanks to a late defensive stand, winning 79–77. Dylan Windler had a monster game for the Bruins, scoring 35, hitting seven threes and grabbing 11 rebounds, but his team was felled by a big effort on the glass by Maryland. Jalen Smith had eight offensive boards as part of his 19-point, 12-rebound day, while Bruno Fernando added 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Despite Anthony Cowan’s struggles (the junior point guard went 3 for 18 from the floor), Maryland sophomore Darryl Morsell stepped up with a season-high 18 points, including the game-sealing steal.

No. 2 Michigan State 76, No. 15 Bradley 65

Three years after they lost to Middle Tennessee State in the first round as a No. 2 seed, the Spartans got a huge scare from another scrappy No. 15 seed before ultimately pulling out a 76–65 win over Bradley. The Missouri Valley Conference champs kept things close in the first half by hitting six threes as Michigan State’s offense sputtered—Tom Izzo told CBS after the game that his team appeared “tighter” than the Braves—but all MSU ultimately needed was the Big Ten Player of the Year. Cassius Winston finished with 26 points on 8-for-17 shooting (including a perfect 8-for-8 effort from the line) to set a Big Ten rematch with Minnesota in the second round.

No. 4 Florida State 76, No. 13 Vermont 69

The Seminoles closed strong to hold off the America East champions in a 76–69 win to open action in Hartford. Vermont made up for its distinct size disadvantage by bombing away from three, hitting 16 of its 32 long-range attempts to keep things close, but the ACC runners-up pulled away late, paced by 21 points from super sixth man Mfiondu Kabengele. For their part, the Catamounts still made some history, playing three brothers—Robin, Everett and Ernie Duncan—on the floor at the same time.

No. 5 Auburn 78, No. 12 New Mexico State 77

The Tigers did everything they could to keep their 78–77 first-round win interesting, with several turnovers in the final minutes that fueled a frantic New Mexico State comeback. A three by JoJo Zamora cut it to one with less than 10 seconds to play, and Samir Doughty could only make one of two free throws to push Auburn’s lead to two. At the other end, New Mexico State inexplicably passed up an open game-tying layup in favor of a kickout for the win … but Terrell Brown was fouled shooting a three. Brown could only hit one of three, but the rebound went off Auburn out of bounds, and the Aggies had one more desperation three to win that sailed long.

No. 3 LSU 79, No. 14 Yale 74

The Ivy league champs gave it all they had in their first-round matchup, but the size and strength of LSU was ultimately too much as the Tigers held off the Bulldogs in a 79–74 win. LSU was playing without suspended head coach Will Wade but showed no ill effects early as it jumped out to a 17–8 lead. Despite being down 16 at halftime, Yale battled to cut the deficit to as little as four in a late second-half charge, but a balanced effort from LSU propelled it to the second round. Tigers big men Kavell Bigby-Williams and Naz Reid were dominant, with both posting double doubles (plus four blocks for Bigby-Williams), while backcourt pairing Skylar Mays and Tremont Waters combined for 34 points. Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni was held to just five points on 2-of-16 shooting.

No. 10 Minnesota 86, No. 7 Louisville 76

The Cardinals weren’t expecting an aerial assault, but that’s what came their way in the first game of Thursday’s action, as Minnesota shot 11-for-27 from three-point range for an 86–76 win to advance to face the winner of Michigan State–Bradley in Des Moines. Freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur hit five of those threes, pouring in 24 points (one shy of his season-high) to pace an offense that looked better than it had for most of Big Ten play. The Gophers started the second half on an 8–0 run and built a double-digit lead by jamming up Louisville’s half-court offense, and their lead ballooned to 19 with under 10 minutes to play. When the Cardinals mounted a rally, senior forward and rebound machine Jordan Murphy returned from a brief stint on the sidelines to treat lower-back spasms and drained his eighth three of the season to maintain the separation. Richard Pitino’s team didn’t feel safely in the field of 68 until it knocked off Purdue in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. Now it will play for a spot in the Sweet 16. — ES

Thursday’s upcoming games (All times ET)

• 9:20 p.m.: No. 15 Montana vs. No. 2 Michigan (TNT)

• 9:40 p.m.: No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Wofford (CBS)

• 9:50 p.m.: No. 14 Old Dominion vs. No. 3 Purdue (TBS)

• 9:57 p.m.: No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 8 Syracuse (truTV)

All games can also be streamed with March Madness Live online on

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