Freshman Oshae Brissett had a double-double and led Syracuse’s second-half comeback, and the Orange — the last team to make the NCAA Tournament — held on for a 60-56 victory over Arizona State on Wednesday night in the First Four.
The 11th-seeded Orange plays No. 6 seed TCU (21-11) on Friday in Detroit in the Midwest Region.
Syracuse (21-13) had to sweat out Selection Sunday and wound up as the last one to make the bracket, sent to the First Four. The Orange prevailed in a matchup of teams that started fast and then faded onto the tournament bubble.
Arizona State (20-12) opened the season with 12 wins, including victories over tournament No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils went 8-12 the rest of the way. They also faded at the end of their tournament game.
Brissett overcame a hard fall in the first half, scored 23 points and had 12 rebounds. He had a three-point play and a step-back jumper as the Orange overcame a seven-point deficit with 7 minutes left.
Tyus Battle’s 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead to stay. With a chance to take the lead, Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II missed a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Frank Howard got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to clinch it.
Kodi Justice had 15 points for Arizona State, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009.
Syracuse: The Orange uses only seven players and had concerns about Howard, who had a throat ailment the last few days. He hit a pair of 3s and had a steal and layup as the Orange opened with a 10-7 run. He finished with 12 points, including the clinching free throws.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils struggled against zone defenses during conference play and were facing one of the most fabled in the country. They struggled to get open shots and missed five straight as Syracuse went ahead to stay. The Sun Devils finished 11 of 32 from beyond the arc.
Syracuse hopes to duplicate its 2016 tournament run. The Orange was a No. 10 seed and reached the national semifinals, where it lost to North Carolina.
Texas Southern – 64 North Carolina Central – 46 F
Texas Southern got its first ever NCAA Tournament win, a 64-46 rout of North Carolina Central in a First Four game on Wednesday night.
Damontrae Jefferson, a 5-foot-7 guard, scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lift No. 16 seed Texas Southern (16-19), which became the first team with a losing record to win a tournament game. The Tigers started the season 0-13 against a rough schedule and didn’t win a game until Jan. 1. Now they move on face No. 1 seed Xavier on Friday.
A historically black college in Houston, Texas Southern slipped into the First Four by getting hot and winning the Southwest Athletic College Tournament. The Tigers then were paired with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament winner N.C. Central, another historically black school that was making its second straight appearance in Dayton for a play-in game with a completely new starting lineup.
Both the conferences get an automatic bid every year but rarely have to play each other.
N.C. Central (19-16) was led by Raasean Davis with 19 points, part of a starting five that included a pair of true freshmen guards and a walk-on.
Texas Southern led by 10 at the half on Jefferson’s 17 points. The sophomore, who along with Miami’s Chris Lykes is the shortest player in the tournament, tied the score at 10 with a jumper, then fed an alley-oop pass to Trayvon Reed for a monster dunk and followed with a layup to cap an 8-0 run. The Tigers wouldn’t relinquish the lead.
The Eagles hurt themselves with terrible shooting, especially in the second half. They shot just 30.4 percent for the game — including 0 for 14 from 3-point range.
N.C. Central: Eagles got back to the First Four again despite losing all of last year’s starters. But they can’t keep up with Jefferson and his mates in what was considered to be this year’s national championship of historically black college basketball.
Texas Southern: Tigers started the season horrendously with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country but went 12-5 in the conference, winning the last seven. Tempered by November and December opponents that included Gonzaga, Ohio State and Kansas, they were ready for Wednesday night.
Texas Southern plays Xavier in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Stay with WDTN.com for all the latest scores and information as the NCAA Tournament rolls on.