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No. 8 Saint Joseph's survives in final seconds against No. 9 Cincinnati 78-76

There couldn't have been a more fitting nightcap to one of the wildest first rounds in tournament history.

Saint Joe's DeAndre' Bembry dribbles against Cincinnati's Kevin Johnson.
Saint Joe's DeAndre' Bembry dribbles against Cincinnati's Kevin Johnson.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Fans in Spokane, Wash. who stuck around after watching a staggeringly one-sided 16-vs.-1 game were treated to quite the opposite in the West Region's closest-seeded game.

The No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats and No. 8 Saint Joseph's Hawks went blow-for-blow over 40 hard fought minutes. They traded blocks and threes and leads into the final seconds of the game. There were 19 three pointers, 14 lead changes, 10 blocks and nine ties. And we came within the slimmest of split seconds from having an extra five minutes.

Octavius Ellis slammed home dunk that would have forced overtime, after a broken final play from the Bearcats, but upon review it was clear the ball was on his hand as zeros showed on the game clock. It was as close as humanly possible. So close that the NCAA issued a statement immediately after the game.

The officials in the Saint Joseph's versus Cincinnati game ruled the dunk shot made by Octavius Ellis was disallowed because the ball was on his fingertips when the clock hit 0.0. The rule used to determine the judgement of the officials was Rule 11, Section 3, Article 1, which references mandatory use of instant replay, and reads as follows:

Officials shall use such available equipment in the following situations:

a.     When there is a reading of zeroes on the game clock at the end of any period, after making a call on the playing court, and when necessary to determine the outcome of the game in the following situations:

1.     Determine whether a try for field goal entering the basket was released before the reading of zeroes on the game clock.

This rule can be found on page 103 of the NCAA men's basketball rules book.

So, it was a stressful game. Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli clearly knows what part of the country he's in: one that isn't big into stress. So with the mood light during his postgame press conference Martelli inquired about the local stress relief. He jokingly, I think, asked "Do they sell marijuana in this town?"

Jacob Evans led the game with 26 points in the losing effort, while DeAndre' Bembry paced the Hawks with 23.

Neither team really managed to build separation in the first half, though Saint Joseph's had the most of the lead. Bembry did his work both outside and above the rim, scoring 20 points during the first 20 minutes.

For most of the second half Saint Joseph's looked on the brink of taking over. And at one point in the half, from the 15:20 to 11:10 marks, they did. Isaiah Miles (19 points) sparked an 11-0 run that produced the game's first double-digit lead. Fittingly for a game this close, that lead went only to 12 points and was immediately erased.

The Bearcats scored five quick points after their four minute long drought. Five minutes later they had tied the game and a minute after that it was a one point lead for Mick Cronin's squad.

At the end this tight game erupted for a wild two minutes. Moments before his dunk that was waved off Octavius Ellis led to one that counted. He blocked an Aaron Brown shot that led to a fastbreak dunk from Jacob Evans. With 16 seconds left Cincinnati had a one point lead.

But then Miles pulled up for three and swung the lead back to his side, which is where it stayed. If only the ball had gotten to Octavius Ellis a moment sooner at the other end who knows, these two teams might still be playing.