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NIT First Round: Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky advance; UNC Asheville falls in 2OT

It was a good day for C-USA and a bad day for almost everyone else.

NCAA Basketball: Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

There were 11 mid-major schools in action in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday, but only Saint Mary’s and two Conference USA schools managed to advance.

Saint Mary’s dismantled Southeastern Louisiana, 89-45. 3 seed Middle Tennessee demolished 6 seed Vermont, while 4 seed Western Kentucky knocked out Boston College. Every other mid-major lost, but UNC-Asheville thrillingly pushed 1 seed USC to a 103-98 double-overtime thriller.

The games were also notable for the introduction of new rules, including 10-minute quarters, a longer three-point line, an extended foul lane, and a 20-second shot clock after offensive rebounds. The new rules were interesting to watch, especially the 10-minute quarters, though the extended three-point arc really hurt shooting percentages across the board. However, there was a lack of competitive first games as the home team won seven of nine games by double-digits.

Saint Mary’s 89, Southeastern Louisiana 45

I turned this game off after the first quarter. Saint Mary’s didn’t break a sweat as Southeastern Louisiana couldn’t compete whatsoever. I’m pretty sure the Lions were badly thrown off by the extended three-point line because they shot 1-for-20 from three-point land. It was a 24-point lead by halftime and the Gaels nearly doubled up the Lions by the end.

Could Syracuse have beaten Southeastern Louisiana this badly? Definitely not. Ok, maybe. Look, this is a mid-major blog, Syracuse is trash. I wanted to see this team in the Tournament and I’m not happy.

Baylor 80, Wagner 59

Is Scott Drew a good coach?

Today, yes.

(Wagner went 6-for-30 from three...I’m sensing a trend here.)

Louisville 66, Northern Kentucky 58

Northern Kentucky disappointed everyone when it lost to Cleveland State in the Horizon League Tournament. The Norse nearly made up for it, but Louisville overcame a five-point halftime deficit to knock out the men from Sweden Highland Heights, Kentucky.

Northern Kentucky shot 5-for-28 from three-point land. For those keeping track, these three mid-major losers shot a combined 12-for-78 from beyond the arc.

Western Kentucky 79, Boston College 62

You’d think there’d be more to say for the only non-Saint Mary’s mid-major victory over a major conference team, but there isn’t. Western Kentucky totally outplayed Boston College after the first quarter. It was a comprehensive performance from the Hilltoppers, who bounced back well after that brutal lost to Marshall in the C-USA Final.

Middle Tennessee 91, Vermont 64

Vermont has gone from hero to zero in a very short time. A month ago, Vermont looked ready to go undefeated in the America East for a second straight year and be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament. Then, after losses to UMBC and Hartford, the Catamounts looked completely washed. This game was awful, and the Margaritas at Chili’s could not take away the sting.

After the game, news broke that Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis had been hired as the next head coach at Ole Miss.

Notre Dame 84, Hampton 63; Oklahoma State 80, FGCU 68

Speaking of Chili’s, I don’t think the local franchise had TruTV. Instead of watching St. Bonaventure/UCLA, I “watched” these games. There’s nothing much to report. Both games were essentially over by halftime. The big-name teams did what big-name teams usually do. All I know is that the top eight NIT teams and MTSU deserved to be in over Syracuse.

Oregon 99, Rider 86

The 20-second offensive rebound clock reset did not work in Oregon due to technical difficulties. In keeping with the malfunction theme, Oregon thought really, really hard about losing to Rider, but the Ducks came back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to win by 12. It was as depressing as it sounds. Dimencio Vaughn had 25 points, six rebounds and three blocks, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Broncs in front. Sigh.

USC 103, UNC Asheville 98 (2OT)

In the game of the night, USC and UNC Asheville played an NIT classic. UNC Asheville struggled to keep pace with USC early in the game, falling behind by 11 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs scraped their way back into the game, staying in touch with USC through the next two quarters before taking what looked to be a decisive lead in the fourth.

USC star big man Chimezie Metu sat out for NBA Draft purposes and UNC Asheville’s Jonathan Baehre took full advantage. Baehre had 28 points, 14 boards and five blocks. His teammate, MaCio Teague, scored 26 on the night, including a three-pointer with 3:01 to go that put UNC Asheville up 70-66.

Unfortunately, that would be the last Asheville basket in regulation. USC managed to tie the game at 70-70 with 25 seconds remaining on a pair of Jordan McLaughlin free throws. Ahmad Thomas’s buzzer-beating attempt missed and the two teams headed to overtime. Asheville earned the lead in overtime again, this time an 85-82 advantage with less than 15 seconds on the clock. Then, McLaughlin hit a three to tie it at 85, sending Bill Walton into hysterics and the game into double overtime.

In the second overtime, UNC Asheville again had the lead with under a minute left, but McLaughlin hit a clutch jumper to put USC in front for good on the next possession. McLaughlin led all scorers with 26 and was just too good in the end.