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Conference tournament recap: Higher seeds dominate on opening night

It was a perfect night for the favorites on the first day of tournament action.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 14 UIC at Cleveland State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The conference tournament season is officially off and running. On Tuesday, the ASUN, Big South, Horizon League and Patriot League all tipped off their postseasons.

Here’s what went down on the first night of tournament action.

ASUN Quarterfinals

(1) Liberty 55, (8) NJIT 49
(2) North Florida 91, (7) Jacksonville 88
(3) Lipscomb 68, (6) Florida Gulf Coast 63
(4) Stetson 82, (5) North Alabama 72

The ASUN delivered the most exciting games of the night in its opening round.

Liberty, who was coming off a lackluster performance against Lipscomb to close the season, maintained a lead for most of the game but didn’t put NJIT away until the very end. It was the second straight game in which the Flames struggled with an inferior opponent, and their 0.894 points per possession was the second worst mark of the season. Their stout defense held serve as it usually does, but the Flames have looked vulnerable and will likely need play better than tonight against a Stetson team that dealt them one of their four losses of the season.

North Florida held off Jacksonville after a back and forth first half that featured multiple lead changes. The Ospreys entered the game as the nation’s leader in three-point attempt rate, and they went 12-29 from behind the arc to overcome a 46-26 disadvantage on the glass.

On the back of Ahsan Asadullah’s 40-point, 14-rebound outing, the Bisons escaped what would have been the only upset of the night. Lipscomb’s win over FGCU sets up a matchup with a North Florida team that they split the regular season matchup with.

Patriot League First Round

(7) Bucknell 65, (10) Holy Cross 62
(8) Lehigh 78, (9) Loyola (MD) 75

Despite leading for almost the entirety of the game, Bucknell narrowly avoided a loss to a Holy Cross team that entered the Patriot League Tournament having lost 11 consecutive games. Andrew Funk led the way with 17 points for the Bison, and Joe Pridgen tallied a “triple-double” for Holy Cross with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 TURNOVERS. Oof.

Freshman standout Santi Aldama brought Loyola (MD) within one with 13 seconds to go to overcome a seven-point Lehigh lead, but Marques Wilson put the game away at the free line in the closing seconds. Loyola had a look to tie on the final possession, but Cameron Spencer couldn’t connect at the horn. Lehigh has now won four straight and will face the No. 1 seed Colgate on Thursday.

Big South First Round

(7) USC Upstate 69, (10) High Point 59
(8) Charleston Southern 81, (9) Presbyterian 64
(6) UNC Asheville 72, (11) Campbell 68

USC Upstate jumped out to lead early in the first half and managed to keep High Point at arm’s length for the entirety of the game. Everette Hammond led the Spartans with a game-high 23 points while their defense managed to hold High Point to just 24-64 (37.5%) shooting from the field.

Charleston Southern cruised past Presbyterian with Deontaye Buskey’s electric 8-11 performance from deep en route to a career-high 30 points. In addition to that outburst, Phlandrous Fleming Jr. recorded the first triple-double in Big South Conference tournament history with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists.

In the only close game of the night out of the Big South, UNC Asheville only turned the ball over three times to overcome a poor shooting night in a narrow win over the Fighting Camels (s/o Gary Parrish). A late 10-0 run from Campbell made things interesting, but the Camels couldn’t quite get over the hump at the end. Coty Jude had a game-high 19 points to lead the four Bulldogs in double-figures.

Horizon League First Round

(4) UIC 93, (9) IUPUI 59
(5) Youngstown State 63, (8) Milwaukee 57
(6) Oakland 80, (7) Cleveland State 59

UIC absolutely killed IUPUI and Oakland did much of the same to Cleveland State. Ho hum.

The Flames shot 60% from the field in the rout as they ended IUPUI’s season at 7-25. It’s likely that the Jaguars will make a coaching change and move on from interim coach Byron Rimm this offseason.

Xavier Hill-Mais put up a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double as Oakland cruised past the Vikings to win their sixth game out of their last seven. A trip to Green Bay awaits as the Phoenix received a bye in the first round.

For a good chunk of the night, Milwaukee looked like the most likely team to pull off an upset of a higher seed. The Panthers led by six at the half, but Youngstown State rallied in the closing five minutes as Milwaukee’s offense stagnated. The Penguins only hit 5-19 3s, but an 18-29 performance inside the arc gave their offense just enough pop to pull it out and set up a matchup with UIC on Thursday.