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In front of a packed HSBC Arena, in Buffalo, NY, the Duke Blue Devils faced off against the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Duke was coming off of 9 straight years of reaching at least the sweet sixteen, while this was only VCU’s third trip to the tournament in team history.

Duke gained possession of the ball, down 2, with about 15 seconds remaining. Rather than calling a timeout and setting up a play in the final seconds to either tie the game, sending into overtime, or winning it with a 3-pointer, junior guard DeMarcus Nelson went to the net, making a layup, and tying the game at 77-77 still with about 10 seconds left on the clock. This left VCU with plenty of time to setup a final possession to win the game.

Sophomore guard, Eric Maynor, hit a jump shot from the top of the key with only 1.8 seconds remaining to pull VCU ahead by 2, and giving VCU the win over Duke, 79-77, breaking the Blue Devils’ streak and giving them their first loss in the opening round of the tournament since 1996. HSBC Arena, full of both closet Duke fans & closet Duke haters, erupted in cheers of celebration and moans of agony as Maynor’s shot hit nothing but net. Sophomore guard Greg Paulus put up a desperation heave from half court as time expired, but the ball fell harmlessly to the floor after banking high off of the backboard.

The game was well played by both teams and it seemed like Duke had the advantage several times. Paulus finished with a career high of 25 points.

VCU will face third-seeded Pittsburgh, a 79-58 winner over Wright State, on Saturday.

The NCAA tournament selection committee wrapped up the field of 65 teams Sunday evening and many teams waited anxiously to find out what draw they selected and who they would be playing in the first round, or in some cases, whether they made the field at all. Among those team was the Niagara Purple Eagles, who finished their season with their longest win streak since the 1992-1993 season by winning their final 11 games to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, their 2nd bid in the last 3 years and only their third in school history.

Niagara players, coaches, and fans sat glued in front of their televisions Sunday evening, anxiously anticipating who they would get to play in the first round. Early projections had Niagara drawing a 15th seed and playing either the Georgetown Hoyas or the Memphis Tigers. Instead the NCAA selection committee choose Niagara to play in the play-in game against the Florida A&M Rattlers for the right to play the Kansas Jayhawks in Thursday’s opening round.

Niagara supporters were furious with the decision. A camera in the Gallagher Center during the live CBS broadcast of the NCAA Selection Show showed players’ & fans’ discontent with the selection, many boos being heard over any celebration.

Over a month before Niagara’s season began athletics director Ed McLaughlin announced the suspension of 6 players ranging from one to eight games as a result in their involvement in an off-campus incident that occurred on August 31st. Among the suspensions, Niagara’s junior forward Charron Fisher was suspended for 8 games as the Purple Eagles started the season 2-6 without him.

Buffalo News sports commentator, Jerry Sullivan, said it best, “So this is what you get for taking the high road. This is what Niagara gets for taking a firm stand and suspending six players for their roles in a fight, before the case was resolved in court. This is Joe Mihalich’s reward for getting his players to understand they’re being held to a higher standard: The play-in game.” Sullivan goes on to say, “Niagara got jobbed, pure and simple. The Purple Eagles have won 11 games in a row. Their power rating is higher than five other teams. They’re 20-5 since Charron Fisher came back from an eight-game suspension. They’re 15-3 with Fisher and Tyrone Lewis active, with two losses in overtime. This is a kick in the teeth of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which is hosting a subregional in Buffalo for the third time in eight years. The MAAC is down, but it’s rated above eight other leagues. Siena went to the play-in in 2002, but it was 16-18.” Read the original article.

The important thing is that they made it to the tournament. Hopefully they will prove the NCAA selection committee wrong by soundly beating Florida A&M and giving Kansas a good run for their money.

Tuesday evening, in NCAA basketball action, the Buffalo Bulls hosted the Bowling Green Falcons at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, NY. The two Mid-American Conference teams were meeting for the second time of the year. Their previous meeting, on Sunday January 7th, resulted on a 74-73 home win for the Falcons.

Bowling Green, despite senior guard & team leader, Martin Samarco, having an awful night shooting 6 of 26 from the field and 2 of 16 from three point territory in a 17 point effort, led most of the game. In the closing seconds of the game, Buffalo missed a key opportunity to tie the game when Bull’s forward Parnell Smith forced an off-balance, desperation attempt, not even touching the rim and seemingly losing the game. What happened in the next few minutes was confusing and quite humorous.

Everybody in the arena believed the game was over. Bowling Green ran off the court and into the locker room believing they had won the game. Coach Dan Dakich later claimed a referee indicated the game was over.

After officials reviewed the play, they determined 0.6 seconds were to be put onto the clock and Bowling Green would inbound the ball with a lead of 77-75. The only problem was Bowling Green was no longer on the court.

This is when Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon flew off the handle arguing to officials that his players were on the court ready to play and Bowling Green was not and should be charged with a technical foul. The referees hesitated and Witherspoon got more upset. He started to throw a fit and stood on the sideline reaching over the referee booth and repeatedly hit the game buzzer. Minutes passed. Buffalo’s pep band began to play in the absence of game play to fill the silent void. Witherspoon then ran out onto the court and pleaded with the band to stop playing and once the band stopped playing, silence ran through Alumni Arena and you could clearly hear the echo of Witherspoon’s voice yelling, “Hit the buzzer again,” after which somebody on the sideline again hit the game buzzer indicating it is time to play.

After what seemed like forever, Bowling Green players and personnel returned court side. Coach Dakich was arguing with the referees and it wasn’t immediately clear why. Apparently the referees had assessed a technical foul for delay of game on the Falcons for not returning to the court fast enough upon notification that the game was still not over. Moroccan center, senior Yassin Idbihi, went to the line making two clutch free throws to tie the game at 77 for the Bulls. After Bowling Green’s heave attempt missed, the two would begin an overtime period.

With all the momentum, Buffalo quickly took the lead for the first time since 30 seconds into the game. They didn’t look back, scoring 21 points in the 5 minute overtime period and winning with a final score of 98-90. Idbihi finished with a 28 points, a career high, and 20 rebounds. Sophomore guard Eric Moore came off the bench adding 24 points. Smith had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Junior guard Ryne Hamblow led Falcon scoring with 24 points. Sophomore Nate Miller scored 20 points with 10 rebounds.