OMAHA, Neb. — Kyle O’Quinn’s booming voice echoed through the halls, the jovial center for Norfolk State riding the euphoria of a monumental upset of Missouri as the words spilled out of his mouth faster than he could think.
“We messed up some brackets! We messed up some brackets!” he bellowed, before turning a corner and seeing a pack of reporters.
“We even messed up my bracket,” he said sheepishly.
O’Quinn put together the finest game of his career at the biggest moment in the history of Norfolk State basketball. The senior finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, helping the No. 15 seed Spartans to an 86-84 victory over the second-seeded Tigers on Friday.
All those brackets that had the Big 12 Tournament champs advancing to face Florida in the West Regional – perhaps even all the way to the Final Four – can be torn up. It’s the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions who are moving on.
Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin each added 20 points for the Spartans (26-9), who have already made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament a memorable one. They became the fifth No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 and the first since fellow conference member Hampton in 2001.
“You always go into the game with a sense of confidence,” O’Quinn said, “but I never thought it was an upset-alert until that buzzer went off.
“At the end of the game,” he said, “that’s when I thought it would happen.”
O’Quinn had a chance to take some drama out of the final possession, but the 70-percent foul shooter missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left. Missouri coach Frank Haith called timeout to set up a final play, and Phil Pressey got a pretty good look at a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.
It clanked off the back iron as O’Quinn leaped for joy.
Pressey fell to the court in disbelief.
“We just shocked everybody,” Spartans swingman Brandon Wheeless said.
Michael Dixon led Missouri (30-5) with 22 points, and Pressey and fellow guard Marcus Denmon finished with 20 points each. Pressey also contributed eight assists, though senior guard Kim English was held to two points on 1 for 7 shooting.
“I’m very disappointed, as everyone in that locker room was,” Haith said. “I hurt for those seniors because they put so much into this. They had high expectations.”
The Tigers rolled into the NCAAs on the strength of a dominant run to the Big 12 Tournament title, rarely getting tested in three games in Kansas City. That was enough to make Missouri a trendy Final Four pick, something the school had never before accomplished.
Norfolk State made sure it wouldn’t happen this year, either.
The plucky Spartans shot 54.2 percent from the field – 62.5 percent in the second half – and managed to knock down 10 of 19 3-point shots. They also turned the ball over just 11 times against the Tigers.