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Shortly after noon Friday, ticket hawkers stood outside the CenturyLink Center flashing their wares and not getting many takers. And yet the site has been officially sold out for weeks.
“They may say it’s sold out in there,” said one man who was trying, “but there are plenty of tickets. They’re selling for under face (value).”
With Mizzou losing, you can be sure there will be even more tickets available for Sunday’s games.
"We played one of the truly great teams in the country, and that pretty much tells the story," said Detroit coach Ray McCallum, father of the team's leading scorer. "Kansas is a great defensive team, and their ability to lock us up on the perimeter really was a big key."
Taylor went the length of the floor in five seconds for a layup just before the halftime buzzer, giving Kansas a 34-24 lead.
"We really didn't make much of an adjustment," Self said. "They had 24 points at halftime, and I think 10 were off our turnovers and four or five were off offensive rebounds. Our first shot defense was good. So let's just not give up easy baskets.
"It was a pretty methodical run. It wasn't one of those quick-spurt deals. To hold a team to seven points in about a 20-minute period, that's good defense."
Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor's stat line doesn't look a lot different from what you might expect in a 65-50 romp such as the Jayhawks put on Detroit in Friday's NCAA tournament.
What was unusual for Taylor was spending time in the dressing room while the game was on for an intravenous feeding of fluids because of cramping.
"I played almost the whole first half because other guys were in foul trouble,'' said Taylor, who had 10 points and three rebounds. "I took some medicine that got me dehydrated.''
Cramps aren't new to Taylor. He said he suffered from them in the first game of the Maui Invitational in November, but bounced back to play in the next two games.
This time, he'll get a day off before the next game.
"I just got to get my body right,'' he said. "I'll be fine.''
Of all the scenarios Kansas couldn’t afford to stumble into Friday, two played out. First, of course, involved Taylor. The second involved foul trouble, as Bill Self had to play Conner Teahan and Naadir Tharpe for long stretches in the first half.
In an 11-second span midway through the first half, Johnson and Travis Releford both headed to the bench with two fouls. That meant Self had to play a backcourt featuring Teahan and the seldom-used Tharpe alongside Taylor. He also relied heavily on Kevin Young.
At that moment, Kansas held just a two-point lead.
“It felt like the key stretch, and it definitely was,” Johnson said. “They could have taken advantage of our bench if that’s what their mindset was. And they could have tried to make a run, looking at them as being vulnerable. Our bench didn’t let them do that.”
Said Self, “I think our bench is getting better.”
The Jayhawks didn’t handle it flawlessly. Young, Tharpe and Teahan took and missed five straight shots. But they also held Detroit to just four points in the four and half minutes with those three in the game.
Young scored five points and made two of three shots, but Teahan missed all three of his shots and Tharpe missed both of his. Still, the three were good enough as Young took two charges and added two assists.
Most important, Kansas built a 10-point halftime lead with those guys on the court. Young led the bench with nine points as he, Teahan and Tharpe combined for 65 minutes.
“Coach Self says all the time, ‘It’s not about how you’re playing, it’s how the team’s playing when you’re in there,’ ” Teahan said. “If the lead’s extended when you’re in there, you’ll stay in there. If the lead is dwindling, you’re going to come out.”
Want to know Kansas' dirty little secret? The boys in blue will get after you. They'll bump you and grind you. They'll make every possession a living hell, if they feel like it.
Take Friday. Please. The Titans' speedy point guard, Ray McCallum, Detroit's engine, was 4-of-15 from the floor, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Senior wing man Chase Simon missed nine of 11 attempts. Cut off the head of the snake, the rest of the body dies. The Titans chucked 17 treys, misfired on14 of them, and quickly found themselves in a hole that Indiana Jones couldn't climb his way out of.
The Jayhawks came into the Big Dance ranked sixth in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense (.385), ninth in blocked shots (5.6 per game) and 53rd in scoring defense (61.9 per contest). Kansas has limited opponents to 59 points or fewer in 16 of 34 contests — and won all 16. The Jayhawks are 24-1 when that number is 69 or lower.
You know the old line about Darelle Revis taking away half the football field to opponents of the New York Jets? Kansas' 7-foot center Jeff Withey, the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year, a cat with the wingspan of a Learjet, effectively takes away most of the opposition's options in the paint. He also allows the guys in front of him to feel more comfortable taking risks.
He entered the night billed as the only former McDonald’s All-American on the floor, but played a game more befitting of a Hardee’s all-star.
Behind a 4-of-15 shooting performance from sophomore guard Ray McCallum Jr., the University of Detroit Mercy could get little going on offense and fell quietly to Kansas University, 65-50, at CenturyLink Center on Friday night.
“I take the blame for this loss,” said McCallum, who finished with eight points and five assists in 37 minutes. “I knew I had to have a big game for us to have a chance, and my mind-set was to come in and be aggressive. But I just couldn’t get anything going.”
There were many reasons for that.
For starters, McCallum Jr. said Kansas was by far the biggest team Detroit had played all season. The Jayhawks’ length and size — particularly that of 7-foot center Jeff Withey — created problems for the Titans all night.
“We couldn’t buy a basket,” said Chase Simon, who finished with six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Added McCallum: “We haven’t played against a lot of guys with that kind of size. (Withey is) long, and I think that affected us. I know I drove into the lane, and he blocked one of my shots, and that contributed to my night.”
Kansas played like a team that knew it was facing a team loaded with high-flying athletes and knew the best way to avoid an upset was to make the Jayhawks’ biggest strength (keeping teams from scoring) combine with Detroit’s weakness (scoring). That’s exactly what happened.
“I don’t think we were surprised,” Robinson said. “Coming into this game, we were expecting a tough game. And that dunk, we weren’t surprised at all. We watched the highlight tape, and that guy’s a walking highlight tape.”
Anderson fouled out in just 15 minutes of playing time and still led Detroit with 15 points. He made five of eight field goals, and four of them came on dunks, which to a large extent was the extent of Detroit’s range.
“Kevin and Naadir played great and really helped us tonight,” noted Thomas Robinson, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“I’m happy for Naadir,” Taylor said. “He played good defense, played well tonight.”
Indeed, Tharpe said, “I was mainly focused on playing defense, getting up on my man. It was a good win for us tonight.”
KU used a 15-3 run over the last nine minutes of the first half to open a 34-24 lead at the break.
Young had five points and also fed Robinson for a vicious dunk in the surge. Robinson, who also had a steal and ensuing slam, scored six, while Taylor had four, including a layup to beat the halftime buzzer.
Young had five points and two assists in 11 minutes the first half, while seldom-used Tharpe had an assist against no turnovers in nine minutes. He helped out with Releford and Johnson picking up their second fouls at 9:36 and 9:25 respectively.
Detroit showed off its athleticism the first half, as Doug Anderson had two vicious slams and a third wiped off the board after a teammate committed a charge.
“They had a good team,” said junior center Jeff Withey, who scored seven points (five of nine from the line). They were athletic. We respected them, and they played hard. I think we did a good job on their big men the second half and were able to win the game.
“I’m excited about advancing,” he added. “Purdue has a good team, and it will be a fun game Sunday.”
In an odd way, Taylor’s absence could’ve been good for the Jayhawks, because it forced players such as Johnson and reserve guard Naadir Tharpe into more pressure-packed roles. Tharpe’s 13 minutes were the most he’s played since Dec. 29.
“I kept thinking about [Taylor] sitting in the locker room,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘I know he’s back there watching. I want to keep him calm. I want to keep my senior guard calm.’
“Ty has been carrying us for a long time. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. People think, ‘He should be doing well. He’s been here for four years.’ But [he’s] playing with four people that haven’t done it. When everything goes bad, who do they point to? Tyshawn Taylor, whether he played good or not. I’m there to back him up whenever. Whatever he needs me to do, I’ll do it.”
The Jayhawks will need another banner effort from Johnson -- and plenty of others -- if they hope to beat Purdue. The Boilermakers may not be as strong as they’ve been the past few seasons, but Matt Painter is still regarded as one of the top defensive coaches in the country. There’s no doubt he’ll have his team ready.
Purdue upended No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s 72-69 earlier Friday.
“We can’t take anybody lightly, from today until whenever,” Taylor said. “Once you get into the tournament, those seeds go away. It really doesn’t matter. A No. 2 can beat a No. 15. It might mean they’re the better team, it might not. But all it takes is for them to be better that day.
“We’ve got to treat everyone like they’re Kentucky or a North Carolina.”
ESPN Jason King
Kansas at 7:40 p.m. Sunday will meet Purdue, a 72-69 winner over St. Mary’s on Friday night. Purdue (22-12, 10-8 Big 10) led by as many 13 points before holding on for the victory.
Terone Johnson, a 6-2 sophomore, scored 21 points and Lewis Jackson, a 5-9 senior 18 points.
Robbie Hummel, a 6-8 senior from Valparaiso, Ind., who chipped in 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 32 minutes, happens to be one of the feel-good stories in college basketball.
Hummel — he averages 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds a game — has twice come back from right ACL surgery. He tore the knee ligament on Feb. 24, 2010, at Minnesota and missed the last eight games of his junior season in which he was named All-Big Ten. He tore it again at practice the ensuing October and missed the entire 2010-11 season.
KU is 2-2 all-time against Purdue. The two split NCAA Tourney games in the 1990s. Purdue beat KU, 83-78, on March 24, 1994 in a Sweet 16 game in Knoxville. KU won, 75-61 in a second-round game on March 15, 1997 in Memphis.
LJW Keegan Ratings: TRob, Johnson step up
KU was not great. If this team is to end up in the Final Four, it will have to be better at some point, perhaps as soon as Sunday night’s game against No. 10 Purdue. The Jayhawks took some bad shots, made some bad passes, and generally contributed to a few more highlights for that tape Self talks about.
But KU did enough. Thomas Robinson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, a nation’s-best 24th double-double, and even if it didn’t count, the dunk of the night on a one-handed ally-oop after a whistle.
Robinson gets the most attention, followed closely by Tyshawn Taylor – who says he’ll be recovered from leg cramps by Sunday night – but this team’s hopes are built in large part on defense.
The Jayhawks suffocated Detroit, holding the Titans to 32 percent shooting. A 34-7 run put the game out of reach, but it came over a stretch of almost 16 minutes. Detroit missed all but two of 21 shots.
KU will play better teams than Detroit, of course, but when Self talks about wanting his team to take a tough identity on defense, this is close to what he’s talking about.
“We played one of the truly great teams in the country,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum Sr. said.
“I went out against one of the top teams in the country, one of the best bigs in the country,” Detroit senior Eli Holman said.
After it ended, Self called this a “strange” game. He thought Detroit outplayed KU the first 10 minutes or so, and if you saw the coach on the sideline, it was obvious he wanted better. He’s been on the wrong end of big upsets before, and says the common denominator is allowing the underdog to get comfortable. Detroit, he thought, got comfortable early.
So there are points he will emphasize now. The Jayhawks were outrebounded despite missing 14 fewer shots, for instance.
But the most important thing is that they have at least two more days to emphasize. Actually, that’s the only thing.
KC Star Mellinger
Ask the Boilermakers about the upcoming matchup Sunday in the sub-regional at CenturyLink Center and they are clear about one element.
“I know they’ve got some beasts,’’ said freshman guard Anthony Johnson.
The Boilermakers survived a close scare in their opener, nipping St. Mary’s, 72-69.
It just so happens that no team in the country protects the basketball as well as Purdue (22-12).
Yet after failing to protect a lead that grew to 13 in the second half, a traveling call with 31.5 seconds remaining could have had a devastating effect.
It was the Boilers’ 10th turnover, a suitable total, yet not as good as their national-best average of 8.7.
Worst of all, it gave St. Mary’s the basketball while clinging to a one-point lead. Inexplicably, the Gaels quickly gave the ball right back when Clint Steindl didn’t realize he couldn’t run along the baseline before a throw-in.
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"This tournament," he said then, "defines your season."
Kim English, Thursday
Moments after the most stunning NCAA tournament upset of the past decade, the Norfolk State Spartans reacted like typical college students.
They hurried into the locker room -- and pulled out their cellphones.
"We're trending on Twitter right now -- nationally," one player said.
A teammate spoke up from across the room.
"I just got a text. People are jumping into the fountain back on campus."
Soon it was revealed that the website for Norfolk State's student newspaper had crashed because of an overload of traffic.
Then came the announcement that only two of the 6.45 million participants in ESPN.com's bracket challenge still had perfect records -- mainly because of No. 15 seed Norfolk State's 86-84 victory over Missouri on Friday at the CenturyLink Center. Even U.S. President Barack Obama had No. 2 seed Missouri going to the Final Four.
…Three hours earlier, they were unknowns, 22-point underdogs from a school of 5,000 undergrads participating in their first NCAA tournament.
Now they're America's Little Engines That Could, a reminder of why even the most casual sports fan is so in love with March. Norfolk State's victory marked the first time since 2001 -- when fellow MEAC member Hampton defeated another one of those Big 12 teams, Iowa State -- that a No. 15 seed had defeated a No. 2.
…Norfolk State didn't win because the Tigers played poorly. The Spartans won because they were the better team. They didn't win because Missouri wilted down the stretch. The victory happened because each time the Tigers appeared ready to seize control, the Spartans fought back with a counterpunch.
Norfolk State shot 54 percent against Mizzou and outrebounded the Tigers 35-23.
"We even messed up my bracket," forward Kyle O'Quinn said.
ESPN Jason King
As Kyle O'Quinn was still digesting the greatest moment in his basketball life, all he could think about was dinner the night before.
The Norfolk State hoops team had found itself settling in at the Granite City Food & Brewery in suburban Omaha when an older woman with two giant Kansas Jayhawk logos for earrings — O'Quinn figured she was in her 70s — came up to the group and asked where they were from.
"What school is that?" she said. "Norfolk State," O'Quinn replied.
"I'm not too familiar with that. Where is that?"
She admitted she hadn't heard of them. Then she realized that she HAD heard of their first dance partner in the NCAA tournament.
"You guys have Missouri (Friday)," she said. Suddenly, her voice took on a more serious tone. "Whatever you do, beat Missouri."
Home basketball crowds for Norfolk State are so small, the school doesn’t list attendance on box scores.
So you can imagine what Spartans guard Pendarvis Williams and his teammates were thinking Friday. Kansas fans were chanting, “NSU, NSU” as they pulled for the small, 15th-seeded Virginia school in its 86-84 upset of No. 2-seed Missouri.
“Kansas hates Missouri,” Williams said. “OK, I get it. But, man, that was a better than a home crowd.”
The Spartans draw 100 to 200 fans in their 6,191-seat arena, he said. By Williams’ count, including cheerleaders, his parents and star Kyle O’Quinn’s parents, NSU had about 20 fans at the game.
Mizzou had its share in the crowd of 16,843 at CenturyLink Center. But KU blue joined Florida blue in cheering for the underdogs.
Florida fans who remained in the CenturyLink Center after watching the Gators advance cheered passionately for the Spartans. So did Kansas fans who held tickets for the day session.
"We had Kansas fans in our hotel who really wanted us to beat Missouri and we got the job done for them," senior Rodney McCauley said.
During a break of the first game of the night session between Purdue and St. Mary's, O'Quinn, watching with teammates, stood up and exhorted the crowd. Kansas fans responded with a standing ovation for the Spartans (26-9).
“For us to only have about two rows of fans and then see the entire arena erupt for tiny, little Norfolk State, and then to win the game, this whole day was special,’’ said Kisha Evans, the wife of the Spartan’s head coach, Anthony.
Same for KU faithful. The stunning upset turned into a sweet SEC sendoff for Mizzou.
The goodbyes couldn’t have been more derisive, yet more pleasant. On most possessions down the stretch, Norfolk State snagged key rebounds, made clutch plays, overcame bad calls and rattled Missouri into bad shots.
With every twist in the 86-84 thriller, the sellout crowd got louder.
…Missouri and Duke, on the same day, were dumped into an exclusive club with Iowa State (1997, Hampton), Arizona (1993, Santa Clara) and Syracuse (1991, Richmond) as high seeds ousted by opponents on the 15-line.
The double-hit was as improbable as finding a T-shirt endorsing a Doc Sadler basketball camp. Or anything that reads Nebraska Basketball.
…Practice is something NCAA teams get to do when they advance.
And man, is it good to keep playing in this, a basketball season that offered far too many similarities, and prompted far too many comparisons, between Kansas and Missouri.
In the end, it became apparent again the programs are vastly dissimilar.
Being sent to a site close to home certainly didn’t help No. 2-seed Missouri, an 86-84 loser to No. 15-seed Norfolk State. The crowd of 16,843, which included a lot of KU fans, was on Norfolk’s side.
“The crowd doesn’t have any bearing on us mentally to the game,” said MU guard Michael Dixon, who had 22 points and five assists. “That’s just something that happened and we weren’t too worried about it.”
As the elder O’Quinn speaks, the aftermath of an NCAA Tournament stunner unfolds around him. A Missouri fan holds two tickets in the air at the corner of 10th and Cass, hopeful that somebody would take them off his hands.
Kansas fans strut past, heading for the entrance, the Jayhawks’ own tournament opener just a few hours away. On the hotel patio across the street, two Missouri fans take heat from a man in a blue T-shirt.
“Nobody’s choked like this since Iowa State,” a 20-something fan says, referencing Iowa State’s loss to Hampton as a No. 2 seed in 2001.
Missouri fans had come to Omaha to watch their team begin a journey, a ride that would hopefully end with the Tigers cutting down the nets next week in Phoenix and advancing to their first Final Four in school history. Now it was over in an instant.
The tears started almost immediately, beaten only by the cussing. Missouri basketball players range from stunned to ticked, staring into the distance or slamming punches into chairs, fresh victims of one the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
Maybe 30 feet away from them, pandemonium. Norfolk State, 21-point underdogs, sprinting around in circles around midcourt, hamming it up for the TV cameras, making sure everyone watching remembers the fifth team in 28 years to win an NCAA Tournament game as a No. 15 seed.
Phil Pressey, who took the final shot in Missouri’s 86-84 loss, falls to the court. He doesn’t get up, doesn’t move, hides his head under his jersey
…MU coach Frank Haith won over so many fans this year with a steady style, turning a dysfunctional and selfish group that lost eight of its last 14 games last year into the most efficient offensive team in the country — No. 3 in the final regular-season poll.
Now, he has a new label. He still hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game,
KC Star Mellinger
Senior guard Kim English, who was battling a quad injury, struggled from the field, scoring only two points on one for seven shooting. He was zero for five from three-point range.
“I hurt for Kimmie,” said Missouri coach Frank Haith. “The young man is a warrior. He didn’t have it at all today. He just wasn’t himself.”
Inside the morgue-quiet Mizzou locker room, the only noise you heard above a whisper was when the media hordes had finally cleared away from Kim English's locker stall, and the senior guard grimly walked into the adjoining bathroom, went into the toilet stall and slammed the door in exasperation.
The noise echoed into every corner of the Mizzou locker room and it spoke as loudly as any of the words English or any of his teammates tried to offer up to describe what it felt like for this magical season to come to such a shocking and abrupt end.
How are we supposed to look back on this Missouri season now and put it in its proper historical context? Do we remember it as some sort of miracle we never saw coming? Do we remember it because no one could have imagined that Frank Haith could have come here and in his first season guide the Tigers to 30 victories in 35 games? Do we remember it for the way the Tigers went into Kansas City last weekend and played rude house guests in their final Big 12 tournament, chanting "S-E-C!" as they won the tourney title?
Or do we remember the Tigers for this shocking end, losing to a 15th seed that no one knew anything about?
When someone asked English about this, he didn't hesitiate.
"I don't care," he said, spitting the words out like vinegar.
"We lost," he said. "I don't care."
It is a perplexing question, isn't it?
It's going to take a little more time to absorb this, maybe allowing Cinderella Norfolk State to go on a little VCU-like run before we can look back and see if this was the upset of the century, or just the beginning of this year's greatest tournament story.
But for now, the story for Missouri is trying to deal with a defeat that no one in the college basketball world saw coming a million miles away.
With his eyes bright red from tears he'd already shed, English sat in the far corner of the locker room on Friday night and answered every question fired at him. He broke down all the basketball. He sorted through all his emotions, too. But midway through the second wave of reporters to surround him, English leaned back and let out a groan that truly told you how hard this was all going down.
"Awwwwhhh," he said, tilting his head back against the wall and closing his eyes for a split second of sheer agony. He bit down on his lip. He shook his head. You could almost imagine the flashes of his basketball life that were whirling around in his head at that moment.
"I bled, I sweat and I cried for these six letters on the front of my jersey," he said. "I came here with aspirations of helping to take this basketball program from the dumps and trying to take it somewhere our fans couldn't fathom. And we tried, we fought and we fought for four years."
When Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum was a freshman at GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio, he was only 5 feet, 2 inches.
He grew 5 inches as a sophomore, 4 inches as a junior and 3 inches as a senior.
"I knew the growth spurt was coming," McCollum said. "I just prayed it came before graduation."
McCollum's growth spurt came before he left high school, but his lack of height caused him to get overlooked by most major college basketball programs.
On Friday night, McCollum finally had a chance to show those teams what they missed, as he scored 30 points to help lead the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks to a 75-70 upset of No. 2 seed Duke in a South Regional second-round game at Greensboro Coliseum.
Before Friday, there hadn't been a 15-over-2 upset since 2001 and there had been only four since the field expanded in 1985. Then there were two within hours, as Norfolk State stunned Missouri in a West Regional game in Omaha, Neb., earlier in the night.
And while that outcome might have been more surprising because the Tigers were considered a potential Final Four contender, Lehigh's victory might have been even more unlikely. Given Missouri's frustrating basketball history, the Tigers are almost expected to stub their toes. But Duke rarely loses its first game in the NCAA tournament, especially in its home state.
Thursday, we pleaded for March Madness. Friday, as Ohio made this the first time in NCAA tournament history three teams seeded No. 13 or lower won on the same day, we came to a staggering realization -- that what we just saw was the maddest six hours in college hoops history.
…Within hours of each other, college basketball history was made twice over. That doesn't happen. There are millions of reasons it isn't supposed to happen. But it did. We were witnesses.
We get greedy about the NCAA tournament. It has enchanted us so regularly that we've come to expect unlikely brilliance as a rule. When Thursday proceeded in mostly chalky fashion, we didn't say, "Well, that seems about right. Those teams are better. Duh." We groaned. We complained. "I love you, NCAA tournament, but it's like I don't even know you anymore." I actually wrote that sentence. We've been spoiled.
But even as our expectations heighten, even as we lose our capacity for surprise, the NCAA tournament thrills us anew. It gives us McCollum and Lehigh cannily canning Duke. It gives us Norfolk State, in its first tournament, knocking off 30-win Missouri. It proves to all of us once again that there is nothing quite like March -- nothing like this unique, bizarre, magnificent, three-week competition.
"We had 56 people on our ticket list," Jones said. "We had 56 fans. By the end of the game, there were 10,000."
And the story of the double-digits is Norfolk State. Only Lehigh came close to the significance of Norfolk State's victory, but Lehigh defeated a defensively challenged Duke team playing without an injured starter.
Norfolk, making its first tournament appearance, was taking on Missouri, ranked third in the USA TODAY/ESPN coaches poll and winner of the Big 12 tournament -- a team surely among the Final Four in millions of office pool brackets, a team listed as a 21(1-2)-point favorite on Friday.
Other wins by 15s resonate but fall a bit short.
When Hampton defeated Iowa State in 2001, the Cyclones had just lost in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. When Coppin State defeated South Carolina in 1997, it was by 13 points and probably said something about the seeds for both teams. In 1993 Santa Clara and a guard named Steve Nash defeated Arizona. Not every 15 seed has a future NBA all-timer.
You have to go back to 1991 and Richmond taking down Syracuse for perhaps a shocker as big as Norfolk State's. But Richmond was no slouch. The Spiders had beaten Auburn and Indiana in previous NCAA tournaments. The shock here was that it was the first time for a 15.
No, the best of the No 15 wins came Friday night in Omaha with Norfolk State, a team with hoops pedigree, no previous NCAA experience. And maybe the best upset since the bracket expanded in 1985.
There's always a soft spot for Princeton taking down UCLA in 1996. But that was 4 vs. a 13.
This is different. Never have two 15s won in the same day.
And never has a 15 had a win as big as Norfolk State.