Iowa State Gets Early Exit From NCAA Tournament
As the No. 3 seed in the South Region, Iowa State fully expected to make a deeper run through the 2015 NCAA Tournament than it did a year ago when the Cyclones made the Sweet 16. As it turns out, their journey though Bracketville was more difficult than they anticipated.
No. 14-seed Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) pulled the first shocker of this year's tournament when the Blazers bounced Iowa State, 60-59, in Louisville, Ky. The victory is the first for UAB in college basketball's premiere event since 2005.
The Blazers (20-15) got the win with a solid effort on the boards. They outrebounded Iowa State 52-37 (including 19 offensive rebounds) and made all the clutch plays down the stretch outscoring the Cyclones 9-4 in the final 3:13. William Lee scored the game's final four points, making a 15-foot jumper with 24 seconds left and two free throws with 12 seconds remaining to clinch the win.
Lee finished the game with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. Teammate Robert Brown paced the Blazers with 21 points.
Prior to the game, no one on UAB's roster had ever played an NCAA Tournament. The Blazers entered the 68-team event as the youngest squad in the field, while Iowa State (25-9) was making its fourth-straight tournament appearance.
Iowa State opened the game on a 12-2 run, but couldn't keep the momentum. UAB outscored the Cyclones 19-6 over the next 7 minutes and took its first lead at 19-18 on a Tyler Madison free throw at 7:45 mark of the first half. The Blazers led 31-28 at halftime.
Neither team could gain any separation in the second half, but Iowa State appeared to be in control with 3:13 remaining. The Cyclones owned a 55-51 advantage before UAB went on its decisive 9-4 run.
Georges Niang missed a pair of jumpers that would have helped the Cyclones down the stretch. Naz Long's also missed a game-tying three-pointer with :03 left that likely would have sent the game to overtime.
Monte Morris scored 15 points to lead three Iowa State players in double-figures. Niang followed with 11 and Jameel McKay ended the day with 10.
UAB won the game, despite shooting 34.8 percent from the floor -- the worst output by a 14 or 15 seed in a win over a 2 or 3 seed in tournament history. The Blazers' win against Iowa State marks the third-straight NCAA Tournament with a 14 seed upsetting a 3 seed and the fourth occurrence since 2010.
Georgia State added to those numbers later in the day when the 14th-seeded Panthers rallied from a 12-point deficit and upset third-seeded Baylor on a last-second three-pointer in a West Region game played in Jacksonville, Fla.