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NCAA First Four: Belmont, FDU get initial tournament wins

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Kevin McClain scored 29 points and led the decisive second-half run as Belmont got its first NCAA Tournament win, pulling away to an 81-70 victory Tuesday night and ending Temple coach Fran Dunphy’s career in the First Four.

The 11th-seeded Bruins (27-5) play Maryland on Thursday in the East Region.

Belmont got at-large bid after losing to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title game. The Bruins showed that the selection committee’s faith was not misplaced, getting the breakthrough win on their eighth try.

The loss sent Temple (23-10) into a transition at the top. Dunphy is retiring after his 13th season at Temple, where he replaced John Chaney. Dunphy previously coached 17 seasons at Penn.

He was hoping to coach another day, but Belmont’s high-scoring offense pulled away at the end. Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 21 points.

The Bruins entered the tournament second in the nation at 87.4 points per game. The Owls’ aim was to slow the high-percentage offense just enough to give themselves a chance. Temple hung in during a first half that featured five lead changes and ended with Belmont ahead 37-31.

The Bruins pushed their lead to 11 points by hitting their first two shots in the second half. Alston, who led the American Athletic Conference at 19.7 points per game, hit three 3-pointers as the Owls surged ahead 50-46. Alston has been the Owls’ catalyst, scoring at least 20 points in each of his last nine games.

McClain led a 16-3 run that put Belmont ahead to stay, and Belmont pushed the lead to 12 while closing it out. McClain finished two points shy of his career high.

The Bruins’ balanced offense had more than enough even though leading scorer Dylan Windler was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting. Windler came in averaging 21.4 points.

The Bruins got only the second at-large NCAA Tournament bid in Ohio Valley Conference history, along with Middle Tennessee in 1987. They’d dropped their seven appearances when they had automatic bids.

UP NEXT

Belmont heads to Jacksonville, Florida, for its game against Maryland.

•••

FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON RALLIES PAST PRAIRIE VIEW A&M

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Eleven months ago, Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda was seriously ill with life-threatening blood clots. On Tuesday night, he danced on the court and hugged his players after they secured the first NCAA Tournament win in school history.

Senior guard Darnell Edge scored a career-high 33 points and Jahlil Jenkins had 20 of his 22 points in the second half as the Knights capped a furious comeback by taking down Prairie View A&M, 82-76, in a First Four game on Tuesday night.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Herenda, in his sixth season at the Hackensack, New Jersey, school. “When you coach for 35 years and you take a team to an NCAA Tournament and a team that, when I got here six years ago, we had nothing. And to build it, and then it’s here, and it’s so sad that every coach can’t experience this.”

Fairleigh Dickinson (21-13), which got the automatic tournament bid by winning the Northeast Conference Tournament, won its first NCAA tourney game in six tries. The Knights move on to play Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in West Region, on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Prairie View (22-13), also seeking its first tournament win, built up 13-point leads in both halves, but Fairleigh Dickinson took control in the second half behind the shooting of Edge and Jenkins.

“Jahlil Jenkins has the biggest heart in Ohio right now,” Herenda said. “As a sophomore, he took over the game in the second half.”

A 3-pointer by Gary Blackston pulled Prairie View back to within two points, 78-76, but a layup from Mike Holloway Jr. and a pair of free throws by Edge with 17 seconds left sealed it for Fairleigh Dickinson.

Blackston led the Panthers with 26 points and Devonte Patterson had 17.

“Having coach go through that last year, I remember us being in practice and him always just telling us that he just wanted to be there with us,” Edge said. “All he thought about while he was in the hospital was us. So we rallied together, and it’s just a great win for us, for our program.”

The Knights earned their first tournament win by staging a furious comeback and holding off Prairie View down the stretch.

The Panthers’ only previous tournament appearance was 21 years ago. They had high hopes after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season and tournament, going 21-2 to finish the season.

UP NEXT

Fairleigh Dickinson: Enters the main NCAA bracket as the No. 16 seed in the West Region and plays Gonzaga on Thursday.

Prairie View: Season ends.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Mitch Stacy at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy

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