March Madness Revisited: 2012 Norfolk State makes history against Missouri in 15 vs. 2 upset

March Madness Revisited: 2012 Norfolk State makes history against Missouri in 15 vs. 2 upset

As March wound down without its usual flurry of March Madness moments, NBC Sports Washington took a look back at some smaller DMV schools who made a big impact during their most recent NCAA Tournament appearances.  

Eight years later, Philadelphia 76ers forward Kyle O’Quinn still remembers the euphoria from the long walk through the tunnels at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. 

To him, it felt like the longest walk ever as he and his Norfolk State teammates were “walking on clouds” after his 15th-seeded Spartans upset the second-seeded Missouri Tigers, 86-84, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. 

In what was Norfolk State’s first — and to date, its only — tournament appearance, the Spartans put the small Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school from Virginia on the map and wrecked brackets around the nation, becoming the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed since 2001 when then-MEAC rival Hampton beat Iowa State. 

“You’re hoping that you can win this game because very few have done it,” O’Quinn told NBC Sports Washington. “It came down to us believing that we’re just as good as the other team. We took the names off the jerseys, the names off the backs, we didn’t care who their coach was, and we just played.”

As O’Quinn made that journey through the tunnels, he yelled, “We messed up some brackets! We messed up some brackets!"

While Norfolk State celebrated in the locker room, droves of college basketball fans — including President Barack Obama, who projected Missouri to be a Final Four participant — faced the reality that their bracket was ruined in the first round. 

Given the history of No. 2 seeds against No. 15 seeds, combined with the fact that Missouri was a team that some analysts thought should have received a No. 1 seed, most wrote off Norfolk State. While analysts, fans, pundits and even the President advanced Missouri through the first round without much thought, then-head coach Anthony Evans went to work on a game plan. 

“We thought we could match up. Obviously, they had better players, but the matchup would be similar in the style of play,” Evans told NBC Sports Washington. “We were confident. And I knew [O’Quinn] would be an X-factor.”

Evans’ prediction came to fruition as the game played out. O’Quinn established a presence in the low post, allowing the Spartans to jump out to an early lead. Missouri did counter and the game was tied 38-38 at the half. 

But Norfolk State created mounting pressure as it hung around in the second half. The Spartans also benefited from the presence of Kansas fans, who were preparing to watch the second-seeded Jayhawks later that evening and cheered for the upset over a Big 12 rival.

“At some point, the pressure was going to build on them because they were seeded so high,” Evans said. “They were going to feel it as we stayed in it.”

Pressure intensified with 34 seconds to play when O’Quinn caught a teammate's errant 3-point attempt, an airball, and hit a layup while drawing a foul. O’Quinn’s ensuing free throw put the Spartans up 84-81. 

But Missouri still had a chance in the waning seconds. Star guard Phil Pressey pushed the ball up the floor and pulled up for a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded. 

“I could watch it 10 times right now, and I still think it might go in,” O’Quinn said. “I can still see the shot going in and it being one of those things where it’s like ‘Well they fought, and they just fell a little short.’”

That wasn’t the case, though. Instead, Pressey’s attempt caromed off the rim, igniting an on-court celebration years in the making for O’Quinn, a senior from New York City playing in his final college games. He scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. It was a breakout game where O’Quinn made a name for himself and paved his way to becoming a second-round NBA draft pick — a far cry from when he received one scholarship offer out of high school.

O’Quinn received help from his teammates, too. Norfolk State’s five starters scored all 86 of the team’s points. Guards Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams dropped 20 points each, while forwards Marcos Tamares and Rodney McCauley added 11 and nine, respectively. Two days after the historic upset, seventh-seeded Florida routed the Spartans, 84-50. 

Still, Norfolk State had added its name to NCAA tournament upset lore in its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance and that’s something that can never be taken away from anybody on that team. To this day, only eight No. 15 seeds have beaten a No. 2. Ironically, half of them are from Virginia (Richmond over Syracuse in 1991, Hampton over Iowa State in 2001 and Norfolk State in 2012) or Maryland (Coppin State beat South Carolina in 1997). And UMBC remains the only No. 16 to beat a No. 1 with its historic win over Virginia in 2018. It is a club the Spartans will always be a part of.  

“Number one,” O’Quinn said without hesitation when asked where that moment ranks in his basketball career. “It’s just the pride of the name on your jersey...That game, to stand out that much and impact so many lives, it has to be number one.”


Four-star 2021 SF Benny Williams commits to Syracuse over Maryland and Georgetown

Four-star 2021 SF Benny Williams commits to Syracuse over Maryland and Georgetown

The Syracuse men's basketball program picked up its first commit of the 2021 class on Thursday and it came at the expense of the two big local schools. 

Four-star prospect Benny Williams committed to the Orange on Thursday, the small forward announced on Twitter. 247Sports was the first to break the news.

Williams, a consensus top 60 recruit in the 2021 class, chose Syracuse over Maryland, Georgetown and Miami. The small forward is ranked the 47th overall player in the 2021 class by 247Sports and 53rd by ESPN.

Missing on Williams is a crushing blow for the Terps, as the forward would have been the second four-star to commit to Maryland in the 2021 class, joining power forward Julian Reese. The Hoyas have yet to land a commitment for the 2021 recruiting cycle.

"I'm excited to play for coach [Jim] Boeheim in front of the best fans in the country in the greatest arena in college basketball," Williams said in his commitment video.

The 6-foot-8 forward, who plays his high school ball at St. Andrew's Episcopal in Potomac, Md., had taken two unofficial visits to Syracuse prior to committing, according to 247Sports. 

Syracuse's culture and the legacy of the basketball program were two things that specifically stood out to the junior when he visited the school.

"I picked them because of the relationship we built going back two years ago, especially coach Red [Autry] and with coach [Jim] Boeheim," Williams told 247Sports. "I think I can come in and impact the program right away and hopefully lead them to a national championship."

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The 7 best point guards in Maryland basketball history

The 7 best point guards in Maryland basketball history

Maryland basketball is no stranger to success at the point guard position. Throughout the history of the program, numerous primary ball handlers have put up big scoring totals, created highlight plays and led their team to greatness.

But for a program loaded with point guard talent, who are the best of the best? Here's a look at a few of top point guards to ever be a Terp.

Gene Shue (1951-54)

Shue ranks No. 22 on Maryland's all-time scoring list, and while he put up some impressive numbers during his time there, his most impressive work was how he put the program on the map. Before Shue took his spot at UMD, the team had suffered losing season after losing season. That all changed when the point guard arrived.

During his playing career, the Terps achieved their first 20-win season in program history, were nationally ranked and joined the ACC Conference. Thanks in large part to Shue, Maryland basketball began the journey toward national prominence. 

John Lucas (1972-76)

Earning All-American honors once is an impressive feat for most college players, Lucas did it three times during his career at Maryland. The point guard earned second-team honors for the 1973-74 season while playing alongside Tom McMillen and Len Elmore. The latter two would graduate leaving Lucas to shine on his own in the following year.

He did just that, earning First-Team All-American honors for the 1974-75 season. Lucas would do the same in 1975-76 for good measure. During that time he also led Maryland to an ACC regular-season title and an Elite Eight appearance.

Lucas currently ranks No. 6 all-time in scoring at Maryland with 2,015 points. He also ranks No. 4 in scoring average, totaling around 18.3 points per game during his career as a Terp. Lucas wasn't just a scorer, as he also could pass with the best of them as a point guard. His 514 assists in college put him fifth on Maryland's all-time list. Lucas would go on to have a solid NBA career as well after being selected No. 1 overall by the Rockets in the 1976 NBA Draft.

Keith Gatlin (1983-86, 1988)

Gatlin embodied the floor general spirit of a point guard during his time at Maryland. Though surpassed 1,000 points in college, his real brilliance was seen when he distributed the ball to others.

Len Bias and Adrian Branch ranked No. 3 and No. 5 on Maryland's scoring list, and that's largely due to Gatlin's ability to get them the ball and let them take over. Rather than force his own shots, Gatlin would find the open man and rack up assist totals. By the end of his Terrapin career, he had recorded 649 assists, good enough for third all-time in school history.

Steve Blake (1999-2003)

Blake, much like Gatlin, made his mark as a passer at Maryland. His 972 assists during his four-year college career are the highest mark in the history of the program and rank sixth all-time in NCAA basketball history.

Blake's brilliance was seen from day one, as he started from his freshman to senior year at Maryland. His ability to control the flow of the game was instrumental in the Terps 2002 National Championship run.

Greivis Vasquez (2006-10)

The roar at the Xfinity Center when Vasquez tells the crowd he has "Maryland Pride" is all you need to know about how great his collegiate career was. The point guard showed promise in his first two seasons but really stepped up his game during his junior and senior years.

In 2008-09, Vasquez led the Terrapins in almost every category on the stat sheet. The top spots for scoring, assists, rebounds, steals and minutes played all belonged to him. He followed that up with a senior year in which he scored close to 20 points per game and took home the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation's best point guard. Vasquez currently ranks second all-time in points at Maryland with 2,171. 

Melo Trimble (2014-17)

Trimble is one of the most recent guards to find success at Maryland. Bursting onto the scene as a freshman, Trimble averaged 16.2 points per game during his first season of college ball. His following two seasons were just as exciting, as Trimble became the go-to weapon for the Terps offense. Before it was all said and done, Trimble surpassed 1,600 points and 400 assists during his three years at Maryland.

Numbers were great, but it was Trimble's heroic moments in the final seconds that he'll always be remembered for. Last-second game-winning shots against Wisconsin and Michigan State showed that there was no moment too big for No. 2. 

Anthony Cowan Jr. (2016-20)

When Trimble left for the pros it became Cowan's time to shine at Maryland, and he did just that. After a solid freshman year, Cowan continued to grow and improve each time out on the court. From his sophomore to senior year Cowan averaged 15.8, 15.6 and 16.3 points, respectively. He now sits seventh all-time in scoring at the University of Maryland

Cowan's biggest strengths, however, were his consistency and clutch. Maryland's newest 'Iron Man,' the point guard started 130 consecutive games during his four years as a Terp. No matter what was going on, everyone could rely on Cowan to be there and ready to make an impact. 

Clutch-wise, Cowan had a knack for stepping up in the big moments, especially during his senior season. A lethal three-point shooter, his performance on the road against Michigan State this past season showed everything there is to know about the Maryland native. With the Terps trailing late, Cowan knocked down two huge threes from way beyond the arc to take the lead and ice the game.

Moments like that helped Cowan bring a Big Ten banner to College Park. 

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