West Region

Murray State defeats Vanderbilt in NCAA tournament on Danero Thomas's buzzer-beater

The road to Indianapolis is paved with dramatic snapshots.
By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010

SAN JOSE -- As bold coaching decisions go, Murray State Coach Billy Kennedy's strategy with 4.2 seconds remaining and his team trailing by one ranks as one of the more gutsy. Kennedy knew that the way Vanderbilt plays defense on out-of-bounds situations left the Racers with limited options to score their final basket. They couldn't run one of their usual plays.

During a timeout, Kennedy devised a play that his team had never run -- not in a game, not in practice -- and the Murray State players proved to be quick learners.

Isacc Miles caught the inbounds pass, dribbled a couple times, then found Danero Thomas on the right wing. Thomas released the winning jump shot just before the buzzer sounded, lifting No. 13 Murray State to a 66-65 victory over fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in a West Region first-round game at HP Pavilion on Thursday afternoon.

The Racers (31-4) advance to a Saturday game against fifth-seeded Butler, a 77-59 winner over Texas-El Paso.

"I work on it every day in practice," Thomas said of the game-winning shot. "I got good midrange. I saw that one going in."

Added Miles, whose only assist in the game came on the pass to Thomas: "As soon as I passed it I knew it was going in. I said, 'Knock it down, 'Nero,' and he knocked it down."

Murray State hadn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1988 -- "When I was born, 22 years ago," Racers guard B.J. Jenkins said -- and is 2-13 all-time in the tournament.

John Jenkins had 13 points for Vanderbilt (24-9), which was upset as a No. 4 seed for the second time. Two years ago, the Commodores were seeded fourth and were stunned by Siena in an 83-62 rout.

This game was much closer. The biggest lead of the game came early in the second half when Miles sank a pair of free throws to put Murray State ahead, 44-36. Vanderbilt quickly answered with a 6-0 run to pull within two.

The Commodores took their first lead of the second half on John Jenkins's three-pointer with less than five minutes remaining. Their lead didn't last long, though. After Murray State's Jeffery McClain blocked Brad Tinsley's shot, B.J. Jenkins sank a three-pointer to put the Racers in front, 62-60.

Murray State had the lead and the ball with less than a minute remaining when Miles drove along the baseline and threw a pass that ended up in Andre Walker's hands. The turnover seemed to doom the Racers when Jermaine Beal sank a pair of free throws to put Vanderbilt up by one with 21.1 seconds remaining.

B.J. Jenkins missed his three-point attempt, but the possession remained with Murray State. Kennedy called timeout to set up the play.

"The kid just made a good shot," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said. "I wish we could have been there to contest it a little bit better."

-- BUTLER 77, TEXAS-EL PASO 59: Shelvin Mack sank seven three-pointers and finished with 25 points to help the fifth-seeded Bulldogs extended the nation's longest winning streak.

Butler (29-4), which hasn't lost since Dec. 22, made 13 three-pointers to easily dispatch the 12th-seeded Miners (26-7).

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