or the second straight year, lightly regarded James Madison University has eliminated an established basketball program from the NCAA championship tournament in the first round.
After trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, Madison turned the game around with sustained, aggressive defense, and scored a 55-48 victory over Ohio State, which finished tied for second place in the Big Ten.
The victory enables JMU to advance to a second-round game at noon Saturday against top-ranked North Carolina.
In the second game of tonight's doubleheader, Wake Forest (21-8) defeated Old Dominion, 74-57. The Demon Deacons will play Memphis State in Saturday's second round. Old Dominion (18-12) caused Wake Forest some problems early. But the Demon Deacons, with five scorers in double figures, pulled away midway through the second half.
At the outset of the first game, many of the 11,220 fans in the Charlotte Coliseum weren't familiar with the Dukes (24-5) or how they won so many games this season. But when Madison's defense produced 14 straight points during a seven-minute stretch of the second half, many of the nonpartisans stook and applauded.
"We played just about a flawless second half," Coach Lou Campanelli of Madison said. "It was just a solid and consistent effort, especially on defense."
Last March, in Providence, R.I., James Madison upset Georgetown in the first round of the East Regional.
The Dukes from Harrisonburg, Va., were more restrained after tonight's victory, probably because many of the players didn't consider the result an upset.
"Everytime we beat somebody, people tend to think the opposing team must have had its worst game of the season," Charles Fisher, a Madison guard, said. "But we can be a good team. We've played well all season. I don't think this was an upset.
"Last year, maybe it was, because we were just glad to be there. But we don't have the attitude that we're just here for a game or two. We want to win this thing."
For the first 30 minutes, things didn't look good for JMU.
Ohio State (21-10), led by forwards Clark Kellogg and Tony Campbell, took a 29-22 lead at halftime, and made it to 31-22 on Kellogg's jumper to start the second half.
Then JMU's defense took over.
After Fisher had forced Ohio State into a turnover, center Dan Ruland, who scored a game-high 18 points, made a hook shot. Ohio State, which shot only 39 percent, became frustrated by the scarcity of open shots. The Buckeyes forced and missed two bad shots, and Fisher made a jumper to pull the Dukes within 31-26.
Ohio State increased its lead to 42-34 with 11:15 to play. But the Buckeyes, perplexed by various zones and man-to-man defenses, didn't score again until the 3:40 mark, when Ruland inadvertently tipped the ball into his own basket while going for a rebound.
The Dukes tied the game, 42-42, when David Dupont stole the ball for an easy layup. Kellogg, the Big Ten's leading rebounder, was called for walking on Ohio State's next possession.
On JMU's ensuing possession, forward Linton Townes--he scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half--gave the Dukes their first lead, 44-42, with 8:10 remaining on a 14-footer from the top.
The Buckeyes continued to turn the ball over and miss perimeter shots, and the Dukes worked on the clock, made the important foul shots and protected the ball well in the final three minutes.
"We have no alibis," Coach Eldon Miller of Ohio State said. "They just beat us physically and mentally in the second half. It was about as bad a second half of basketball as we've had all season, and Madison caused much of it."
Kellogg had 14 points and 12 rebounds, but rarely got close to the basket on offense in the second half, largely because of Keith Bradley's fine defense.
"They kept packing that zone in the second half, and as a result, I didn't get the ball inside," Kellogg said.