Brown leads Niagara to matchup with KansasMar 14, 2007 - 4:25 AM DAYTON, Ohio (Ticker) -- The big effort by Clif Brown continued Niagara's trek west.
Brown tied a career high with 32 points, including 24 in the second half, as the Purple Eagles captured the opening-round game of the NCAA Tournament with a 77-69 victory over Florida A&M.
With the win, Niagara (23-11), the champions of the Metro Atlantic Conference, advanced to face top-seeded Kansas in the first round of the NCAAs in Chicago on Friday.
"It's an NCAA Tournament win," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. "Someone corrected me and said it's the opening round, but it's an NCAA Tournament win so there's no asterisk as far as I'm concerned."
The Purple Eagles became the second MAAC school to win an opening-round game, with Siena posting an 81-77 win over Alcorn State in 2002.
"We're a fearless bunch," Brown said. "It doesn't matter who we play because we will play our hardest. As long as we do that, I feel that we have a chance."
Using a 6-0 run to take a 35-31 advantage into the break, Niagara increased the lead to 51-39 with 13:18 remaining on the strength of a 12-3 run. Brown hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points during the burst.
The tournament champion from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Rattlers (21-14) came back within 56-51 on a jumper by Akini Adkins with 8:51 to go.
However, Brown sank another one of his six 3-pointers and Florida A&M got no closer than six points thereafter.
"Of course, Clif made some big, big shots," Mihalich said. "This is our first NCAA Tournament win in 37 years. Everyone is trying to make history, and that's what we're trying to do, too."
A 6-7 senior, Brown finished 10-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-11 on 3-pointers, and Charron Fisher added 13 points for the Purple Eagles, who moved on despite shooting 39 percent (24-of-62).
Brown, who last scored 32 points in an 88-82 loss at Valparaiso on February 18, 2006, tied the opening-round record for made 3-pointers, matching Chris Kenny's mark in Monmouth's win over Hampton last season.
"His range surprised us," Florida A&M coach Mike Gillespie said. "We knew he was a very good shooter. He made some tough shots. He stepped up and he certainly was a difference maker in tonight's game."
Darius Glover had 15 points for the Rattlers, who shot just 4-of-17 from the arc.
Florida A&M had appeared in the opening round before, beating Lehigh, 72-57, in 2004. It is the only team to play more than once in the seven-year history of the play-in game.
Disappointed by the tough loss, Gillespie had a couple of words for the NCAA Selection Committee about the act of placing automatic berths into the opening-round game.
"This was very difficult to play," he said. "We earned the right to be a Cinderella team. We won three games in three days, three grueling games.
"It's about the kids. These guys deserve to accept the accolades of winning their conference tournament and to be that David to slay the Goliath. They deserved that, and they were denied that. This was like playing another conference championship game. I've already done that."
- WEST REGIONAL PLAY-IN
AT DAYTON OH
NCAA BB WEST REGIONAL PLAY-IN
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
NIAGARA 35 42 77
FLORIDA A&M 31 38 69 FINAL
Mar 13 9:49 PM
- WEST REGIONAL PLAY-IN
AT DAYTON OH
NCAA BB NIAGARA 35
FLORIDA A&M 31 HALFTIME
Mar 13 8:24 PM
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