|Jaguars Stage Second-Half Rally, Advance To Final Four|
|ASU junior center Garret Siler comes up big, matches career high with 31 points|
|Web Posted 3/26/08|
|(View Full-Sized Photo)|
|Photo Credit: Richard Orr|
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Augusta State Jaguars trailed by 14 midway through the second half and were down by six in overtime, yet managed to rally and edge Central Oklahoma 106-104 in double overtime Wednesday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Elite Eight at the MassMutual Center. The contest marked the first double overtime game in Elite Eight history since 1982.
ASU, making its first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight, will advance to the Final Four on Thursday at 6:00 p.m., against Alaska-Anchorage (29-5), who beat California (Pa.) 55-52 in the afternoon’s second game. The Seawolves advanced to the Elite Eight by winning the West Regional and also captured their conference’s regular-season title in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Thursday’s national semifinal matchup between ASU and Alaska-Anchorage will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) at 6:00 p.m. The game can be viewed locally on Channel 274 on Comcast Cable. Subscribers to Comcast’s sports tier can view the game for free. A viewing party is being held on the main campus of ASU in the JSAC (Jaguar Student Activity Center) in the Grand Ballroom.
Junior center Garret Siler matched his career high with 31 points as ASU improved to 26-6 on the year. The junior from Augusta hit 11-of-16 shots from the floor and 9-of-12 free throws to go with seven rebounds. First-team All-American Tyrekus ‘AJ’ Bowman had only five first-half points, yet finished the game with 22 and tied the team lead with eight rebounds. Demetrius Howard added 21 points, including two huge 3-pointers near the end of regulation, while junior forward Ben Madgen had 18 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
“You hate to see anyone lose this kind of game,” said ASU coach Dip Metress. “Our guys really hung in there. They don’t want to stop playing.”
Central Oklahoma, the South Central Region champion, had its season come to a close at 28-6. Brian Walker paced the Bronchos with 23 points – 13-of-14 from the charity stripe – while senior All-American Sam Belt booked 22 points and 11 rebounds. Eric Cazenave added 14 points and John Neal chipped in 13.
The pattern of the game was established in the first half as Central Oklahoma ran out to an 11-point lead with 2:11 to go, only to see ASU close the gap. A Daniel Dixon 3-pointer was followed by five straight points from Madgen to make the halftime lead 43-38.
“We gave up way too many easy baskets,” said UCO coach Terry Evans. “We took control late in the half, but they forced some turnovers and we made some other poor decisions.”
The lead remained five with 15:31 in the second when UCO went on an 11-2 run capped by three free throws from Belt that left ASU down 62-48 with 11:49 to play. The lead remained at 14 with 9:53 to go when the Jaguars responded with a 9-0 spurt to cut the lead to five. Howard scored five of the nine points while Siler had the other four.
“He was just more physical than our guys,” said coach Evans of Siler. “He just really dominated us inside.”
The lead fluxuated between seven and 10 points for the next three minutes before two more Belt free throws left ASU down seven with 1:36 to play. Howard again stepped up, hitting back-to-back three-pointers that cut the lead to one with 1:06 to go. The UCO lead was one with 10 seconds left when Bowman was fouled driving to the basket, but he made only one of the two free throws to tie the game. UCO’s Neal had the ball but could not get off a shot in the final seconds, sending the game to overtime.
“We just believe in each other and believe in ourselves,” said Madgen. “We just never gave up.”
In the first OT, the Bronchos again raced out to a six-point lead follwing two three-pointers from Cazenave. Two Brian Walker free throws left the lead at five with 1:05 to go when Bowman drained a three from the top of the key. He then tied the game with a driving layup on ASU’s next possession with 43 seconds to go. Two Neal free throws gave UCO a 95-93 lead. With 25 seconds left, Bowman again was at the line but again made one of two. Siler then had a chance with 21 seconds left at the line, but also made one of two to tie the game and send it to a second OT.
“I told the team, we’ve been here plenty of times,” said Bowman. “We just kept believing. In the first half, I was trying too much. I mean, this is our first Elite Eight. So, I just had to calm down and my teammates helped me with that.”
In the second OT, the Jaguars finally got started on top as Bowman opened the period with a 3-pointer. UCO cut the lead to one but a Siler dunk and three-point play from Caleb Brown pushed the lead to six with 2:47 to go, the largest lead ASU had in the game. The Broncos then got a three-pointer from Neal and a layup from Walker on back-to-back possessions to cut the lead to one with 1:58 to play.
Siler got loose on the blocks on the next ASU possession for an easy dunk and a Bowman free throw pushed the lead to four with 16 seconds to play. UCO answered with a Belt layup with three seconds left and a foul put Steve Smith on the free throw line. Smith, who led ASU with six assists in the game, missed both free throw attempts, but got in the way of the next UCO pass which caused a scramble for the ball. Luke Tambon ended up with it in his hands as the horn sounded.
“In the second overtime, it was just about perseverance,” said Metress. “It was a classic game.”
Augusta State becomes the first PBC team to win a game at the Elite Eight since Kennesaw State won the league’s only national championship in 2004. ASU is the fourth PBC team to appear in the Elite Eight.
Augusta State d. Central Oklahoma, 106-104 (2OT) (BOX SCORE)