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Syracuse rallies in second half to top Arizona State

DAYTON, Ohio — Freshman Oshae Brissett had a double-double and led Syracuse’s second-half comeback, and the Orange — the last team to make the NCAA Tournament — held on for a 60-56 victory over Arizona State on Wednesday night in the First Four.

The 11th-seeded Orange plays No. 6 seed TCU (21-11) on Friday in Detroit in the Midwest Region.

Syracuse (21-13) had to sweat out Selection Sunday and wound up as the last one to make the bracket, sent to the First Four. The Orange prevailed in a matchup of teams that started fast and then faded onto the tournament bubble.

Arizona State (20-12) opened the season with 12 wins, including victories over tournament No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils went 8-12 the rest of the way. They also faded at the end of their tournament game.

Brissett overcame a hard fall in the first half, scored 23 points and had 12 rebounds. He had a three-point play and a step-back jumper as the Orange overcame a seven-point deficit with 7 minutes left.

Tyus Battle’s three-pointer put Syracuse ahead to stay. With a chance to take the lead, Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II missed a three-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Frank Howard got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to clinch it.

Kodi Justice had 15 points for Arizona State, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009.

The Orange uses only seven players and had concerns about Howard, who had a throat ailment the last few days. He hit a pair of 3s and had a steal and layup as the Orange opened with a 10-7 run. He finished with 12 points, including the clinching free throws.

The Sun Devils struggled against zone defenses during conference play and were facing one of the most fabled in the country. They struggled to get open shots and missed five straight as Syracuse went ahead to stay. The Sun Devils finished 11 of 32 from beyond the arc.

Texas Southern 64, North Carolina Central 46: Damontrae Jefferson did a lot of everything Wednesday night, hitting layups and three-pointers, grabbing rebounds, playing defense and making his teammates look good. The slippery-quick 5-7 guard also helped Texas Southern make history.

Playing all but the last minute or so of the game, the sophomore dynamo scored 25 points, pulled down eight rebounds, flexed and crowed as Texas Southern got its first ever NCAA Tournament win, a rout of North Carolina Central in a First Four game at University of Dayton Arena.

No. 16 seed Texas Southern (16-19) also became the first team with a losing record to win a tournament game. The Tigers started the season 0-13 against a big-boy schedule — the worst start for a tournament team in NCAA history — and didn’t win a game until Jan. 1. Now they’re moving on to face No. 1 seed Xavier on Friday.

“It was for the university,” Jefferson said. “We actually made history today for the university, and we kind of knew that coming into this game.”

Donte Clark had 18 points and Trayvon Reed added 10 points and eight boards for Texas Southern, a historically black college in Houston. The Tigers slipped into the First Four by getting hot and winning the Southwest Athletic College Tournament, only to be paired with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament winner N.C. Central, another historically black school that was making its second straight appearance in Dayton for a play-in game.

Both the conferences get an automatic bid every year but rarely have to play each other.

N.C. Central (19-16) was led by Raasean Davis with 19 points, part of a starting five that included a pair of true freshmen guards and a walk-on.

Texas Southern led by 10 at the half on Jefferson’s 17 points. The sophomore, who along with Miami’s Chris Lykes is the shortest player in the tournament, tied the score at 10 with a jumper, then fed an alley-oop pass to Reed for a monster dunk and followed with a layup to cap an 8-0 run. The Tigers wouldn’t relinquish the lead.

The Eagles hurt themselves with terrible shooting, especially in the second half. They shot just 30.4 percent for the game — including 0 for 14 from three-point range.

“We didn’t give our best shot,” N.C. Central coach Levelle Moton said. — AP

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