By JOE KAY
The Associated Press
DAYTON, Ohio — The last team to make the NCAA Tournament gets to play at least one more. Credit Syracuse’s fabulous freshman forward and its legendary zone defense for getting a cringe-worthy win.
Freshman Oshae Brissett had his 13th double-double while leading 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, relegated to the First Four. The Orange prevailed in a matchup of teams that started fast and then faded onto the tournament bubble.
“Our offense struggles,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “But I thought our defense has been good all year and that’s where we hang our hats, on the defensive end.”
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, and their high-powered offense got shut down in their biggest game.
Arizona State scored a season low in points — only the third time it’s been held under 70 all season. The Sun Devils’ previous low was 64 points.
“Usually we’re scoring 56 in a half, and we ended up with 56,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “So there were limited possessions. It was a rock fight, and we just didn’t make enough shots.”
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.
“I knew he was going to get back up,” said Tyus Battle, whose 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead to stay. “He’s hit some huge shots. He’s done that countless times this year.”
With a chance to take the lead, Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II missed a 3-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.
Texas Southern 64, North Carolina Central 46
DAYTON, Ohio — Damontrae Jefferson scored 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds as Texas Southern got its first ever NCAA Tournament win, a rout of North Carolina Central in a First Four game.
Jefferson, a sophomore, along with Miami’s Chris Lykes is the shortest player in the tournament at 5-foot-7.
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 — 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.
Donte Clark had 18 points and Trayvon Reed added 10 points and eight boards for Texas Southern, a historically black college in Houston that won the Southwestern Athletic College Tournament. Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament winner N.C. Central, another historically black school was making its second straight appearance in Dayton for a play-in game.
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.