Flames dim at First Four

Liberty loss starts Madness

Lamont Middleton and North Carolina A&T knocked over Davon Marshall and Liberty on Tuesday in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. Enlarge photo

Skip Peterson/Associated Press

Lamont Middleton and North Carolina A&T knocked over Davon Marshall and Liberty on Tuesday in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.

DAYTON, Ohio – Jeremy Underwood came off the bench to score 19 points, leading North Carolina A&T past 21-loss Liberty 73-72 on Tuesday at the First Four, ending an NCAA winless streak at nine games.

The Flames (15-21) – only the second team ever to make the NCAA tournament with 20 losses – had a chance to win it. John Caleb Sanders drove coast to coast and flipped up a left-handed layup in heavy congestion that just missed. A&T (20-16) rebounded and, while Sanders rolled in pain on the baseline, began to celebrate an end to more than 30 years of disappointment.

Underwood came in averaging just over 6 points, but was perfect from the field, hitting six field goals in as many attempts.

The victory advanced the Aggies to a showdown with top-seeded Louisville (29-5) in Lexington, Ky., Thursday.

Saint Mary’s 67, Middle Tennessee 54

DAYTON, Ohio – Matthew Dellavedova scored 22 points Tuesday night, and Saint Mary’s got a good start on its second NCAA tournament appearance in a row, beating Middle Tennessee in the First Four.

The Gaels (28-6) get a quick trip to Auburn Hills, Mich., to play sixth-seeded Memphis on Thursday.

Saint Mary’s is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in its history. The Gaels reached the round of 16 in 2010 before losing to Baylor. Not so good last year, when they dropped their opening game to Purdue 72-69.

With four starters back and Dellavedova, the school’s career scoring leader, handling the ball and making the biggest shots, the Gaels were too much for Middle Tennessee (28-6), which was making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 24 years.

Credit Dellavedova for making a difference. The point guard went 7 of 14 from the field, had four assists and six rebounds.