In their 110th season, the Bucknell Bison (search) finally won their first NCAA tournament game. And, wow, what a victory it was. Chris McNaughton banked in a hook shot over Wayne Simien with 10.5 seconds left, then Simien missed an open 15-foot jumper at the buzzer, giving the 14th-seeded Bison a stunning 64-63 victory over third-seeded Kansas on Friday night to shake up the Syracuse Regional.
"It came off the backboard and rimmed in somehow — I don't even know how, but I don't care," McNaughton said.
In another first round upset, the 13th-seeded Vermont Catamounts upset 4th-seeded and Big East champions Syracuse, 60-57, in overtime.
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Bucknell (23-9) began playing basketball in 1896, joining Yale and Minnesota as the nation's oldest Division I programs. But the only other times the Bison even made the NCAA field were 1987, when they lost by 22 to Georgetown, and '89, when they lost by 23 to Syracuse.
Now they're the first No. 14 seed to win since Weber State beat North Carolina in 1999, and they ended the title hopes of Kansas, the preseason No. 1. This also is the first tournament win by a team from the Patriot League, and they'll go for another Sunday against sixth-seeded Wisconsin (23-8), which beat Northern Iowa 57-52 earlier Friday.
"Certainly it's the biggest win we've ever had," said coach Pat Flannery, a 1980 Bucknell grad. "Our kids battled their big kids all night long. Our kids made them work for everything they got."
The Jayhawks (23-7) ended a streak of getting to the second round 15 straight years and their last 21 tries. Although they had their share of scares along the way, including one by Utah State in Oklahoma City two years ago, this was their first opening-round exit since being eliminated by UCLA in 1978.
Kansas seemed vulnerable because it had lost five of its last eight and second-leading scorer Keith Langford was slowed by a lingering flu problem and a creaky left ankle. However, the Jayhawks weren't too concerned because four of those recent losses were to teams that won first-round NCAA (search) games.
Bucknell knew it could hang with the big boys after winning at Pittsburgh this season when the Panthers were undefeated and ranked No. 7. Not everyone was so sure this might happen, though — the band took off for spring break and couldn't be gathered in time to make it here, so the Northern Iowa crew filled in. They were faxed sheet music earlier Friday, received a box of orange Bucknell T-shirts when they got to the area and did a great job leading what grew to be a legion of fans.
Kevin Bettencourt got the good karma going with a four-point play to open the Bison's scoring. He finished with 19 points and had five of their 3-pointers. Bucknell put up a season-high 31, while trying to stay away from Simien inside.
The Bison led by as many as seven in the first half and protected the lead even through a nearly six-minute minute drought between baskets. Then they went scoreless the last 4:33 of the half and Kansas used a 10-0 run to take the lead.
Yet the Jayhawks were never able to seize control — although they seemed to come close in the final minute, when Langford hit two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to put KU up 63-62.
Bucknell went straight up the court and fed McNaugton in the lane. He responded with his sixth make on seven attempts, giving him 14 points.
Langford had another attempt, but missed short. Bucknell's John Griffin got the rebound and was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and Simien grabbed the carom with 2.4 seconds left.
After a timeout, Kansas tried the Grant Hill-to-Christian Laettner play Duke used to beat Kentucky in the NCAAs. Michael Lee's heave to Simien went perfectly and he spun for a good look at the basket. But his shot hit the rim and bounced away.
Bucknell celebrated wildly at midcourt — as you'd expect from a program that once had Jim Valvano as its coach — while Simien walked straight to the locker room, his college career over.
The scene in the stands was similar. Blue-clad Jayhawks (search) fans were stunned, while the small section of orange-clad Bison fans and the thousands of bandwagon jumpers they picked up over the last few hours all cheered wildly. The underdog factor was best exhibited with 1:04 left when a chant of "Here we go, Bison, here we go!" was so contagious that even Wisconsin players — who will be playing Bucknell in two days — were among those clapping and screaming along.
Simien finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He may also lament a missed foul shot with 1:41 left, the only one of 16 second-half free throws that didn't fall the Jayhawks.
Fourteenth seeds have now won 14 NCAA games. This one let Bucknell match its second-most victories in school history.
This is the fourth time the NCAAs have held first- and second-round games in Oklahoma City, and every time a bottom seed has won at least one first-round game. This site already has sent a No. 12 and a No. 13 into the second weekend of the tournament, and the Bison would love to add a No. 14 to this locale's unique bit of NCAA lore.