The NCAA men's tournament started Tuesday and Saint Mary's and North Carolina A&T advanced to the second round.

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DAYTON, Ohio — Saint Mary’s won its third NCAA tournament game in four years Tuesday night, beating Middle Tennessee State 67-54 in a First Four game that attracted a crowd of 12,027.

The 11th-seeded Gaels (28-6) advance to face another Tennessee team Thursday when they take on sixth-seeded Memphis in a Midwest Region second-round game in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The Blue Raiders, who were making their first tournament appearance since 1989, fell to 28-6. They were behind by three points midway through the second half before hot-shooting Saint Mary’s pulled away.

The Gaels’ previous game was a 65-51 loss to Gonzaga, the No. 1 team in the nation, in the West Coast Conference tournament final on March 11 in Las Vegas.

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Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s emerged from a shooting slump by scoring 22 points against Middle Tennessee. He made 7 of 14 shots, including 5 of 7 three-point attempts, and added four assists and six rebounds.

“When he does that, he may be the best point guard in college basketball, when he shoots the ball like that,” Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis said.

Saint Mary’s is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in program history. All three of the Gaels’ losses in 2013 have been to Gonzaga.

N. Carolina A&T

wins a close one

After more than 30 years of trying, North Carolina A&T finally has an NCAA tournament victory.

To do it, the Aggies had to survive one last, harrowing, close call.

Substitute guard Jeremy Underwood scored 19 points, leading the Aggies past resilient Liberty 73-72 at the First Four to win their first NCAA tournament game after nine losses.

The victory advanced the Aggies (20-16) to a game against top-seeded Louisville (29-5) in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday.

“It’s been a long time,” first-year Aggies coach Cy Alexander said.

It could have been pushed back longer. The Flames (15-21) — the second team ever to make the NCAA tournament with 20 losses — had a chance to win in the final seconds.

John Caleb Sanders drove coast to coast and flipped up a left-handed layup that just glanced off the glass.

“I knew he was going to go to the rim, and I just wanted to play off of him,” A&T defensive standout Austin Witter said. “I just tried to keep my hands back, and use my length to alter the shot. I believe I got a little piece of it, but I’m not really sure.”

Sanders was trying to draw a foul as much as make the frantic shot.

“We’ve had a lot of late-game situations similar to that, and Coach (Dale Layer) has always said to take it to the rim,” Sanders said. “They took away my right hand, so I went left and tried to get to the basket, and it just didn’t fall for me.”

Asked if he was fouled, he replied, “It’s hard to tell when you’re in the midst of a game. They didn’t call it. So it wasn’t a foul.”


• President Barack Obama is picking Florida, Indiana, Louisville and Ohio State to reach the men’s Final Four. He filled out a tournament bracket for ESPN for the fifth straight year.

On the women’s side, Obama selected Baylor, California, Connecticut and Notre Dame to advance to New Orleans. ESPN will reveal his full men’s and women’s brackets Wednesday morning.

In 2012, Obama’s NCAA men’s bracket ranked 2,347,421 out of 6.45 million entries, placing him in the 64th percentile.

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