College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 19, 2013
All of those analysts lobbying for the inclusion of Middle Tennessee to be admitted to the field of 68 got their wishes on Sunday, when the Blue Raiders were paired with St. Mary's for a Tuesday night "first four" game, but they had to be embarrassed by the effort as the Gaels punished Middle Tennessee in a 67-54 runaway.
The Gaels led most of the game, taking the lead for good after an 18-all tie when Stephen Holt made one of two free throws and Beau Levesque turned in a three-point play on a layup, foul and subsequent free throw.
After that, it was the Matthew Delladevoda show, the four-year point guard pumping in a game-high 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, with a 5-for-7 mark from beyond the arc. When he wasn't scorching the Blue raiders with threes, Delladevoda was hitting the boards, playing tight defense and helping out teammates. He finished with six boards and four assists.
St. Mary's defense was so good that Middle Tennessee players only went to the line seven times, making six. And, while the shooting was nearly even - 45% for St. Mary's; 42% for the Blue Raiders - it was outside the three-point line that made the difference. St. Mary's was 8-for-14 (57%). Middle Tennessee managed only 4-for-12 (33%).
The Gaels advance to the second round, where they will face Memphis, the #6 seed in the Midwest region, on Thursday.
In the other first four meeting, North Carolina A&T held on for a 73-72 win over a gritty Liberty squad, advancing to play the tournament's #1 seed, Louisville, on Thursday.