Murray State kept the obligatory No. 12 versus No. 5 seed upset alive in the NCAA tournament on Thursday as Ja Morant led the Racers (28-4) with 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds in an 83-64 victory over Marquette (24-10) at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
All season long the sophomore point guard had been mentioned as a probable top-three pick in this summer's upcoming NBA draft, but Thursday was the first time that the nation got a chance to see him on the big stage.
Morant exceeded the hype, as he notched his third triple-double of the season and the 17th in NCAA tournament history. It was the first time a player had accomplished the feat since Michigan State's Draymond Green did it in 2012.
Whether it was a step-back three-pointer to the end the first half, or a nasty two-handed dunk over a Marquette defender, Morant gave fans and scouts everything they needed to see as he scored or assisted through 53 of the Racers 83 points.
Murray State continued a trend of 12 seeds beating 5s in March. It has happened every year but three since 2001, but this looked nothing like an upset. The Racers have won 12 consecutive games.
"They'd be good without him, but with him, they're pretty unique," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said of Murray State.
Markus Howard finished with 26 points and Sam Hauser added 16 for the Golden Eagles, who lost six of their final seven games.
Michigan 74, Montana 55: Wolverines coach John Beilein didn't need to worry after all.
Four days after Michigan's disappointing loss in the Big Ten tournament championship game, the Wolverines did exactly what they were supposed to against 15th-seeded Montana (26-9) in the first round in Des Moines.
They got off to a fast start and quickly led by double digits.
"Monday we were down. Tuesday's practice was just OK," Beilein said. "I thought when we got here, we had a really good practice yesterday. We got another chance. Sometimes teams lose a championship game and don't get a chance to play again. Our kids are smart. They knew what to do and we bounced back."
Charles Matthews had 22 points and 10 rebounds in his best performance since coming back from injury. Ignas Brazdeikis added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jon Teske had 11 points and nine boards for the Wolverines (29-6).
Baylor 78, Syracuse 69: Makai Mason scored 22 points and the Bears (20-13) set a school NCAA tournament record with 16 three-pointers to beat the Orange (20-14) in Salt Lake City.
The ninth-seeded Bears found gaps in Syracuse's 2-3 zone, mostly by getting the ball into the high post or driving and kicking out. Baylor nearly matched the school tournament record of 11 three-pointers in the first half (10) and made 16 of 34 overall. The Bears shot 54 percent and slowed Syracuse's three-point barrage in the second half to earn a shot at top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
Florida 70, Nevada 61: The Gators nearly squandered a double-digit lead before finally stopping a Wolf Pack comeback and pulling off the upset in Des Moines.
Kevarrius Hayes scored 16 points, Jalen Hudson added 15 and 10th-seeded Florida (20-15) won its tournament opener for the third straight year.
The Gators scored the last seven points after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack (29-5), a Sweet 16 team last year, had rallied from down 18 to cut the deficit to just two points.
Florida State 76, Vermont 69: Mfiondu Kabengele had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the Seminoles (28-7) withstood a barrage of three-pointers from the Catamounts (27-7) in Hartford, Conn.
Gonzaga 87, Fairleigh Dickinson 49: Rui Hachimura led the Zags (31-3) with 21 points and eight rebounds against the Knights (21-14), and this game looked every bit as lopsided as most of the 1-vs.-16 contests since 1985, when the bracket was expanded to 64 teams.