If you haven't heard of Norfolk State before, you have now.
"If you want it, you gotta take it," proclaimed Spartans head coach Anthony Evans during his pre-game speech.
The school that enrolls around 6,000 and have never even made an NCAA tournament appearance, absolutely shocked the Missouri Tigers on Friday with an 86-84 win in front of a sellout crowd in Omaha. In short, they took it.
Mizzou, a Final Four favorite by many, is the first No. 15 seed to fall in the first round since Iowa State did so against Hampton in 2001. Fun filled fact: the last three upsets of such caliber in the NCAA tournament have all been from the MEAC, the conference Norfolk State belongs to.
Many had thought Missouri deserved a number one seed, while others declared that Norfolk State was one of the least deserving of teams to get in the tournament at all. After the way the Spartans speared down the Tigers on Friday, I would say Florida better be ready. The Gators will play Norfolk State on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.
Leading the way for the Spartans on Friday was Kyle O'Quinn. At first glance, he almost looks like Shaq-light (not your typical Irishman); an absolute beast. With one of the most impressive performances in the tourney thus far, O'Quinn finished the day with 26 points, 14 boards, two assists, a steal and two blocks. That's right, he took it.
In fact, O'Quinn had a chance to seal the deal with just 2.8 seconds to play, but missed both free throws. Regardless of his great play up to that point, the Senior was visibly frustrated on the sideline during the ensuing Missouri time-out. He was worried he had left the door wide open for a quick Tigers team that can score at-will.
After the time-out, Tigers guard Phil Pressey took the inbounds pass near mid-court before taking a few dribbles and launching off a great look from behind the arc. The shot clinged off the side of the rim at the buzzer, prompting green Norfolk celebratory madness across the floor. O'Quinn was in the center of it all.
Evans talked about his center after the game: "He's done it all year. He's really developed, we love him."
O’Quinn was all smiles during his interviews immediately following the on-court celebration. "I can't explain it right now…[I said] the only way I can pay you back is with a championship…I'm paying you back right now in overtime… I'm paying you back." The former football player stated that Norfolk State was the only school to offer him a scholarship. Now it looks like the rewards have been paid at both ends.
On the Missouri end, Pressey was amazing down the stretch. He made an impressive 30-foot 3-pointer with just 10 seconds left to pull his team within a single point before sending Norfolk State back to the free throw line. After a miss from Rodney McCauley, O'Quinn snagged the rebound while falling to the floor in the midst of Missouri defenders, fighting over what would be ruled a jump-ball. The possession arrow: Norfolk State ball. O'Quinn to save the day again. You guessed it. He took it.
After Thursday's arid games, I predicted there would be some 'madness' looming on Friday. Boy was I right. Just too bad I had Missouri in my Final Four, as did many others.
Nevertheless, congratulations to O'Quinn and the Spartans from Norfolk. You are now crested into the eternal guild of NCAA tournament folklore. A highlight we will see for years to come; the day when unlikely No. 15 seed Norfolk State took down the Tigers in their first ever NCAA tournament game.
Or should I just say, they took it?
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS