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Syracuse narrowly avoids historic early loss

PITTSBURGH -- Reserve forward James Southerland had 15 points and a season-high eight rebounds, and Syracuse avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 when it rallied for a 72-65 victory over North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday in the East Regional.

The Orange entered the tournament without starting center Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible for academic reasons, and they almost left early with a piece of history no team wants. Instead, Syracuse (32-2) will play eighth-seeded Kansas State in the third round Saturday.

The Orange overcame a terrible game from 3-point range (5 of 23) to beat the much-smaller Bulldogs (24-10), who had talked Wednesday of becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1.

J.P. Primm had 18 points for UNC-Asheville.

No. 8 KANSAS ST. 70, No. 9 SOUTHERN MISS 64

Rodney McGruder scored 30 points and Jordan Henriquez added 15 points, nine rebounds and six blocks to lead Kansas State over Southern Mississippi.

The Wildcats (22-10) advanced past their opening tournament game for the third straight year.

No. 4 WISCONSIN 73, No. 13 MONTANA 49

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Ryan Evans scored 18 points and Jordan Taylor added 17 points and six assists for Wisconsin, which ended Montana's school-record 14-game winning streak.

The Badgers (25-9) improved to 10-1 in NCAA tournament openers under Bo Ryan, the winningest coach in the program's history.

No. 5 VANDERBILT 79, No. 12 HARVARD 70

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- John Jenkins made all six of his free throws down the stretch and finished with 27 points to help Vanderbilt hold off Harvard in a game billed as "The Brain Bowl."

Brad Tinsley scored 16 for the Commodores (25-10), who followed last weekend's stunner over top-ranked Kentucky with a win over a school many consider to be a No. 1 -- in the classroom, that is.

No. 3 MARQUETTE 88, No. 14 BYU 68

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jae Crowder had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Darius Johnson-Odom scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half and Marquette withstood another furious rally by BYU.

Brandon Davies had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Cougars (26-9), who looked for a brief while as if they might have a chance to top their historic comeback in the First Four on Tuesday night. After trailing by as many as 19 in the first half, BYU got within 52-46 with 15:28 left. But the Golden Eagles (28-5) were simply too big and too strong.

No. 6 MURRAY STATE 58, No. 11 COLORADO STATE 41

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Isaiah Canaan scored 15 points in Murray State's return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year wait, and Donte Poole added 13 to lead the Racers past Colorado State.

Canaan mishandled the ball in the closing seconds of a two-point loss to Butler in 2010 as a freshman. He's the leader of this group now, and Murray State (31-1) expects a long run in this tournament as the mid-major darlings.

No. 4 LOUISVILLE 69, No. 13 DAVIDSON 62

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Peyton Siva scored 17 points and Louisville finally moved on in the NCAA tournament by beating Davidson.

After getting ousted in their first tournament game the past two seasons, coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals (27-9) advanced to play fifth-seeded New Mexico in the third round.

No. 5 NEW MEXICO 75, No. 12 LONG BEACH ST. 68

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Kendall Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and bottled up Long Beach State star Casper Ware defensively to help New Mexico hold off the 49ers.

Drew Gordon added 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Lobos.

With most of the 49ers' defensive efforts focused on slowing down Gordon, New Mexico's punishing forward, Williams came up with key shots when the opportunities were there. The Lobos (28-6) then hit their free throws in the final minute to close it out.

NO. 1 KENTUCKY 81, NO. 16 WEST KENTUCKY 66

Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb could have left for the NBA last year. This is why they stayed.

Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Lamb scored 16 and top-seeded Kentucky began its quest for an eighth national title with a staggering display of athleticism in an 81-66 victory over Western Kentucky on Thursday night.

On a day when Syracuse nearly became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16, the Wildcats (33-2) clearly relished their growing role as favorites. Freshman and player of the year candidate Anthony Davis added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for Kentucky, which was never seriously threatened.

Freshman T.J. Price scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half to help Western Kentucky (16-19) get off to a hot start that briefly silenced the decidedly UK crowd. The Hilltoppers carried an improbable seven-game winning streak into the matchup with the Wildcats.