Dayton, OH (Sports Network) - The 2009 NCAA Tournament gets under way this evening in Dayton, as the Morehead State Eagles and Alabama State Hornets meet in the opening round from UD Arena. The winner of this game will take on the top overall seed Louisville, in Midwest Regional first-round action on Friday.
The Eagles are making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but first in 25 years, having last appeared in this event back during the 1983-84 campaign. The team earned an automatic bid by capturing the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament crown with a thrilling 67-65 double-overtime win against Austin Peay in the Championship Game. Overall, Morehead State finished the season at 19-15, including a 12-6 mark in the OVC.
The Hornets find themselves in the NCAA Tournament following a stellar campaign which saw Alabama State sweep the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, going 22-9 overall and 16-2 in league play. It was the second straight regular season crown and first tourney title since 2004. The Hornets, who have gone 0-2 in two previous NCAA Tournament appearances, enter this game having won four straight and 13 of its last 14 games overall.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
Despite averaging a modest 70.6 ppg this season, Morehead State has scoring depth, as four of the team's five starters are averaging double figures. Leon Buchanan and Kenneth Faried are a potent frontcourt duo. Buchanan is shooting .524 from the field this year and ranks first on the team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (6.3 rpg). Faried, who is converting 56.6 percent from the floor, adds 13.9 ppg, while pacing the team in both rebounding (12.8 ppg) and blocks (66). The 6-8 senior joined Buchanan on the OVC First-Team and was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Maze Stallworth is next in terms of scoring at 12.1 ppg and is the team's resident sniper, having amassed 80 three-pointers on the year. Demonte Harper rounds out the top offensive threats on the team with 10.8 ppg. Defensively, the Eagles have done a nice job as well, holding foes to a mere .418 shooting, and outrebounding opponents by eight boards per game.
The Hornets are a defensive team by nature, limiting the opposition to just 63.5 ppg, on under 40 percent shooting (.396). At the offensive end, the team relies heavily on the production of Brandon Brooks and Andrew Hayles. Brooks, who is shooting just over 50 percent from the floor, leads the team in scoring at 13.8 ppg. Hayles, who leads the way with 69 three-pointers, is a close second in the scoring column at 13.6 ppg. Roland Fitch is a serviceable entity off the bench at 9.8 ppg. Center Chief Kickingstallionsims is converting over 60 percent of the time down low, chipping in nearly nine points per game (8.8). The 7-1, 265-poind senior isn't much of a rebounder (4.1 rpg), but is a quality shot-blocker (85).
03/17 11:05:15 ET