Indiana State, Minnesota, Dayton and Fairfield all advanced into the winners' bracket Thursday during the first day of play at the sixth Old Spice Classic at ESPN's Wide World of Sports on Thanksgiving Day.
Indiana State defeated Texas Tech 60-49, Minnesota was able to rally and then stave off a feisty DePaul team 86-85, and Dayton played from behind most of the game despite leading 7-0 at the start. The Flyers, however, took over when it mattered to defeat Wake Forest 80-76. Fairfield won the nightcap 55-44 over Arizona State.
In the opener, Indiana State (5-0) used a huge advantage at the foul line, taking 31 free shots to Tech's nine, and ISU hit 25 of them to help distance themselves from the Red Raiders (3-1).
Indiana State and Minnesota will tip off Day 2 of the tourney Friday at noon, and the other winners' bracket game between Dayton and Fairfield will tip at 5 p.m.
Indiana State, last year's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champions, had balanced scoring, led by Jake Odum's 13 points. Myles Walker had 9 and Carl Richard and Jordan Printy scored 7 each. Tech was led by Jordan Tolbert, who had 20 points and 8 rebounds.
Minnesota (5-0) had a little more trouble with DePaul (2-1) than what the Gophers had probably bargained. The Blue Demons came out firing 3s -- and making them -- and DePaul busted out to a 43-33 lead at the half.
DePaul hit 5-of-10 3s in the first half, but then managed just one the rest of the way. That's because Minnesota got out on the arc better defensively, and also went to its strength down low on both ends of the floor. The Gophers started taking it to the inside with big horses like 6-foot-8, 240-pound Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson III (6-11, 240) and the athletic dunking machine Rodney Williams (6-7, 200).
Eventually, DePaul started to wear down. The Gophers would outscore the Demons 62-40 in the paint, with most of that damage in the second half, and managed a 23-12 advantage on the offensive boards (42-26 overall).
"Our scouting report usually has in it things like how the other team boxes out and we saw they weren't a very good rebounding team," said Mbakwe, who ended up with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Williams added 18 points.
It still came down to the wire, however, and it was, fittingly, an offensive rebound off a missed free throw that would provide the insurance margin. Williams snuck around a DePaul player's box-out and put back a Julian Hollins miss with 12 seconds left to give Minnesota an 86-83 lead.
DePaul could only manage a two-point bucket on the other end and the Gophers moved on to play Indiana State at noon in Friday's early game. DePaul faces Texas Tech at 2:30.
Brandon Young led DePaul with 23 points, while Melvin Cleveland had 20 points. Krys Faber added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
In Thursday's second session, Wake Forest (3-1) had fought off Dayton for as long as it could, but a late barrage from the Flyers, with the backing of a huge Dayton contingent at the HP Field House, was eventually too much.
Wake tried to pull away twice late, but a 3-pointer from Chris Johnson with 35 seconds left gave the Flyers a 77-75 lead and that was the back-breaker. Paul WIlliams led Dayton with 18 points, and Matt Kavanaugh and Kevin Dillard added 15 each. Wake had Travis McKie with 20 points, C.J. Harris with 18 and Tony Chennault with 17.
Fairfield (3-2), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season champion last season, had a fairly easy time with Arizona State, leading by 19 points with 11:19 remaining.
ASU fought back, however, with a 19-6 surge that got the Sun Devils within 49-42 with 2:30 left. But the rally would end there and ASU only scored one other time after that.
Fairfield star Rakim Sanders had 21 points to lead both teams. Seven-foot center Ryan Olander added 11 points.
Trent Lockett led the Sun Devils with 15 points.
DePaul will take on Texas Tech in the first losers' bracket game at 2:30 p.m. Friday, and Arizona State will face Wake Forest at 7:30 in the other.