Dayton, Ohio Arkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44
Arkansas-Pine Bluff finally found a road trip to its liking.
Allen Smith scored 14 points Tuesday night, including a pair of three-pointers during the Golden Lions’ second-half surge to a 61-44 victory over Winthrop in the NCAA Tournament’s opening game.
The Golden Lions (18-15) will play Duke, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional, on Friday in Jacksonville, Fla. — a place they somehow missed during a season-opening jaunt that nearly did them in. They spent the first two months playing some of the country’s best teams on the road, going everywhere and getting nowhere.
They dropped their first 11 games, losing at schools such as Texas-El Paso, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Kansas State and Oregon. They cranked up their iPods and let their music soothe them during 13-hour bus rides across the heartland, ones that bonded them.
The basketball equivalent of boot camp hardened them for a Southwestern Athletic Conference season that would be much more kind. By the time their tournament rolled around, the Golden Lions were only one game under .500.