NOR­FOLK

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports -

while a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant coach at a lo­cal com­mu­nity col­lege. Nor­folk State never be­fore ap­peared in the NCAA tour­na­ment and, ear­lier this sea­son, lost to Eliz­a­beth City, a Divi­sion II school that fin­ished 15-14.

Two hours against sec­ond-seeded Mis­souri on Fri­day changed ev­ery­thing. A 21.5-point un­der­dog, 15thseeded Nor­folk State turned the arena into its home court with “N-S-U” chants, O’quinn’s broad smiles and full-court pres­sure that be­came an 8684 up­set of Mis­souri.

Evans sought out his wife, Kisha, in the stands. She shook and cried as they em­braced. In the locker room, Nor­folk State’s play­ers hooted and hollered in dis­be­lief and chided Pres­i­dent Obama for pre­dict­ing Mis­souri would ad­vance to the Fi­nal Four.

Only five other No. 15 seeds have won a game in the tour­na­ment. It was the MEAC’S lone win against the six power con­fer­ences this sea­son, go­ing 1-41.

Thirty- six hours later, re­al­ity looked like 94 feet of en­ergy-suck­ing, sea­son-end­ing pres­sure from Florida’s de­fense.

“They’re a dif­fer­ent type of ath­lete,” Evans said.

One of Nor­folk State’s six goals against Mis­souri was to wear it down. Against Florida, Nor­folk State was the worn-out team. Each com­bi­na­tion Evans put on the court looked a step slower, like they were try­ing to com­pete against five En­er­gizer Bun­nies.

Florida zipped passes around the perime­ter and, in keep­ing with its sta­tus as the na­tion’s top 3-point team, sank 10 shots from be­yond the arc. That led to a 25-0 run mid­way through the first half. As Nor­folk State grew tired and its time­outs didn’t slow the onslaught, Florida pushed the tempo.

O’quinn, who fu­eled the Mis­souri up­set with 26 points and 14 re­bounds, fell into early foul trou­ble. He drew dou­ble-teams. And Florida’s sopho­more cen­ter, Pa­tric Young, with legs like pogo sticks, be­dev­iled O’quinn in the post.

The care­free smiles that pushed O’quinn into the na­tional spot­light were gone. That’s when as­sis­tant Larry Vick­ers knows the se­nior cen­ter is frus­trated. The 20 dou­ble-dou­bles O’quinn recorded this sea­son were a far-off mem­ory af­ter four points on 1for-9 shoot­ing and three re­bounds.

“I wish I had the an­swers,” O’quinn said. “Noth­ing went our way. We’re hu­man be­ings. It pushes you back. It pushes you back. Even­tu­ally, you see the score­board.”

That score­board told a story O’quinn wished he could change.

But as he ex­ited in socks and flipflops, O’quinn car­ried a his­tory-mak­ing week­end that won’t change.

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