Grambling State rallies from 14 down, beats Montana State in OT

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 21 Mar, 2024 at 04:24 AM

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DAYTON, Ohio -- Jimel Cofer scored all 19 of his points in the second half and overtime to rally Grambling State from 14 points down and past Montana State 88-81 in a First Four battle of Midwest Region No. 16 seeds Wednesday night.

Grambling (21-14), in its first NCAA Tournament game in school history, advanced to play No. 1 seed Purdue, which will look to atone for last year's second-ever loss by a No. 1 seed to a No. 16 seed when Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off the shocking upset.

"What this means for our program, it's an understatement, to be totally honest," Tigers coach Donte' Jackson said. "I couldn't even tell you. To play in a NCAA Tournament, get a first-round win, this is amazing. I think it's major exposure for our program."

Grambling outscored Montana State 52-28 in the paint. The Tigers rallied from deficits of 11 points in the first half and 14 in the second half to take a 70-67 lead with two minutes left in regulation.

But Robert Ford III answered with a 3-pointer to tie the score.

Eddie Turner III converted a pair of free throws with 51.3 seconds remaining to give Montana State its final lead at 72-70.

Cofer, who didn't play in the first half, came off the bench for the Tigers and scored 13 points in the second half, including his layup with 34 seconds left to tie the score.

Overtime mirrored the end of regulation as Grambling took a 78-75 lead only to see Ford drain his fifth 3-pointer with 2:02 left to forge a tie.

But two free throws from Antwan Burnett with 1:43 left put Grambling ahead for good. A thunderous put-back dunk with 55 seconds remaining by Jourdan Smith off a Tra'Michael Moton missed layup brought Tigers fans to their feet.

The explosion was part of an 8-0 Tigers run that put the game out of reach.

Ford led all scorers with 26 points for Montana State (17-18). Ford was 9-for-13 from the floor, including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc.

"I've been to this twice, making it and losing in the first game," Ford said. "It's tough. I think that's one of the things that fueled me last year. So coming back I think that will be great, the feeling of wanting to get back and wanting to get a win in the NCAA Tournament."

Brian Goracke added 15 points, including four threes for the Bobcats, who were appearing in their third straight NCAA tournament after upsetting Montana in the Big Sky championship final last Saturday.

Antwan Burnett and Smith (game-high nine rebounds) scored 18 points apiece for Grambling.

Walker missed a layup with nine seconds remaining while Moton's jumper was short off the iron as the buzzer sounded, sending the game to overtime.

--By Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media