KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The greatest game any Memphis player ever had in the NCAA tournament finally presented an obstacle the plucky Matadors of Cal State Northridge could not overcome.
Averaging just 4.5 points all year, Sallie hit 10 3-pointers and scored 35 as the second-seeded Tigers came from behind to beat the Matadors 81-70 Thursday and dodge what would have been one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
“Coach said keep shooting,” said Sallie, whose previous career high was 13. “None of my teammates would ever expect me to score 35 points. I never made 10 3-pointers before.”
Neither did anyone else in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Sallie’s long-range onslaught erased the first-round record and enabled Memphis (32-3) to avoid the stigma of being just the fifth No. 2 seed to lose in the opening round since the tournament went to a 64-team format in 1985.
“They kept leaving me open. I got a lot of open looks today and I just hit the shots,” he said.
He hit them like no other Memphis player ever did in the NCAA tournament. His 35 points broke the school record for tournament scoring and was the most by any Tigers player this year.
How unlikely was this shooting hero?
There were nine games this year when he didn’t score at all. While he was 10-for-15 from 3-point range, his more famous teammates combined for 1-for-13.
“Obviously, we didn’t anticipate what Sallie was going to do today,” said Northridge coach Bobby Braswell.