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North Carolina A&T edges Liberty, 73-72 in First Four opener

North Carolina A&T The North Carolina A&T Aggies advanced to play Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Did you really expect anything different once the NCAA tournament began?

A wild, unpredictable season saw its national championship event tip off with a wire job in Dayton, Ohio. North Carolina A&T, the MEAC tournament champions, held off upstart Liberty, the 20-loss auto-bid holders from the Big South, 73-72, when Liberty's John Caleb Sanders missed a driving layup in the final seconds. The Aggies advance to Friday's matchup with Midwest No. 1 seed Louisville in Lexington, Ky.

The Aggies could have made things easier on themselves, but they missed the front ends of two one-and-ones in the final 19 seconds and also nearly threw away an inbounds pass under Liberty's basket. The ensuing scrum, with the Flames trailing by one, caused a held ball, but the Aggies retained possession.

Sanders, part of a three-guard attack that fueled the Flames, finished with 21 points and nine assists. Jeremy Underwood came off the bench for North Carolina A&T and provided 19 big points on 6-for-6 shooting.

This is the first-ever NCAA tournament win for the Aggies, and a nice little boost to the MEAC's coffers, as the league receives an extra win share now that will roll over for six years. That should provide an extra $250,000 to the league to share among its members, which is very nice in a league that takes its fair share of guarantee checks.

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