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Grambling State beats Montana State in OT in First Four, faces Purdue next

Grambling State Grambling State - The Canadian Press

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Jimel Cofer scored all 19 of his points in the second half and overtime and Grambling State rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Montana State 88-81 to earn its first NCAA Tournament win in program history in the First Four on Tuesday night.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Tigers (21-14) advance as the No. 16 seed in the Midwest Region to play No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday night in Indianapolis.

Robert Ford III made his fifth 3-pointer of the game to tie the game at 78 for the Big Sky Conference tournament champions with 2:02 left in overtime, but Grambling iced the game from the free throw line with eight straight points.

Montana State (17-18) went 1 of 6 in the final 1:27.

Burnett and Jourdan Smith had 18 points apiece for the Tigers.

Grambling State, which was playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time despite a 2-10 start to the season, rode a second-half surge going on a 21-6 run erasing its 42-33 halftime deficit. Cofer, who didn't play in the first half, flipped in a layup as part of an individual 6-0 run giving the Tigers their first lead of the second half 60-59 with 5:47 remaining in regulation.

Cofer laid in a game-tying score with 34 seconds left to knot it at 72, and Montana State’s Brandon Walker missed a potential go-ahead layup with 9 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Montana State shot 63% in the first half and held a lead as large as 14 in its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Robert Ford III had 26 points, including six 3s, to lead Montana State.

The First Four went to overtime for the first time since Notre Dame beat Rutgers 89-87 in double overtime in 2022.