Grambling State Men’s Basketball Wins Program’s First NCAA Tournament Game

Jourdan Smith celebrates Grambling State’s win over the Montana State Bobcats. (Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Jacob Lev and Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Grambling State men’s basketball won its first NCAA tournament game in program history on Wednesday, when the No. 16-seeded Tigers defeated fellow No. 16 seed Montana State 88-81 in overtime in the First Four.

The Tigers were led by a career night from guard Jimel Cofer, who scored 19 points after averaging just 2.8 points for the season, as the team produced an epic comeback victory.

Trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, Grambling State went on two separate 11-0 runs to overhaul the Bobcats’ lead.

The Tigers were also helped by 18 points and nine rebounds from senior guard Jourdan Smith, while forward Antwan Burnett added another 18 points.

“I just know my team has my back,” Cofer said, per Sports Illustrated. “Anybody on this team can get hot at any time. It was just my night.”

The First Four features four No. 16 seeds and four No. 10 seeds competing for a place at March Madness when the tournament tips off on Thursday.

Grambling State head coach Donte’ Jackson called it “incredible” when asked about his team’s historic achievement.

“It’s what March is made of baby,” Jackson told the truTV broadcast. “You got to find a way to fight. Stay in the game and have one last run.”

The Tigers will face No. 1-seeded Purdue Boilermakers on Friday in Indianapolis in the first round of March Madness’ Midwest Regional.

Bookmakers have Purdue as the third favorite to win the tournament behind the UConn Huskies and the Houston Cougars.

Jackson, the 2023-24 SWAC coach of the year, added that the team has not yet had the chance to think about facing the Boilermakers.

“Hey listen, we got to get to the room, pack up, figure it out, start on film and just worry about how we can throw the whole house, the kitchen – whatever – the backyard at [Purdue center] Zach Edey,” Jackson said.

“We just need to figure it out. We let the chips fall where they may. They ain’t expect us to win this one.”

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