OMAHA, NEB. — Standing with his broad shoulders against a metal locker after Norfolk State's 86-84 upset win Friday against Missouri — no less than seven microphones, seven television cameras, 13 voice recorders and countless notepads in his face — Kyle O'Quinn became the overnight sensation of the NCAA tournament.
After posting 26 points and 14 rebounds to help Norfolk State (26-9) become the fifth No. 15 seed in NCAA tournament to defeat a No. 2 seed in the tournament, joining Richmond in 1991 and Hampton University in 2001 as the other teams from the Commonwealth to pull off the feat, O'Quinn basked in the moment.
Of course, he had started to feel something was unique about this trip to Omaha the night before the game. While he ate dinner with his teammates at a local joint called Granite City, he got a taste of exactly what kind of passion the tournament can create.
"We ran into an old lady (Thursday) night at dinnertime," O'Quinn said. "She told us, 'Whatever you do — beat Mizzou.'"
O'Quinn and his teammates obviously made at least one woman very happy with Friday's result, but she wasn't the only Norfolk State convert. In the closing minutes of Norfolk State's victory, the majority of the CenturyLink Center — which housed fans from Purdue, Kansas, Detroit, St. Mary's, Virginia, Florida and, of course, Missouri — was chanting "NSU, NSU."
Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said his team entered the game with a positive feeling about its chances against Missouri (30-5), which played a four-guard lineup and had a distinct height disadvantage against Norfolk State.
"We played a tough non-conference schedule to prepare us for this point," said Evans, whose team defeated Drexel and Texas Christian in the regular season, and lost to Marquette by 31 points a week before losing again to the Golden Eagles by just two points. "I think this team has an inner confidence that they feel they can play with anybody, and they went out and showed that (Friday)."
Walking off the court, O'Quinn clapped his hands repeatedly in the tunnel leading back to the locker room.
"That's how we finish, baby," O'Quinn said. "Let's help some brackets."
As media buzzed about Norfolk State's locker room feeding off the Spartans' postgame glow, players started to get an idea of what kind of impact their upset was having. Quasim Pugh's eyes bugged out as he stared at his cell phone.
"Whoa," Pugh said. "I've got 16 text messages and 18 missed calls already. Whoa."
A few hours after Norfolk State's win, Lehigh stole a little thunder from Norfolk State by becoming the sixth No. 15 seed ever to beat a No. 2 seed, but nothing could dampen the Spartans' spirits. Of course, with Florida waiting on the horizon, there's little time for celebration.
"We paid so much attention to this game," O'Quinn said. "I'm not going to lie to you, we haven't paid any attention to Florida."