GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Wichita State ended an 18-year absence from the NCAA tournament in style, as the Shockers outclassed Seton Hall, 86-66, yesterday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Seventh-seeded Wichita State never trailed, went ahead for good in the third minute, doubled the score late in the first half and never allowed the Pirates to get closer than 11 in the second. The Shockers got 23 points from sophomore guard Sean Ogirri and 15 points and seven rebounds from senior center Paul Miller.
The game paired two conferences of note.
Tenth-seeded Seton Hall (18-12) gave the Big East a record eighth team in the field, while seventh-seeded Wichita State (25-8) was the regular-season champion of the Missouri Valley Conference, which placed four teams in the tournament for the first time.
Wichita State's first tournament win since 1981, when it was the last current member of the MVC to reach a regional final, sends it to tomorrow's second-round game in the Washington Regional, against Tennessee.
"We went into this game looking at what we were going to do for Wichita State," said Miller, when asked about the MVC.
Miller, the MVC Player of the Year who goes 6 feet 10 and 250 pounds, posted up and scored on the Shockers' first two possessions. Ogirri then stretched the Pirates' defense, as he made four of his six three-pointers in the first half.
An 8-0 run gave Wichita State a 12-4 lead. It was 27-12 by the 13th minute, and Wendell Preadom's transition basket made it 40-20 with 2:19 left in the half. Seton Hall closed to 55-44 with 12:19 remaining on a three-pointer by Donald Copeland, but Wichita State responded with an 8-2 run and was always in control.
"I don't think we guarded them with the intensity that we needed," Seton Hall coach Louis Orr said.
Wichita State made six of 11 threes in the first half and 48.0 percent of all its field-goal attempts, well above its season average.
"We always try to defend and rebound, but we look much better when we make shots," said coach Mark Turgeon, who played for Larry Brown at Kansas in the mid-1980s and was an assistant for Roy Williams in the 1990s. "Our guys just really played smart on both ends of the floor."
Copeland had 17 points and backcourt partner Jamar Nutter had 15, but the Pirates' big men did little. Bearing no resemblance to the unit that beat North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia, Seton Hall reverted to the erratic streak that saw it lose to Richmond and Northwestern.
ILLINOIS 78, AIR FORCE 69 -- Guard Jamar Smith had six three-pointers among his 20 points for the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini (26-6), who eliminated the Falcons (24-7).
Illinois shot 58 percent from the field in its first NCAA tournament game since losing last year's championship to North Carolina.
The opponent this time was quite a bit different. The tournament selection committee took a lot of grief for adding Air Force of the Mountain West Conference as the 13th seed in the Washington Regional at the expense of Cincinnati or Michigan.
Illini coach Bruce Weber was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
"I'll be honest. I was thinking it would be 53-49 or something like that," Weber said. "Both of us came out with pretty good energy."
But Illinois had more.
"It's the NCAA tournament," Weber said. "You play at that magic level."
Dee Brown was held to eight points, the third time in the past five games that the star Illinois guard has been held to single digits. But he made up for it with nine assists and a career-high nine rebounds.
"They have some good players," Brown said. "They're a scary team, and I don't think anyone would want to play them in the first round."
Air Force tried to hang with Illinois, and succeeded at times. The Falcons' Princeton offense was more efficient in the second half than in the first, and they scored seven straight points, including four by guard Antoine Hood, to pull to 39-38 with 16:18 to play.
Illinois answered with a three-pointer by Smith and a three-point play by Brian Randle to make it 45-38.
The shots stopped falling for the Falcons for a stretch, and they never got back into it.
WASHINGTON 75, UTAH STATE 61 -- Behind 28 points by Brandon Roy, the fifth-seeded Huskies (25-6) defeated the Aggies (23-9).
Despite being talked up as the team that would knock out a fifth seed, the Aggies failed to join fellow No. 12s Montana and Texas A&M in the second round.
Jamaal Williams added 15 points and Justin Dentmon and Bobby Jones had 11 each for the Huskies, who tied a season high with 12 three-pointers - nine in the second half.
The Huskies advanced to a second-round game tomorrow against No. 4 Illinois in the Washington Regional.
Jaycee Carroll scored 21 points and Nate Harris had 19 points and 14 rebounds for Utah State, which had 22 turnovers.
The Aggies lost in the first round for the 12th time in their past 13 NCAA appearances. Their only win since 1971 was an upset of Ohio State in 2001.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.