Top Five: First-day NCAA tourmament performances

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,John Keim

Here are five players who got off to a great start as the NCAA tournament tipped off Thursday:

5. Andrew Smith, Butler » It's not as if he was dominant, but he finished with excellent numbers. Smith, a 6-foot-11 senior center, grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds and scored 14 points as Butler rallied to beat Bucknell. In one second-half stretch, Smith hit a 3-pointer, stole the ball and assisted on another 3-pointer. After another 3 from a teammate, Smith scored again.

4. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga » Southern flirted with an upset, staying close to the top-seeded Zags for way too long. But the Jaguars couldn't stop Olynyk inside. Olynyk scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the 64-58 win and established a strong presence, especially in the second half when Gonzaga started to inch away.

3. Dwayne Evans, St. Louis » The Billikens didn't exactly struggle in their 64-44 win over New Mexico State, thanks in part to Evans. The 6-foot-5 forward scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. But that's not a surprise given that he's averaged 19.4 points in his previous five games (and 13.7 for the season).

2. Derrick Nix, Michigan State » The Spartans' senior center was not the player Valparaiso figured it had to stop. But he can be bullish inside and it showed. Thursday, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Nix scored 23 points and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds in a 65-54 win.

1. Vander Blue, Marquette » His driving left-handed layup with one second left gave Marquette a stunning comeback win over No. 14 Davidson. According to ESPN Stats, it was the first go-ahead shot in the final 10 seconds of a tourney game since 2011. But Blue also scored seven of his team's final 11 points.

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner