GREENSBORO, N.C. — Kennesaw State University fell short to Xavier University in their first-ever NCAA Tournament. The score was 72-67. The game came down to the final seconds.
No. 14 seed KSU took on No. 3 seed Xavier in the Midwest Region of the tournament bracket. The Musketeers hail from Cincinnati, Ohio, and are a member of the Big East Conference.
Kennesaw State made history when they clinched a berth in their first-ever NCAA Tournament. It was a moment that shows the success they've been able to conquer this season -- turning around a losing saga.
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Owls head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim has been leading the way. In his first season in 2019-20, the Owls sputtered to a 1-28 record. However, this season, a 26-8 mark -- including 15 conference wins -- has led to the state's college basketball radar bypassing the likes of struggling Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Abdur-Rahim was emotional after the loss Friday afternoon.
"These are tears of joy because it takes a special group of people to commit to something and stay to see that vision through," Abdur-Rahim said. "So, the beginning was four years ago, but you better believe this is our standard, this is our expectation."
Their road to the tournament was full of support. Cheerleaders, band members, donors and other supporters were on hand Wednesday to see the Owls load and board buses as they headed to the tournament.
And on Game Day, the KSU community gathered for a watch party at the Convocation Center on the university's campus.
The crowd was fired up as they watched their favorite Owls play. In solidarity, they chanted "K-S-U," showing school spirit.
"I really think that KSU is going to pull it out. I really think that we're going to win today." K.T. told 11Alive's Karys Belger before the game ended.
The freshman was one of the hundreds who were in the stands to watch the big game on an even bigger screen. The excitement was even more palpable at half-time when KSU was leading the game. However, the team didn't pull off the win.
The last few minutes kept everyone on edge and despite the loss, the crowd was still proud of the team's progress.
"Xavier don't deserve it, but I'm still proud of them boys for what they did." Hunter Williamson told 11Alive.
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