DAYTON, Ohio (AP) Jimel Cofer scored all 19 of his points in the second half and overtime and Grambling State rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Montana State 88-81 to earn its first NCAA Tournament win in program history in the First Four on Wednesday night.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Tigers (21-14) advance as the No. 16 seed in the Midwest Region to play No. 1 seed Purdue on Friday night in Indianapolis.

“Incredible. That's what March is made of, baby,” Grambling State coach Donte’ Jackson said. “You got to find a way to fight, stay in the game, and have that one last run.”

Montana State's Robert Ford III made his fifth 3-pointer of the game to tie the game at 78 for the Big Sky Conference tournament champions with 2:02 left in overtime, but Grambling iced the game from the free throw line with eight straight points.

Montana State (17-18) went 1 of 6 in the final 1:27 in failing to win its first NCAA Tournament game in its sixth attempt.

Burnett and Jourdan Smith had 18 points apiece for the Tigers.

Grambling State, which was playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time despite a 2-10 start to the season, rode a second-half surge going on a 21-6 run erasing its 42-33 halftime deficit. Cofer, who didn't play in the first half, flipped in a layup as part of an individual 6-0 run giving the Tigers their first lead of the second half 60-59 with 5:47 remaining in regulation.

Cofer laid in a game-tying score with 34 seconds left to knot it at 72, and Montana State’s Brandon Walker missed a potential go-ahead layup with 9 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Montana State shot 63% in the first half and held a lead as large as 14 in its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

“There were some definite momentum swings,” Montana State coach Matt Logie said.

Ford had 26 points to lead Montana State. Brian Goracke added 15 and Brandon Walker had 14.

“I would just say I understand how hard it is to get here,” said Ford, who hit six 3-pointers. “There's a lot of great players in the league. There's a lot of great teams. The biggest part is understanding what it takes to get here and when you get here, what it feels like.”

The First Four went to overtime for the first time since Notre Dame beat Rutgers 89-87 in double overtime in 2022.


Grambling made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its 47-year history.

“What this means for our program, it’s an understatement, to be totally honest,” Jackson said. “Just let these guys know, when they could have went to all these other big schools and things of that nature, that they chose right by coming to Grambling. And just really thankful, just all our guys that’s here and just the way they prepared and how they played today.”


Cofer scored a team-high 13 points in the second half and six in overtime. He didn’t spend any time on the floor in the first half and didn’t play during the SWAC championship game Saturday.

“I was just trying to stay locked in the whole time,” Cofer said. “Even when I’m not playing I’m locked in the game because I know eventually my name is going to be called. Once I’m out there, I’ve got to do what I have to do.”


The Tigers trailed by double figures in both halves and by as many as 14 points in the second.

“At halftime, it was somewhere we’d already been before. We knew what we had to do,” Cofer said. “We played a big schedule in the regular season, so it wasn’t nothing new.”


Grambling had four players in double figures, with Mika Stevenson adding 10.

“It’s one thing to scout and go through the plays,” Jackson said. “It’s another thing for them to run the plays at the pace that they run them at and shoot the ball at the pace they shoot it at. But at the end of the day, we locked in and those guys found a way to get it done.”


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