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So, Jones told the locker room to forget Missouri’s hefty athletic department budget (“We use our money wisely,” Norfolk State athletic director Marty Miller quipped) or that its coach, Frank Haith, “makes 20 times as much as coach Evans.” The coaches preached breaking the game into four-minute increments. Win those. And have fun.

“When you’re the underdog, there is no pressure,” Evans said.

Using a green marker, Jones wrote six keys to winning on the corner of a whiteboard in the locker room. They weren’t keys usually associated with a team that lost to Division II Elizabeth City earlier in the season and was picked by oddsmakers to lose by Missouri by 21.5 points.

“Trans D”

“Offensive rebs”

“Wear them down.”

The coaches were giddy to draw Missouri: They felt its small lineup was similar to the four-guard lineups commonplace in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference they won. They didn’t want a bigger team, like Kansas or Kentucky, in the first game.

The game plan was similar to what Norfolk State used against Coppin State and Hampton. Sure, Missouri’s four-guard combination was more talented. But Norfolk State’s strategy was the same.

That included rotating 10 players as part of constant pressure on defense. Missouri only went seven deep. Norfolk State’s coaches saw an advantage and, later in the game, applied their three-quarters court press to sap Missouri’s energy.

“A lot of teams are scared to press Missouri because their guards are so good,” Jones said. “That’s the way we play.”

The plan extended to running two early isolation plays for O’Quinn to eliminate any nerves. The coaches didn’t care if he missed the shots (O’Quinn hit his first three field goals) but knew he becomes a better, more confident defender when he’s in rhythm on offense.

Missouri’s single-coverage of O’Quinn shocked the coaches. In the MEAC, O’Quinn drew double- and triple-teams each game. Even Marquette, which beat Norfolk State twice, doubled O’Quinn. Jones couldn’t remember single-coverage since last season. Get that one-on-one matchup, the coaches believed, and no defender in the country can stop him.

That turned into 26 points and 14 rebounds for O’Quinn and “O’Quinnsanity” shooting through Twitter.

In a quieter locker room on Saturday, Vickers, not Jones, was the tired one. He’s responsible for the Florida scouting report. Not going to bed until 5 a.m. Saturday, he watched six Florida games alone in his room at the Holiday Inn and produced six typed pages of tendencies, statistics and keys.

The 29-year-old who played four seasons for Norfolk State didn’t know what he’ll tell the team during his pregame speech Sunday. Maybe a hip-hop reference or something from the heart. His eyes were glazed and red. Vickers knew was certain of one thing.

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