For about 30 minutes, Mississippi Valley State looked like it was on its on its way to making history.
With a double-digit lead midway through the second half of the NCAA Tournament opening game against Western Kentucky, the Delta Devils looked like they were coasting to their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
But the cards didn't fall in place, as the Hilltoppers (16-18) climbed back to defeat MVSU 59-58 at the University of Dayton Arena. Western Kentucky advances to face Kentucky on Thursday in Louisville.
"First of all, I'm so very, very proud of my guys," said MVSU coach Sean Woods. "We've had a historical run. And it's unfortunate that it ended this way."
The Delta Devils (21-13) and Hilltoppers not only played in front of a packed house and a national audience, but also in the midst of President Barack Obama and the British Prime Minister Dave Cameron.
Despite the bright lights and the presence of the nation's leader, those aspects weren't a factor in the Delta Devils' loss, said Paul Crosby.
"It didn't play that big of a factor," said Crosby, who finished with 7 points and five rebounds. "We were pumped for this game anyway."
The loss ends the season for the Delta Devils, who went on a historic streak of 17 consecutive victories during conference play. Valley also captured its fifth SWAC Tournament title.
On Tuesday, the Hilltoppers finished the game on a 22-5 run and beat the Delta Devils on the boards 60 to 32 to keep its season alive.
Despite the loss, Woods said he's proud of his team and gave them words of encouragement in the locker room following the game.
"I told my guys in the locker room the same thing that coach (Rick) Pitino told us when I lost to Duke back in 1992," he said. "And that was, don't let this game define your basketball career, especially here at Mississippi Valley State."
MVSU's senior point guard Kevin Burwell led Valley with 20 points -- he finished 3-of-6 from behind the arc -- while William Pugh chipped in 11 off the bench. Cor-J Cox also had 10 points and five rebounds for the Delta Devils.