On that historic night in Boise, Lauren Merfeld was 2 years old. Her little brother, Andrew, wouldn't be born for another four months.
But when March rolls around every year, they see the evidence. Whenever CBS shows clips of past NCAA tournament shining moments, there's Dad running across the court like a crazy man. There's Dad being hoisted into the air, kicking his feet in joy, by one of his players.
"Oh yeah," Steve Merfeld said this week. "They really get a kick out of it. They look for it every year."
It was 10 years ago that Hampton University became only the fourth No. 15 seed in tournament history to win a game. The Pirates stunned No. 2 Iowa State 58-57 on Tarvis Williams' baby hook with 6.9 seconds left.
After Jamaal Tinsley's layup fell off the rim, the Boise State Pavilion went bonkers. Nobody more so than Merfeld, then in his fourth year as HU's coach.
That was only the beginning of the experience. Hampton had officially become royalty in Boise, which fell in love with its team, its cheerleaders, and its band. And though the Pirates lost two days later to Georgetown, they had already made their impact.
"In some ways, it's really difficult to believe it happened 10 years ago," said Merfeld, now an assistant at Creighton. "In other ways, it seems like it was just yesterday. It was a great, great group of guys. Those are memories I'll treasure forever."
Sports Illustrated declared it the second-biggest tournament upset of the 2000s, behind only No. 11 George Mason beating top-seeded Connecticut to reach the '06 Final Four. But it was also, arguably, the most talented team in HU history.
Williams, a 6-foot-9 center, left as the program's fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,754 points. Guard Tommy Adams finished a year later with 1,582. Williams was the MEAC's Player of the Year that season; Adams won the following year.
LaSean Howard, a 6-7 forward, had transferred from Syracuse. Guard Marseilles Brown had transferred from Richmond, where three years earlier he helped the 14th-seeded Spiders upset No. 3 South Carolina.
Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy knew as much. "They're sprinkled with SEC, ACC and Big 12 players," he said the day before the game.
Sure enough, despite Williams' foul trouble, HU led 31-27 at halftime. But also sure enough, the favorite woke up. The Cyclones took 55-44 lead with 8:08 remaining, by which point closing it out looked to be a formality.
Instead, HU closed with a 14-2 run. Brown's layup made it 57-56 with 1:43 left, and Tinsley missed on the other end. Brown then rifled a pass in the lane to Williams — how he threaded it in there has gotten lost over the years — who turned into a triple team and hit a soft hook.
With one to give, Merfeld tried to get his guys to foul. Instead, Tinsley sprinted down the floor and had a fairly decent path to the basket. Williams did just enough to alter his shot a little, and Tinsley's layup bounced away.
"Here's something I remember: The buzzer in the arena wasn't working, so they had to use a foghorn," Merfeld said. "And it was one of those hand-held deals."
Then it was bedlam.
Merfeld danced across the floor — the best coach's moment since Jim Valvano — like an 8-year-old after his sixth piece of birthday cake. Then David Johnson, a 6-foot-7 freshman, came up from behind and grabbed him in a bear hug.
Johnson lifted his 5-8 coach into the air, and Merfeld kicked his arms and legs in jubilation. It was a moment of unbridled joy, and the cameras captured it.
It appeared spontaneous, and on Merfeld's part it was. As for Johnson …
Has it really been 10 years since HU's shocker over Iowa State in the NCAA tournament?
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