DAYTON, Ohio -- The team that couldn't win during the regular season has figured it out at tournament time.
Siena became only the second team to win an NCAA tournament game with a losing record, beating Alcorn State 81-77 Tuesday night in a play-in that provided a fitting start.
Prosper Karangwa scored a career-high 31 points and struggling Dwayne Archbold hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds -- the type of clutch performance that the Saints (17-18) rarely managed in the regular season.
''A week ago, we were left for dead,'' coach Rob Lanier said. ''It's quite a contrast.''
Siena joined the 64-team bracket and won a trip to Washington to play Maryland, the East's No. 1 seed, on Friday.
The Saints also became the first team in 47 years to win an NCAA tournament game with a losing record. Bradley is the only other team sharing the distinction -- it won two in 1955.
Siena lost its last three regular-season games, leaving only one path to the NCAA tournament. It won four Metro Atlantic Conference tournament games on its home court to get the automatic bid.
Alcorn State (21-10) had been unbeaten in play-in games in Dayton, winning two in the 1980s under coach Davey L. Whitney. The Braves spent a sleepless night getting to Dayton for this one, then faced elimination at the end of a back-and-forth game that found them at less than their best.
''I know we didn't have any zip in the first half,'' Whitney said. ''We had a little more in the second half. I didn't see the fierceness and the desire we usually play with when we're behind. I don't know what to put that on. It was our eighth game in 17 days with a lot of travel.''
It might have been the last game for Whitney, a former Negro League shortstop completing his 26th year at the Mississippi school. Whitney, 72, hasn't decided whether to return for another season.
Siena got to the play-in by getting 111 points from Archbold during the four-game conference tournament.
Archbold was closely guarded and went only 3-of-12 from the field for 12 points Tuesday, but Karangwa took up the slack by hitting the biggest shots. After the game, they embraced.
''I went up to him and said, 'That's what I've been waiting for,''' Archbold said. ''He can take it easy sometimes, but I knew he could play like this.''
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