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News Nuggets, 03.22.04

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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

'Forty minutes of hell' takes UAB to Sweet 16


03.21.04: The one that got away could haunt Huggins ... .. Former Razorback Richardson backs Blazers... .. Calhoun-disciple Leitao comes up short against mentor... .. Injury-plagued Houston tight end gains 6th year of eligibility... .. More...
03.20.04: Former shortstop hits home run in pursuit of ECU chancellor job ... .. UAB blazes path past Huskies to second round... .. Memphis bombs Gamecocks from long range... .. Second-half collapse eliminates Louisville... .. More...
No Nuggets Mar. 18-19, 2004.
03.17.04: Cal visit to 'The Rock' highlights USM football slate... .. Cincy clears Whaley to play on eve of tourney... .. Low blow leaves status of DePaul guard in doubt... .. Ex- Longhorns coach in running for Houston job... .. More...
03.16.04: Hamrick hires Kruger to restore Rebs' Tark-era glory... .. Inspiration for 'Pitt County Offense' returns to Stanford roots... .. Baseball polls... .. AP basketball poll... .. More...
03.15.04: NCAA, NIT sweep up eight C-USA teams... .. NCAA conference-by-conference selections... .. O'Leary, UCF seek redemption together... .. More...
03.14.04: Bearcats capture 4th tourney title... .. Cop charged after gun-shot in tush at ACC tourney... .. NCAA Tournament selection committee members... .. More...
03.13.04: C-USA Tournament semifinals roundup... .. Hot action in Cincinnati extends to band bus... .. Hanky-panky nets stiff discipline for BYU players... .. Big 'D' ponies up to keep Red River Shootout... .. More...
03.12.04: C-USA Tournament quarterfinals roundup... .. 49ers legend stepping down as Texas A&M coach... .. LSU to meet Sooners, seeks 2005 home foe... .. Games on aircraft carrier scratched... .. More...
03.11.04: C-USA Tournament round one roundup... .. Burks, Anderson take home top C-USA honors... .. Glantz-Culver Line for today's C-USA games... .. C-USA TV schedule... .. Kentucky AD apologizes to Gators... .. State's Sherrill doubtful for ACC Tournament... .. More...
03.10.04: ECU's Cook grabs spot on All-Freshman team... .. Badianne among strong contingent of C-USA shot swatters... .. Glantz- Culver Line... .. C-USA Tournament TV schedule... .. More...
03.09.04: Kelly Tires C-USA Tournament schedule... .. AP Basketball Poll... .. Baseball America & Collegiate Baseball Polls... .. Cougars coach shifted to new job... .. More...
03.08.04: C-USA final regular season standings, tourney pairings... .. Cards ink Pitino, Petrino to long-term pacts... .. JMU coach steps down after poor season... .. More...
03.07.04: Quarterback killer Coleman hits jackpot with Falcons... .. Standing room only at top of C-USA... .. Conference standings, scoreboard & tournament seedings... .. Academic scandal costly for Gardner-Webb... .. More...
03.06.04: Deliberations continue on ECU chancellor candidates... .. Tourney bid secure for ECU, courtesy of SLU... .. C-USA standings, scoreboard... .. USM coach steps down on eve of ECU game... .. More...

COLUMBUS -- Some players stared in disbelief while others blinked back tears in Kentucky's somber locker room.

Outside, the school's band fought its way through a rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home" as fans in various shades of blue shook their heads and wondered what in the world had gone wrong.

Once again, the Wildcats were going home early from the NCAA Tournament.

Mo Finley made a 17-foot jumper with 12.2 seconds left and ninth-seeded Alabama-Birmingham hung on to stun the tournament's No. 1 seed 76-75 Sunday in the second round of the St. Louis Regional.

Kentucky's Gerald Fitch missed a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left and Chuck Hayes' tip rolled off the rim just before the final horn, ending the Wildcats' season short of their stated goal -- an eighth national championship.

"I'm still in shock," Hayes said. "It's tough to look at my teammates right now."

The Wildcats (27-5) followed Stanford's early exit, leaving Saint Joseph's and Duke as the remaining top seeds after two rounds of the tourney.

Meanwhile, the Blazers (22-9) advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1982 with their second big upset of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

UAB will play fourth-seeded Kansas in the round of 16 on Friday.

The Blazers' win came almost exactly 23 years to the day that they beat Kentucky in the second round of the 1981 tournament -- a victory the school had claimed as the turning point in its basketball program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season.

This one might just top it.

"It's pretty unbelievable," said Finley, a senior. "It feels pretty good right now. That shot definitely was a blessing from above. Hopefully, I've got a lot more games left in the tournament, but I don't know if it can get any better than this."

Using a "40 minutes of Hell" attack that their coach Mike Anderson learned under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, the Blazers took it to the Wildcats (27-5) from the outset.

Richardson got to see every second of it, too, cheering and waving his arms in the stands for the Blazers like he was on the sideline coaching the Razorbacks.

"Forty minutes of Hell -- Part Two," Richardson screamed in the middle of UAB's cheering section that had turned into a mosh pit. "I knew they had a chance."

Anderson wasn't so sure. On Saturday, the second-year coach said his team's best chance at an upset would be if there was a celestial alignment.

Maybe he should take a look at the heavens.

"We knew coming in it was like David vs. Goliath and we were David," Anderson said. "I'll tell you what: David swung a mighty blow."

All-talk, no-walk Bearcats sent packing by Illini

COLUMBUS -- No flying elbows, no return taunts. Illinois just shut up and made shots -- over and over again.

Then, as they fashioned a tournament trashing, the Fighting Illini had the final words -- trashy, of course.

Deron Williams hit his first seven attempts, setting the tone for a can't-miss attack, and fifth-seeded Illinois rolled to a 92-68 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday in the second round of the Atlanta Regional.

The Big Ten's regular season champion will play Duke on Friday at the Georgia Dome, emboldened by its domination of a team that ran its mouths right up to the tip-off.

"I think it played to our advantage," coach Bruce Weber said. "Our guys came in so fired up. The Cincinnati guys hit a hot button with our guys in warmups."

The blustery Bearcats had a few words as the teams left the court after warmups, leaving the Illini livid. One Bearcat warned, "Get ready for your bus ride home."

That wasn't all.

"They were saying they were ready to play Duke," Williams said.

If it was a ploy to get them rattled, it didn't work. The Fighting Illini kept their tongues and their poise as they took control in the first half.

Then, they did a little trashing of their own.

"It was fun," guard Dee Brown said. "I had a lot to say. I know you're all adults in here, but it was coming out pretty strong."

Williams matched his career high with 31 points, going 10-of-13 from the field, and Illinois (26-6) shot a season-high 63.6 percent as its two slick guards dominated from outside.

Brown, nicknamed the "One-man Fastbreak," had 14 points, eight assists and two sleight-of-hand plays that helped Illinois take control. The Fighting Illini starters went 32-of-47 from the field.

Coach Bob Huggins sat glumly in a folding chair, chin resting in his palm, as his fourth-seeded Bearcats (26-7) finished off their worst NCAA Tournament loss during his 15 seasons.

The defensive-minded coach exhausted his brain and never found anything that worked.

"We tried virtually everything we had -- matchup, zone. Usually we're a fairly decent man-to-man team," Huggins said. "They just made a lot of shots."

It came down to shooting and attitude, and Illinois had more of both.

The Fighting Illini weren't about to be abused by the mouthy Bearcats, who couldn't back up their talk and instead wound up backing up the bus for a two-hour trip back to campus.

"We didn't guard them," said gabby guard Tony Bobbitt, who talked to defenders throughout the game. "Let's be honest with ourselves. We gave up easy baskets."

Illinois beat a lower seed for the first time in its history and moved into the round of 16 for the third time in the last four years.

Cincinnati has dominated Conference USA, winning eight of its nine regular season championships, but can't seem to get the hang of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bearcats have failed to make it past the first weekend of the tournament in seven of the last eight years. Their in-your-face style comes up short against teams that have the grit to give it back and the quickness to exploit them.

Illinois was just such a team.

Cowboys lasso Tigers early and cruise to Regionals

KANSAS CITY -- A big first half by Joey Graham was all Oklahoma State needed to reach the regional semifinals. Graham got 20 of his 21 points before the break, single-handedly outscoring Memphis' entire team over that span in a 70-53 win Sunday.

"We had to jump on them from the get-go," Graham said. "Tonight was just one of those nights when the rim felt like an ocean."

The Cowboys (29-3) will meet third-seeded Pittsburgh -- a 59-55 winner over Wisconsin -- on Thursday.

Oklahoma State, the second seed in the East Rutherford Regional, led 41-19 after a first half in which it shot 68 percent (17-for-23) and outrebounded the Tigers 17-6.

"They manhandled us physically," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "Instead of coming together, we all said, 'I'll just do it myself.' They lulled us into that, and then we had turnover after turnover after turnover."

Memphis actually had only 12 turnovers to Oklahoma State's 17, but four of those came in the game's critical opening minutes.

It was the most lopsided loss this season for the Tigers (22-8), and it could have been worse.

The Cowboys led 54-27 with 14 minutes left before Memphis responded with a 10-0 run. That started a 23-9 surge, capped by Rodney Carney's free throw with 3:38 left, that got Memphis within 63-50.

The Tigers only managed Antonio Burks' 3 after that as Oklahoma State clinched its first regional semifinal berth since 2000.

Memphis, which has not advanced past the second round since 1995, managed just two offensive boards in the first half and 11 for the game, compared to 20 defensive rebounds for the Cowboys.

Ivan McFarlin and John Lucas each scored 13 points for the Cowboys, and McFarlin had 10 rebounds. Bobik added 11 points for Oklahoma State.

Lucas led the Cowboys with five assists -- only four fewer than Memphis had as a team.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State's perimeter defense kept Memphis' shooters in check for most of the game.

Burks was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and led the Tigers with 21 points, but two of those came in the final four minutes with the game all but out of reach. Sean Banks had two 3s and 11 points.

But Carney, whose six 3-pointers in a first-round win over South Carolina were a tournament record for the Tigers, was 1-for-5 from long range and scored eight points Sunday under intense defensive pressure from the Cowboys' Tony Allen.

"It was too physical a game for us," said Anthony Rice, who had three 3s and 12 points in the first round but was 0-for-3 from outside the arc and scored four points Sunday. "We ran our offense, but we just couldn't get off any shots."

Late Vandy flurry extends State's round-of-16 drought

ORLANDO -- Vanderbilt's Matt Freije shouted at the beginning and cried at the end. And he was on the winning team.

Freije scored 11 of his 31 points in the final 3:28 and Corey Smith's three-point play with 21 seconds left helped the Commodores rally to a 75-73 win over North Carolina State in the second round of the Phoenix Regional on Sunday.

Vanderbilt (23-9), the sixth-seed, plays second-seeded Connecticut in the regional semifinals on Thursday. The last time Vanderbilt reached the round of 16 was 1993.

Emotional outbursts come easy for Freije, Vanderbilt's career scoring leader. Maybe, too easy.

"Sometimes, you've got to turn that boy down a little bit," Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. "Most of the time it helps us; sometimes it doesn't."

So, Stallings held a morning shootaround. Freije burned off excess energy, the coach said, by "running around the arena 40 times."

It seemed to help.

Freije missed his first two shots, then sank a jumper while being fouled for a 16-4 lead. When the ball dropped through the net, he let loose with a scream of both triumph and relief. That broke a 19-for-57 slump, dating back more than two weeks ago to Vanderbilt's regular-season finale.

The Wolfpack surged ahead midway through the second half, and led 67-56 with 3:45 to play. But over the next 67 seconds, Freije sank six free throws after being fouled on 3-pointers.

"They had been coming out and contesting my shots. I was lucky to get the two calls," Freije said.

Freije's scoring ended with an open jumper from the left baseline for a 72-71 lead, Vanderbilt's first since 43-41. He finished 8-for-15, 4-for-8 on 3-pointers, and made all 11 free throws.

Third-seeded North Carolina State (21-10) briefly went ahead on Ilian Evtimov's free throws with 33.6 seconds left. Evtimov finished with a career-high 28 points, 17 in the second half.

On Vanderbilt's ensuing possession, Mario Moore threaded a pass from the top of the key to a cutting Smith on the right block. Smith sank the layup despite a whack in the chest, and the free throw was good.

"Coach called out the (backdoor cut) play, and they were overdefending it," said Moore, who scored 16 points. "Corey made a great cut, and I was able to make the pass."

Earlier, Smith gave the rally a huge boost when his breakaway at the 1:51 mark drew Marcus Melvin's intentional foul. Smith hit the free throws to bring Vanderbilt within 71-67, and Moore followed up by sinking a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

"I thought (Melvin) was going to let me go, so I slowed down and he hit me," said Smith, who had 10 points.

Stallings said, "It was a huge momentum play; a five-point possession for us."

The game ended when Scott Hundley blocked Engin Atsur's off-balance attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer.

"We were down on the game clock and we didn't get a good look," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "We set a play, but we inadvertently picked up the dribble and we couldn't execute."

A black-and-gold maelstrom at center court ensued and somewhere in the pile, Freije wept.

The loss prevented North Carolina State from reaching the round of 16 for the first time since 1989.

"There are no losers on the court today - only one team can advance," Sendek said. "Our men are anything but losers. Our tremendous win is our great season."

Julius Hodge, the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year, wasn't so sure.

Said Hodge, who had 11 points before fouling out defending Freije with 2:44 to go: "I cannot believe we lost this game."

News Nuggets are compiled periodically from staff, ECU, Conference USA and its member schools, and from Associated Press and other reports. Copyright 2004 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Page Updated: 02/23/2007

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