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News Nuggets, 03.27.05
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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Cards, Illini mount monumental rallies to reach Final Four


03.26.05: Duke, State bite the dust; Heels survive ... Louisville, WVU rumble for spot in Final Four ... Fires plague Morgantown after tourney win ... Players nabbed for passing fake currency ... More...
03.25.05: Holland named to powerful USA Basketball panel ... ECU fans to have rooting interest in NIT semis ... Triangle's Sweet 16 teams converge at RDU ... Another DUI charge embarrasses Cincinnati ... More...
03.24.05: NIT: Memphis whips Vandy to advance to Garden ... NIT: Maryland overcomes big Davidson lead ... Big East hops on replay bandwagon ... More...
03.23.05: NIT win over UNLV extends Stokes' ties to USC ... Davidson-Maryland NIT matchup set for TV ... Activists file suit over 'Chief Illiniwek' ... More...
03.22.05: Break over for East Carolina football team ... Frogs in NIT quarterfinals after overtime win ... CBS reaping ratings bonanza from tourney ... Baseball America & Collegiate Baseball Polls ... More...
03.21.05: Spurrier straps on visor, gets down to business ... NCAA Tourney Sweet 16 pairings & schedule ... Tournament's TV ratings up over 2004 ... More...
03.20.05: Kentucky proves it still has Bearcats' number ... Memphis zaps Hokies, starts thinking NIT title ... Davidson tames Bears, turns focus to Terps ... Preview: (4) Louisville vs. (5) Georgia Tech ... More...
03.19.05: Hodge leads Wolfpack to comeback win over 49ers ... Louisville escapes upset bid by Ragin' Cajuns ... Preview: (7) Cincinnati vs. (2) Kentucky ... Preview: (11) UAB vs. (3) Arizona ... More...
03.18.05: UAB smothers 6th- seeded LSU in Round 1 shocker ... Bearcats dump Iowa, set sights on Kentucky ... Preview: (7) Charlotte vs. (10) N.C. State ... Preview: (4) Louisville vs. (13) UL-Lafayette ... More...
03.17.05: Timeline on ECU hoops coach Ricky Stokes ... Nothing heals like an NIT win for Tigers' Washington ... Horned Frogs halt RedHawks' home streak ... Davidson rips VCU for first-ever NIT victory ... More...
03.16.05: It's not the Big Dance, but it's a win for DePaul ... NCAA preview: UAB vs. LSU ... NCAA preview: Cincinnati vs. Iowa ... CORRECTED Final AP college basketball poll ... More...
03.15.05: Handicapped Marquette makes quit exit from NIT ... New arena a factor in Virginia's firing of Gillen ... Heart attack hospitalizes Tech football coach ... Final 2004-05 college basketball poll ... More...
03.14.05: 12 current, future C- USA teams earn NCAA or NIT bids ... Finney dismissed by Tulane ... More...

ALBUQUERQUE — The master motivator himself, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, admitted he was lying when he told his players at halftime he was sure they were going to beat West Virginia. That's because Louisville's trip to the Final Four looked like a lost cause thanks to the Mountaineers' hotshot shooters.

Almost every road to a championship takes at least one unexpected twist, though, and none was more astonishing than the second-half rally the Cardinals staged Saturday to earn a 93-85 overtime win and a trip to college basketball's biggest stage.

``I've never seen anything like it in my life,'' Pitino said.

Cramping, limping, barely able to run, Larry O'Bannon scored 24 points and Taquan Dean had 23 to lead fourth-seeded Louisville (33-4) back from a 20-point deficit to the scintillating victory in the Albuquerque Regional final.

Seventh-seeded West Virginia (24-11), trying to make the Final Four for the first time since Jerry West led the Mountaineers there in 1959, went home despite making 10 3-pointers in the first half and sending Pitino and the Cardinals into shock.

``I've never abandoned a whole scouting report at halftime,'' Pitino said. ``But it had to be abandoned.''

Pitino instructed his players to scrap their zone defense, start trapping and pressing, and play more aggressively on offense. They followed his directions and, in doing so, they helped him make history — becoming the first coach to take three men's programs to the Final Four. First it was Providence, then Kentucky three times, and now this.

When the buzzer sounded, Pitino started hugging players, and O'Bannon chucked the ball toward the ceiling at The Pit, which hosted a game almost as exciting as the 1983 final when Jim Valvano and North Carolina State won their improbable championship.

``Just to come out and accomplish something ... of this magnitude just makes it that much sweeter,'' O'Bannon said.

Now, it's Pitino trying to bring his second national championship back to the Bluegrass — but this time to Louisville, not Kentucky.

The Cardinals will play Illinois next Saturday in St. Louis. The top-ranked Illini made it into the national semifinals with a remarkable comeback of their own Saturday night, staging a furious rally in the final four minutes of regulation to wipe out a 15-point deficit before sending the Wildcats to a crushing 90-89 overtime defeat in the Chicago Regional Finals..

Terps win Garden date with South Carolina

COLLEGE PARK — Nik Caner-Medley got Maryland back to Madison Square Garden, taking  charge down the stretch and scoring eight of his 20 points in the final minutes to help pull out an 85-73 victory over Texas Christian on Saturday.

The win advances the Terps (19-12) to the NIT semifinals for the first time since 1972, where they will meet South Carolina on Tuesday night.

``We're going to New York City, (and) I've never played in Madison Square Garden,'' Caner-Medley said. ``It's always been a dream of mine to play there so it's going to be a good time.''

Maryland coach Gary Williams felt the same way about playing in New York.

``Check who's won it, it's a big deal,'' Williams said about the NIT. ``I'll never get too big to play in the NIT. I've seen some great games there.''

Five Maryland players scored in double figures, including Mike Jones and Chris McCray, both of whom scored 18 points. Sterling Ledbetter turned in another strong effort at point guard, replacing the injured John Gilchrist (ankle/wrist) and getting two points, six assists and six rebounds.

Travis Garrison added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

TCU (21-14) stayed close with its 3-point shooting. The Horned Frogs made 11-of-29 long-range shots — but made just one basket overall in the final 6:50 as the Terrapins clamped down defensively.

Corey Santee led TCU with 21 points while Nile Murry added 20.

Sunday preview: North Carolina vs. Wisconsin

North Carolina is prepared to play a low-scoring game on Sunday in the Carrier Dome. Wisconsin probably has to.

In a matchup of teams with contrasting styles, the team that wins the battle of tempo will likely still have a chance to win a national championship as the top-seeded Tar Heels and No. 6 seed Badgers meet in the Syracuse Regional final (2:40 p.m., CBS).

With what is widely considered the nation's most talented team, North Carolina usually has no trouble scoring points. The Tar Heels lead the nation with 88.4 points per game, shoot nearly 50 percent from the field, and outscore their opponents by 18.5 points per game.

Wisconsin specializes in slowing teams down.

The Badgers have had previous success against teams that prefer a faster pace. They held Maryland to 64 points, regional semifinalist Wisconsin-Milwaukee to 37 and Alabama to 62, winning all three games.

``We've played teams that like up-tempo, like to push the ball,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. ``Other teams we've seen want to do that. It's a matter of can they, will they, and it's our job to stop them.''

Wisconsin limits opponents to 59.4 points per game and 42.1 percent shooting. Since holding top-ranked Illinois to 54 points while losing the Big Ten championship game, the Badgers have allowed an average of just 56.7 points in their three NCAA tournament games.

However, Wisconsin has had a favorable road, beating a No. 11 seed, a No. 14 and a No. 10. Nothing about Sunday's game looks easy.

North Carolina wasn't nearly as dominant as it was in the first two rounds, but Friday's 67-66 victory over Villanova was impressive for what the Tar Heels had to overcome to get it.

The Tar Heels quickly found themselves behind by double digits after Villanova's red-hot start. Once they made up that deficit, they had to survive the foul trouble of point guard Raymond Felton, who eventually fouled out late in the game.

``We all just hung in there and stuck together,'' reserve Melvin Scott said. ``We just found a way. It wasn't coaching, it was us. We did it.''

The victory likely helped the Tar Heels prepare for the Badgers. North Carolina won even though it was held more than 20 points below its season average, and 27 below the 94 points per game it scored in its first two NCAA tournament victories.

``Coach has been telling us all year that all of our games aren't going to be blowouts,'' said Rashad McCants, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half Friday. ``We have to get prepared for grind-out games where it's not going to be an 80-point game, it's going to be a 60-point game, and we have to find a way to win.''

The Badgers probably know that one good half won't be good enough against this team from Tobacco Road.

Wisconsin shot just 39 percent and scored only 21 points in the first half against North Carolina State on Friday. Trailing by nine points, the Badgers regrouped at halftime and dominated the second half, opening with a 26-7 run to take control. They outscored the Wolfpack 44-26 and shot 58.3 percent in the final 20 minutes to win 65-56.

That victory showcased the kind of defense and rebounding needed to beat North Carolina. The Badgers forced the Wolfpack to miss 27 of their final 38 shots and outrebounded them 35-21.

The winner advances to the Final Four for the first time since both teams made it in 2000.

This is the eighth time a No. 1 seed plays a No. 6 in a regional final. The No. 1 seeds are 5-2 and have won three straight. The last victory by the sixth-seeded team came in 1992 when Michigan, in the freshman season of the ``Fab Five,'' beat Ohio State in overtime.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Wisconsin - F Tucker (14.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), F Morley (7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg), F Wilkinson (14.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Chambliss (7.5 ppg, 2.8 apg), G Hanson (6.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg). North Carolina - F Williams (13.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg), F McCants (15.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg), C May (16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg), G Felton (12.5 ppg, 6.9 apg), G Manuel (5.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wisconsin - At-large bid, Big Ten; beat No. 11 Northern Iowa 57-52, first round; beat No. 14 Bucknell 71-62, second round; beat No. 10 North Carolina State 65-56, regional semifinals. North Carolina - At-large bid, Atlantic Coast Conference; beat No. 16 Oakland 96-68, first round; beat No. 9 Iowa State 92-65, second round; beat No. 5 Villanova 67-66, regional semifinals.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Wisconsin - 16-9, 11 years. North Carolina - 85-36, 37 years.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2005 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:22 PM


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