All but Heels have something to prove East Regional

March 20, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- For North Carolina, the top seed in the NCAA East Regional, it will be business as usual.

For Arkansas and St. John's, two teams who have reloaded faster than anyone expected, it will be another opportunity to prove the preseason prognosticators wrong.

For Rhode Island, today's second round at Joel Memoria Coliseum offers a chance to further enhance the Atlantic 10's reputation.

North Carolina polished off East Carolina in methodical fashion 85-65, late Thursday night and appears much better positioned to make a run at the Final Four than it was earlier in the week.

Point guard Derrick Phelps returned to the lineup Thursday after missing the Tar Heels' loss to Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. He played 14 minutes against East Carolina, took a nasty charge without repercussions and scored six points, including two on a breakaway dunk.

"I'm feeling better. In my mind I wanted to play, hurt or not. Basically, the area was real sore this [yesterday] morning from taking some tough hits. But it's nothing severe."

Both Phelps and the hottest shooting Tar Heel of late, forwar Brian Reese, will start against the Rams as North Carolina goes for its 58th NCAA victory. If the Tar Heels win, they will reach the round of 16 for the 13th straight time, one short of UCLA's record.

Reese has decided not to attend the funeral of his grandmothe in Georgia after flying to the wake in New York the day before the tournament started.

"I'll be here," he said. "My grandmother was living with me since I was little and was a big part of my life. But I didn't want to just forget about what we have here."

The Tar Heels will provide a proving ground for Rhode Island which withstood Glenn Robinson's 36-point splurge and ousted Purdue, 74-68, in the first round.

The Rams (19-10) will not be meeting a one-man team this time but they are most concerned about one -- Eric Montross, the mountain of a man in the Tar Heels middle.

"Clearly, he is the most difficult matchup in the tournament," sai Rhode Island coach Al Skinner. "We'll work as hard as possible to keep him from getting position."

Arkansas will strive to re-apply the "40 Minutes of Hell" pressur defense that destroyed Holy Cross (31 turnovers) Thursday, 94-64.

That approach won't be as easy to implement against St. John's, which has a deeper bench than the Crusaders and a slick ball-handler in point guard David Cain.

Cain had a triple-double (12 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds) a the Redmen ousted Texas Tech with a late surge, 85-67.

"That team [Arkansas] really gets after you for the 40," said St John's coach Brian Mahoney. "They send a lot of people with no letup at all."

Both teams have performed beyond expectations. Arkansas lost seven players (four to the NBA) and was lightly regarded. St. John's lost coach Lou Carnesecca and was allegedly rebuilding.

The Redmen will have a decided size advantage and they rebound well. Still, Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson will have waves of players at full throttle, hoping to create points off the defensive pressure.

"We want to combat rebounding with possessions," said Richardson. "We want to get into a street fight and win it."

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