Mount gets blueblood in Kentucky

March 13, 1995|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- It's going to be a battle of the blues in Memphis.

But beyond their blue-and-white uniforms, No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary's have little in common. They meet in a first-round NCAA tournament game Thursday at the Pyramid after the selection committee yesterday paired one of college basketball's storied teams against the Northeast Conference champion for the second time in three years.

The news was well-received in the sweltering Mount St. Mary's student union, where about 800 students jammed in last evening to watch the pairings on a big-screen television.

The Mount players were particularly elated because they didn't want to stay in the East Region; they landed instead in the Southeast bracket.

"I think it's a good call," said senior forward Michael Watson. "I can take my shorts down there. We were relieved when we got past Baltimore, then really happy when we got past Albany."

"I don't think any of us wanted to stay in the East," added junior guard Chris McGuthrie. "The only bad thing is I wanted to play Wake Forest. Of all the No. 1 seeds, I thought that was the one we had the best chance to beat."

The travel may be appealing, but the prospect of taking on the taller, more talented Wildcats tempers the thought.

Two years ago, NEC champion Rider was trounced by Kentucky in a first-round game in Nashville, Tenn., trailing 63-24 at halftime and eventually losing, 96-52.

Still, in its first Division I tournament, the Mount is not ready to back off.

"I believe we can compete with them and do better than Rider did," said Randy Edney, a 6-foot-11, 300-pound center. "All I know about Kentucky is that they're a run-and-gun team, but so are we."

Mount St. Mary's, a College Division and then Division II school until six years ago, never has played Kentucky, which has won five Division I basketball titles and played in 36 NCAA tournaments.

"They're one of the true all-time powerhouses of college basketball," said coach Jim Phelan. "Every year, they're a threat to win the national title.

"I remember listening to them on the radio in the '40s when they had Ralph Beard and five guys who went into the pros."

The good thing about the identical blue-and-white color scheme of the schools is that a lot of television viewers "will think it's us down there," said Phelan. "Memphis is one of the few places that isn't sold out yet, but I'm sure Kentucky will fill it up."

In reality, Mount St. Mary's will have a complement of about 350 tickets and only about half of those will go to students, who were in line at Knott Arena moments after the destination was announced.

Phelan quietly sat with his twin granddaughters during the wait for the selections and took the podium after seniors Watson, Matt Meakin (out with a broken hand) and Sefton Robinson thanked the student crowd for its support this season.

"We know Kentucky can score a lot and in a hurry," Watson said. "It's up to us to make the game respectable. We can't lose our composure just because we're a 16th seed."

There will be constant pressure on the Mount guards, McGuthrie, Riley Inge and Silas Cheung, all of whom were down with a virus most of last week.

Phelan said he thought the Mount might draw North Carolina, but the Tar Heels' loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final cost them a No. 1 seeding.

"I'm not so sure we wouldn't have been better off playing North Carolina," he said. "Kentucky is going to play full-court the whole game and North Carolina isn't. And [Rasheed] Wallace might be out."

He expects a shootout of three-point specialists.

"We hope our guards can handle their pressure and let us play a little bit," he said. "Kentucky is going to shoot 30 threes, but we have to make sure they don't get a lot of extra ones. Long rebounds will be very important."

NEXT FOR MOUNT

Opponent: Kentucky (25-4)

Where: Memphis, Tenn.

When: Thursday (time to be announced today)

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