BOISE, Idaho -- It wasn't exactly with a flourish that Missouri entered this year's NCAA tournament. Five losses in their past six games and a recent history of early exits made one wonder whether the Tigers' tournament run would be brief.
The Tigers, at least temporarily, silenced their critics by defeating eighth-seeded Indiana, 65-60, in the first round of the West Regional last night.
"Every paper I see, it has that we've lost five out of six," Tigers coach Norm Stewart said. "It's been tough. We've had so many things happen to us this year."
The Tigers' hopes were almost --ed by Indiana forward Brian Evans, who scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half, when the Hoosiers opened the game with a 14-3 run and took a 31-26 halftime lead.
The Tigers (20-8) opened the second half with a 14-4 run, taking a 40-35 lead on two free throws by Kendrick Moore (15 points) with 13:44 left.
Missouri also was successful in shutting down Evans, who made his first and only field goal of the half with 1:17 left. That shot, a three-pointer, had Indiana within 61-60. But Missouri's Sammie Haley scored on a tip with 39 seconds left to increase the lead to 63-60.
Then Evans missed a three-pointer, which was rebounded by Alan Henderson. But as Henderson went up for a shot, he was stripped, and so were Indiana's chances.
Henderson, Indiana's top scorer this season, scored 18 points, nearly six below his season average. He missed 11 of 17 shots.
"I didn't work hard enough underneath," said Henderson, wiping away tears. "I wasn't moving well in the offense, and it showed."
Utah 76, Long Beach State 64
The fourth-seeded Utes (28-5) took control at the end of the first half to get the victory.
Utah, the regular-season and tournament champion of the Western Athletic Conference, advanced to tomorrow's second round against Mississippi State.
Long Beach State (20-10) missed 14 of 26 free throws and was pounded on the boards, 45-31. The 49ers had led by five points early but were the victims of a 29-12 run.
"Except for a four-minute stretch when we got passive offensively, it was a pretty hard-fought ballgame," said Long Beach State coach Seth Greenberg. "Had we made some free throws, it would have forced Utah to make some plays at the end."
Miss. State 75, Santa Clara 67
Junior guard Darryl Wilson scored 19 points as the Bulldogs (21-7) earned their first NCAA tournament win. Mississippi State also won for the 11th time in its past 14 games.
Santa Clara finished 21-7.
UCLA 92, Fla. International 56
Top-seeded and top-ranked UCLA (26-2) ran and dunked at will against the undermanned Golden Panthers (11-19), the only team with a losing record to make the tournament.
Freshman J. R. Henderson led UCLA with 16 points.