Mississippi State ushers out Carril, Princeton, 63-41 Bulldogs prove too big for scrappy Tigers

March 17, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - Their first basket was a backdoor layup by Sydney Johnson with a little over a minute gone, the same play Pete Carril has been running at Princeton for 29 years, the play the Tigers used to shock defending champion UCLA in the opening round of the Southeast Regional at the RCA Dome. But it was to be Princeton's last basket for a while against Mississippi State nearly five minutes and the hole the Tigers dug for themselves proved to be a little too deep in a 63-41 rout by the Bulldogs.

The defeat ended Princeton's season, along with its dream of reaching its first Sweet 16 since 1965. More significant and certainly more sad was the fact that it also ended the marvelous career of the 65-year-old Carril, who had announced his retirement after the Tigers had clinched their Ivy League championship.

Mississippi State (24-7) proved too powerful for Princeton (22-7). Behind the play of 6-foot-11, 265-pound center Erick Dampier, who scored 20 points on 10 of 12 shooting, the Bulldogs out-rebounded the Tigers, 34-15, a total that included no offensive rebounds for Princeton the entire game.

It wasn't losing that bothered Carril, and it certainly wasn't the thought of retiring. "I feel bad about the loss because after we beat UCLA, what I don't like is that UCLA and the people out in Los Angeles probably feel it was a fluke," said Carril. "It takes away a little from that game, and that's disturbing to me."

It wasn't only their inability to stop Dampier that prevented the Tigers from giving themselves a chance to win at the end. The seven straight missed shots that followed Johnson's opening layup were only a sign of things to come. Princeton wound up a dismal 16 of 46 from the field, including six of 27 from three-point range. Conversely, Mississippi State was 24 of 40 overall, 14 of 21 in the first half.

Johnson, the junior point guard from Baltimore, blamed himself for the defeat. After fueling Princeton's comeback against UCLA he scored five of his team-high 11 points in the 9-0 run that ended the game the Tigers' captain finished with just four points, one assist and two turnovers in 37 tentative minutes.

But he wasn't alone. Freshman forward Gabe Lewullis, whose backdoor layup with 3.9 seconds left beat the Bruins, didn't score a point last night. Only center Steve Goodrich held his own, leading the Tigers with 14 points.

"I missed a couple of shots, and I didn't want to shoot us out of the game," said Johnson, speaking of a couple of early air balls that led to his only taking six shots. "I kind of hurt my team when I stopped shooting. We didn't stick to our game plan."

The Bulldogs, who beat Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game, altered theirs. They threw some new wrinkles in the offense to take advantage of their size, and frustrated Princeton by going to a matchup zone defense. After the Tigers closed early deficits of 10-2, 12-4 and 16-7 to five points, 16-11, Mississippi State coach Richard Williams called timeout.

The result was an 11-3 run that led to a 31-20 halftime lead.

"Going into the game, we knew we had to get the ball to the blocks," said Dampier, citing an inside focus that UCLA lacked against the smaller Tigers. "I had a lot of open shots and I took them."

Said Princeton's Chris Doyal, a 6-5, 220-pound senior, "He was too big for us to handle."

The victory gave the Bulldogs their second trip to the Sweet 16.

"I know it sounds kind of hokey, but it was a thrill to coach against Coach Carril," said Williams.

But Carril didn't get caught up in the retirement hoopla. "I still have my keys to the tennis court," he said. "I still have my towels. They're not going to miss me. That's the way life is. I just wished we had played a little better."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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