Arizona has answers for Charleston, critics Olson defends program after rallying, 73-69

Kansas ousts Purdue

Southeast Regional

March 16, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Kresse said it was one of the saddest days of his coaching career. For Lute Olson, it sounded like one of the maddest.

After his Arizona team ended the College of Charleston's fairy tale trip to the NCAA tournament last night with a gut-wrenching 73-69 win at The Pyramid, Olson ripped into the critics who have ripped into his program for previous postseason deficiencies.

Between 1992 and 1995, the Wildcats suffered humiliating first-round losses to teams that were seeded Nos. 12, 14 and 15. When he was asked about escaping another upset loss to a No. 12, albeit in the second round of the Southeast Region, Olson lost his Scandinavian cool.

"In the last four years, we've been to a Final Four and two Sweet 16s," Olson said. "It's difficult for some who deal in negativity to handle those facts. Nobody wants to talk about that. We're all just sick and tired of the negativity. Leave these guys out of it. What has happened in the past doesn't include them."

Actually, the Arizona players had their own complaints.

"Everyone overlooked us here," junior guard Miles Simon said. "You watch TV and read the newspapers, and nobody had us going anywhere."

Arizona will revisit the issue in Birmingham, Ala., next Friday, since its region semifinal opponent will be top-ranked and No. 1 seed Kansas, a 75-61 winner over Purdue. It's a rematch of the third round last year, when the Jayhawks narrowly eliminated the Wildcats.

Fourth-seeded Arizona played the late game in the first round Thursday, and the people boogieing on Beale Street outnumbered the friends and family who saw them come back from a 10-point deficit with seven minutes left to subdue South Alabama.

The Wildcats were in similar straits yesterday, as the Cougars, conquerors of Maryland in the first round, built a 47-37 lead with 14 minutes left. Just as it did against South Alabama, however, Arizona turned up the defensive pressure and let its superior talent go to work.

Olson went to the Final Four in 1994 with a three-guard lineup of Khalid Reeves, Damon Stoudamire and Reggie Geary. Simon, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry aren't in their class yet, but they're getting there.

Terry, the sophomore defensive ace, led a 13-3 run that got the Wildcats a tie at 50. Bibby, the best freshman point in the nation, scored 10 points in a crucial four-minute stretch. Simon got his 20 points and some incredible moments off isolation sets.

Kresse's Cougars gave up height, weight or a Parade All-American plaque at every position, but they didn't let the nation's longest win streak stop without a fight. Down 69-62 with less than a minute left, they hustled to within 70-69 on Anthony Johnson's off-balance three-pointer with 19.6 seconds left.

After Simon made only one of his two free throws, the College of Charleston had a chance to win or tie, but the Cougars couldn't get the ball to one of their shooters, and sophomore point guard Jermel President's 15-foot jumper with 4.5 seconds left wasn't close.

"It's the saddest day in my 33 years of coaching," said Kresse, the only coach in the field besides Dean Smith who has an arena named after him. "I'm losing some polished, gritty, classy players today. These four guys put the College of Charleston on the basketball map with how marvelous they played."

Kresse sat at a podium flanked by his four senior starters, and none displayed more grit yesterday than Stacy Harris. The 6-foot-4 forward from Annandale, Va., was supposed to be slowed by tendinitis in his left knee, but he put up a career-high 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

"I told Coach Kresse, his team is very special," Olson said. "They play hard. They've got a lot of class. Their whole organization is an example of what college basketball should be about."

Then Lute turned nasty. In the opening weekend of this NCAA tournament, Arizona had Wildcats, not pussycats.

Kansas 75, Purdue 61

Sophomore forward Paul Pierce continued his mastery of the postseason to lead the Jayhawks into the Sweet 16 for the fifth straight year, the longest such streak in the nation.

The least publicized of Kansas' five starters, Pierce led Kansas in scoring for the fifth straight time. The MVP of the Big 12 tournament is known for his ability to come off a screen or shoot off the dribble, but the majority of his 20 points came off of put-backs.

His third straight double double included a game-high 12 rebounds, and the six at the offensive end were a career high. Five of those came in the second half, when eighth-seeded Purdue took a 53-52 lead. Kansas answered with a three-pointer by Jacque Vaughn with 9: 35 left, and the Jayhawks never trailed again.

"To me, the biggest factor in the game was that when we went down 53-52, we didn't panic," coach Roy Williams said. "Jacque hit the three-pointer, and all of a sudden, we got better at the defensive end."

Purdue starts two freshmen and has seven on its roster. One of them, Mike Robinson, had 10 rebounds at halftime but finished with the same total. Brian Cardinal, whose three-pointer had sent Purdue into overtime against Rhode Island in the first round, had just nine points.

The Boilermakers veterans, juniors Brad Miller and Chad Austin, scored 15 and 17 points, respectively. But Austin was just 4-of-18 from the field, 1-of-9 from three-point range.

Shots have not been falling lately for Kansas' Billy Thomas, whom Williams says is the best shooter he has coached. He entered the game shooting 40 percent, and was 7-for-39 in the past eight games, but was 3-for-4 yesterday -- all three-pointers.

"You watch Kansas so many times on television, you know [Thomas] is going to make those three-pointers," Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "You've got to stay with him. You can't leave him it's not very complicated. But they left him."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.