Louisville sends subs on attack vs. Texas Cardinals' reserves lead way into Elite Eight

Wheat hurt in 78-63 win

East Regional

March 22, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- As DeJuan Wheat writhed on the court, clutching his injured left ankle last night, his Louisville teammates pondered the end of their enterprising season.

There was 15: 52 remaining in the East Regional semifinal at the Carrier Dome, and the Cardinals trailed Texas when Wheat came down awkwardly after a missed three-point attempt.

"When he went down, everybody looked around like the game was over," Damion Dantzler said.

But the expected end gave way instead to a new high. Finishing with a flourish -- and without a point guard -- they rushed past Texas, 78-63, to advance to the NCAA's Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

"They've found a lot of different ways to win, and they found another one, winning without DeJuan," Louisville coach Denny Crum said after the Cardinals improved to 26-8. "I don't know that any of us thought we could do that."

An expected scoring duel between Wheat and Texas' Reggie Freeman never materialized. Wheat left with three points on 1-for-8 shooting, and Freeman was double-teamed into a dreary six-point, 2-for-14 night.

Left to pick up the slack for Louisville was off-guard Alvin Sims, who scored a career-high 25, and Dantzler, who scored a season-high 17. B.J. Flynn came off the bench to direct the offense and distributed five assists in 29 minutes.

"Without DeJuan, we don't have a ballhandler," Crum said. "Everybody had to contribute. B.J. did a good job."

Crum was not optimistic that Wheat will be available for tomorrow's regional final against North Carolina.

"I'd be surprised, the way he looked, if he is able to play on Sunday," Crum said.

That was confirmed within an hour of the end of the game.

Wheat is officially listed as doubtful. X-rays taken after the game were negative.

"I was shooting and I think I came down on a Texas player's foot," he said. "The rest of the guys really stepped it up to win this one. It was a great team win."

Five minutes after Wheat went out, the Cardinals trailed 54-49. But they went on a 29-9 run in the final 10 minutes. Dantzler, who was 2-for-19 from the three-point arc during the season, hit two three-pointers during that stretch.

"Coach told me earlier in the season I shouldn't be shooting them because I wasn't shooting them right," Dantzler said. "I don't always concentrate like I should."

Texas (18-12) collapsed down the stretch, getting just two field goals in the final 8: 40. The Longhorns finished with 19 turnovers and shot a miserable 38.5 percent.

In one incredible sequence, the Longhorns missed five point-blank shots under the basket, and twice missed dunks.

Freeman, who averaged 22 points in a brilliant season, was far less effective in his final college game. He had scored 34 points in a Jan. 19 loss to Louisville in Austin, Texas.

"When he played them in Austin earlier in the year, we didn't help on him," Crum said. "We played straight man [defense]. This game we decided to do a lot of jump-switching. We decided if they were going to beat us, we'd make somebody else beat us."

With the exception of a four-minute stretch, when Sims scored 13 consecutive Louisville points, the first half was played on Texas' terms.

An 11-0 Texas run wiped out a 17-14 Louisville lead and the Longhorns led by as many as nine points in the half.

Fouls accumulated at a fast-and-furious pace. Six fouls were whistled in less than a minute at one point.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, were effective taking Wheat out of the Louisville offense. The Cardinals' floor leader, who had a subpar 13-point effort in the January game in Austin, didn't score until the final 1: 40 of the half on a three-point basket. That cut Texas' lead to 37-31, where it stood at the half.

The anticipated shootout between Wheat and Freeman was a dud from the start, with both players shooting 1-for-6 in the half. Freeman had two points, five assists and three turnovers.

Pub Date: 3/22/97

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