Husky effort in 2nd lifts UConn Tall game by MacCulloch helps Washington win

East at Washington

March 15, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- If the first 20 minutes were Connecticut's worst nightmare, the next 20 proved to be sweet redemption last night.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Huskies are headed to the NCAA's Sweet 16. They punched their ticket with a 78-68 victory over Indiana in an East Regional quarterfinal before 19,320 at MCI Center.

Next stop: Greensboro, N.C., where UConn, the No. 2 seed in the East, will meet No. 11 Washington. The Huskies (20-9) won the battle of the Cinderellas in yesterday's undercard, scoring an impressive, 81-66 knockout of No. 14 Richmond.

Should UConn (31-4) get past Washington's 7-foot Todd MacCulloch -- and that's no easy feat -- it likely gets top seed North Carolina in the Tar Heels' backyard for the chance to reach the elusive Final Four.

For a time last night, it didn't appear the Huskies would get out of Washington, though. They launched an uncharacteristic 14 three-point shots in the first half, didn't fight through Indiana screens and played "a little skittery," in the words of coach Jim Calhoun.

The result was a five-point halftime deficit that Calhoun suggested could have reached double figures.

"They continue to do remarkable things energy-wise," Calhoun said of his Big East Conference champions. "I think they knew the urgency of a 20-minute season. I think they really responded in the second half.

"Our dreams and hopes are that there's more [ahead]."

Khalid El-Amin scored 22 points for Connecticut despite a 6-for-20 shooting slump, and Richard Hamilton hit two big three-pointers down the stretch to make amends for the frightful first half.

El-Amin, the Big East's rookie of the year, had eight assists, five rebounds and four steals.

"I have to be impressed with El-Amin," said Indiana coach Bob Knight. "He plays without making wild plays. That's a pretty productive night for a kid. He was outstanding."

As big as El-Amin and Hamilton played in the clutch, UConn ultimately won this game with its frenetic defense. After giving up 16 field goals in the first half, the Huskies gave up just eight in the second. And in one stifling, 10-minute run in the second half, they held Indiana (20-12) to one field goal.

A dunk by Jake Voskuhl got the Huskies a 49-49 tie seven minutes into the second half. Then a three-pointer from the left wing by Hamilton put UConn on top for good. That basket triggered a 14-5 run that earned a 63-54 lead for the Huskies in the midst of Indiana's field-goal drought. When Indiana crept to 70-66 with 1: 40 to play, Hamilton drilled another three to shut the door.

"Richard throws more daggers at the opposition," Calhoun said.

In the first game, Richmond never found an defensive response for MacCulloch. The 280-pound junior from Winnipeg, Manitoba, scored 31 -- averaging a point a minute -- and dominated on the glass for 18 rebounds.

The Spiders (23-8) gave the defensive assignment to 6-8 Eric Poole, their biggest starter, and tried to surround MacCulloch down low. But there was little Poole or the Spiders could do.

"Where he got the ball, he was just too close," Poole said. "We thought that if we tried to keep the ball out of his hands, we'd have a chance. But even with inside help, we weren't tall enough."

MacCulloch hit 14 of 24 shots overall, and had personal scoring streaks of 10 (first half) and nine points (second half).

"He's very talented," said Richmond coach John Beilein. "The problem is not only his size, but his 280 pounds are hard to defend."

Donald Watts, son of former NBA player Slick Watts, played only 11 minutes in the first half after collecting two offensive fouls. But when he began penetrating in the second half, Washington broke the game open.

"Anytime Donald drove the lane, it made it easy for me," MacCulloch said. "I was shooting layups."

When MacCulloch wasn't shooting layups, Deon Luton was hitting three-pointers. He converted four of six in the first half, including the three that opened a 36-29 lead at the end of the half. He finished with 18 points.

Richmond got within three early in the second half with back-to-back three-pointers, but MacCulloch scored 11 in a 17-4 Washington run to take control. The Huskies led 55-39 with 13 minutes left, and the closest Richmond got after that was nine points.

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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.