Vols send UConn, El-Amin limping out of tourney

Defending champ falls, 65-51, as leader hobbled

South at Birmingham, Ala.

March 20, 2000|By NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Khalid El-Amin was out there for Connecticut, giving it what he had for a few minutes here and there. It just wasn't much, not on a sprained right ankle. Without the All-American's usual offense, leadership and toughness, face it, the defending national champions never had a chance.

With El-Amin gutting out only 13 minutes and contributing just three points and one assist, UConn fell to Tennessee, 65-51, yesterday in the second round of the South Regional.

The Volunteers advanced to the Sweet 16, where they will meet North Carolina, which upset top-seeded Stanford. Better known as a football and women's basketball power, Tennesee won a second straight NCAA tournament game for the first time in its history.

El-Amin, who sprained his ankle in UConn's win Friday over Utah State, started but played just six minutes in the first half. Visibly limping at times, he appeared to be no better than 50 percent.

"I knew in warm-ups that I wasn't going to be able to be that effective," El-Amin said. "The doctors didn't want me to go out there. I told them I had to give it a shot. I couldn't be in street clothes; I had to try."

Tennessee coach Jerry Green said: "You got to call it like it is, and they're not the same team without Khalid El-Amin. I feel for him and them."

Backup guards Tony Robertson and Marcus Cox, both freshman, were asked to fill a huge void and could not deliver. Robertson, who played 33 minutes, scored two points and was 1-for-7 from the field. Cox did not score in six minutes. Fifth-seeded UConn (25-10) had four assists and 15 turnovers. The 51 points was a season low for the Huskies.

"Khalid is the head of the dragon," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "He makes us go, left and right. He energizes us. He coaches on the floor and on the sidelines. It was tough to ask Tony and Marcus to step in there. We need Khalid desperately on offense."

To make matters worse, UConn senior starters Kevin Freeman and Jake Voskuhl were in foul trouble. Voskuhl, normally a force inside, played 18 minutes and had only two points and nine rebounds. Freeman had 14 points and seven rebounds.

The fourth-seeded Vols (26-6) led 32-22 at halftime, but Connecticut wouldn't go away. The Huskies trimmed the deficit to 38-34 on an El-Amin three -- his only points -- with 13: 38 to play. But Tennessee answered with a three and El-Amin went to the bench in the middle of an 8-0 run that made it 46-34.

Tony Harris led Tennessee with 18 points.

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