Toughened N.C. State continues power roll

Mich. State falls prey like Maryland before

Wis. braces for Terps

East Regional notebook

Ncaa Tournament

March 16, 2002|By Paul McMullen and Christian Ewell | Paul McMullen and Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - North Carolina State will run into a red-hot Connecticut team in a second-round game tomorrow at MCI Center, but the Wolfpack seems to be coming of age, toughened by some nasty competition.

In the past week, coach Herb Sendek's team has beaten half of last year's Final Four, and lost only to defending NCAA champion Duke in the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Yesterday the Wolfpack bounced Michigan State out of the NCAA tournament, 69-58, and a week ago today it knocked off Maryland in the ACC tournament semifinals, 86-82.

"I think we handled it pretty well," said guard Archie Miller, who along with fellow senior Anthony Grundy suffered through some hard times in Raleigh. "It's helped our confidence, and that's one of the reasons we've been able to come back from big wins, and big losses. We're getting better as a team. To keep playing against good teams isn't going to hurt us."

Some of Sendek's teams have been guilty of stupid play, but this group is patterned after the Princeton style perfected by Pete Carril, all three-pointers and backdoor cuts. They took turns attacking on their own, and the Spartans had trouble keeping up. The Wolfpack made a season-high 31 free throws, and 36 attempts were their second most this season.

Badgered Badger

Immediately after the Badgers defeated St. John's last night, coach Bo Ryan got the question of how to beat Maryland, his second-round opponent. Ryan said he'd wait until today's interview sessions to answer.

"I better come up with some answers, because you guys are going to grill me - now I can't take tomorrow off," Ryan said. "We do have some stuff ready. It means a lot of viewing tonight, tomorrow, while everyone else is having fun taking in the sights."

St. John's coach Mike Jarvis, seeking to introduce levity to his post-game news conference, opened by offering his hypothetical game plan for competing with the Terps.

"We're going to open with a 1-2-2 trap, and we're going to double [Juan] Dixon wherever he goes," the former George Washington coach said. "And I'm going to jump Gary Williams as soon as he comes out of the locker room. You can tell him I said that."

Handling Hatten

Reserves Freddie Owens and Mike Wilkinson combined for 28 points against St. John's.

More importantly, Owens played a major role in cooling off Red Storm star Marcus Hatten, who made half of his first 14 shots on his way to 15 first-half points.

"He hits a lot of tough shots, but we weren't getting our hands up," Owens said of the Mervo alum. "In the second half, our focus was to get one hand in his face and make life difficult for him."

Hampton's hero

The odds said that Tommy Adams wouldn't conclude his career in the NCAA tournament. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year was just one of two starters back for Hampton, which became the first team to return to the tournament a year after posting an upset as a 15th seed.

Adams didn't start every game as a junior, but he was a constant for the Pirates this season, and nearly doubled his scoring average, to 19.8 points. There will always be a soft spot for Adams in the heart of Hampton coach Steve Merfeld, who was running the Pirates on a trial basis in 1998 when he got a commitment from a kid from Woodbridge, Va.

"Tony has grown into a man," Merfeld said before the senior scored 23 points in a 78-67 loss to Connecticut. "He was my first recruit to sign, when I was an interim coach. I don't think anyone would have expected Hampton to get 25 wins back-to-back in his junior and senior seasons. He's a 3.0 student, he's graduating on time with a degree in marketing, and he's a hell of a player."

Merfeld was asked if the tension of the tournament minimizes the difference between leagues.

"The high majors, the ACC, SEC and the Big Ten, they have three or four guys who are potential pros," Merfeld said. "The mid-majors, they've got one potential pro. The low majors, our talent is similar to those other 10 guys."


Kirk Penney's 19 points are three better than the 16 he amassed in his previous six NCAA games for the Badgers. ... Hatten's 33 field-goal attempts (12 successful) are the highest total in an East Region game since another Baltimore native - the late Reggie Lewis - chucked up 34 for Northeastern in 1986.

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