Holding down Grundy gives Connecticut lift

First-half shutdown eases way for Huskies

NCAA Tournament

East Regional notebook

March 18, 2002|By Christian Ewell and Gary Lambrecht | Christian Ewell and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - One of the keys to Connecticut's victory was its ability to keep North Carolina State standout guard Anthony Grundy under relative wraps.

Grundy, who averaged 23 points in the ACC tournament and had 16 in his team's first-round game against Michigan State, scored 17 points yesterday, but he was all but shackled early.

The Huskies made Grundy's life miserable during a first half in which he made only one of his first eight shots. Taliek Brown and Caron Butler were just two of those responsible for the defense.

"We mixed it up. We threw speed at him and we threw more of a muscle situation at him with Taliek and we threw a height situation with me," Butler said.

"He did a great job of continuing to play hard, but we kind of took him out of it."

Grundy eventually had some success in the second half, loosening up with an array of one-handed junk shots and tip-ins. However, the ball ended up in freshman Julius Hodge's hands on N.C. State's final possession, a situation Grundy attributed more to the likelihood he would be denied the ball.

"Our young guys have been making plays all year," the senior from Louisville said. "He had the open look and I'm sure he'll knock it down next time. He made the right decision."

Cutting off threes

One of Maryland's prime objectives coming into the Wisconsin game was to hound the Badgers' vaunted three-point shooters. That meant fighting through screens, extending the defense, switching properly and never relaxing.

Mission accomplished. Byron Mouton struggled offensively, scoring only one point, but in 25 minutes, he hounded guard Kirk Penney, Wisconsin's leading scorer, with some help from Drew Nicholas.

Penney missed 11 of 14 shots and finished with nine points. The Badgers shot just 35.6 percent overall, and made only five of 19 three-point attempts (26.3 percent).

"We felt like [Penney] was the key part of their offense," Nicholas said. "They don't average a lot of points, but a lot of their points come off him, whether he's scoring or moving without the ball. I was just making sure I stayed close to him. He's a very good off-the-ball mover."

Butler's good points

After the Huskies' win, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun offered some thoughts on where he thought Butler fit into the pantheon of national players after a 34-point, nine-rebound and four-assist effort against N.C. State.

"I've been seeing this for the last month," said Calhoun, who said he's discussed making Butler the team's second point guard if he returns for his junior year.

Butler did not make any All-America teams, though he was named Big East Player of the Year.

"Am I missing something?" Calhoun said. "There are some terrific players, but I don't think you've seen too many players like him ... There's got to be somewhere for him in the top 15 or top 20."

In the early part of the game, Hodge seemed to be keeping tabs on Butler on the perimeter, while Marcus Melvin helped inside. That plan's effectiveness lasted only about five minutes before Butler became the dilemma that N.C. State coach Herb Sendek had dreaded.

"All you have to do is look at the stat line," Sendek said. "He was someone we couldn't stop today."

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