California just escapes N.C. State with three-pointer in OT, 76-74

With 3.9 seconds to go, Midgley gives Bears East Regional triumph

Ncaa Tournament

March 21, 2003|By Bonnie DeSimone | Bonnie DeSimone,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OKLAHOMA CITY - Hail Britannia! Britannia rules the treys, at least as far as the Republic of California is concerned.

English-bred point guard Richard Midgley averted an NCAA tournament first-round exit for the eighth-seeded Golden Bears by hitting a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in overtime yesterday to seal a 76-74 East Regional victory over North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack had just taken a 74-73 lead on Scooter Sherrill's three-pointer with 12.8 seconds left when Midgley took a pass from Joe Shipp.

"Guys used to pick on me [in England] because I played basketball, not soccer," said Midgley, a 6-foot-1 freshman. "But I picked the right sport, I guess."

No. 9 seed N.C. State (18-13) had a chance to win the game, but Sherrill missed from the top of the key as time expired. That sent California (22-8) to the second round for the second straight year.

Midgley could have been remembered for two potential game-winning layups that were blocked in the final minute of regulation, when he dared drive the lane.

"If I'm wide-open, I'm confident I'm going to hit my shot," said Midgley, who finished with 11 points. "I wasn't worried about what happened earlier in the game."

An open player in front of an open net usually leads to good things in any game. Midgley's shot was set up by California star forward Shipp, who dished off after the Wolfpack defense migrated to him as he took the ball downcourt.

"I just wanted to get the ball and make the play someway, somehow," said Shipp, the all-Pac 10 player who had five assists and a game-high 24 points at the Ford Center.

Cal coach Ben Braun said Shipp was the right person to handle the ball with time running out.

"You're not going to get a lot of better situations than that," said Braun. "He'll get a lot of attention for all the points he scores, but he does a lot of other things. He has the ability to make the team better.

"He'll get a lot of attention for all the points he scored, but there's something about trusting your teammates. He certainly trusted the freshman."

Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek called the game, the first meeting between the teams, "a tough one to swallow.

"We would love to play on Saturday, but a great team made a great play," Sendek said.

For much of the game, California was more poised overall and more aggressive underneath, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds to the Wolfpack's 10. The Golden Bears led 39-36 at the half and held off N.C. State until guard Sherill's three-pointer tied the game 56-56 with 9:19 remaining.

"It was a great three-point shot by Scooter, but we afforded them too many second-chance opportunities," Sendek said.

Midgley immediately answered with one of his own. But N.C. State forward Julius Hodge dunked with just under two minutes to give his team its first lead.

Sherill blocked Midgley's layup as regulation ended. But Midgley, whose fervor for a foreign game led him to move to California for his last two years of high school, said he was doubt-free as he released his shot. A last-second heave by Sherill clanged off the rim.

Midgley, whose teammates buried him in an exuberant on-court pileup after the final buzzer, doesn't think his clutch play will be noticed back home. "Probably won't even make it" into the British press, he said.

Bonnie DeSimone is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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