South semifinal

March 28, 2003|By Paul McMullen

South semifinal

No. 1 Texas (24-6) vs. No. 5 Connecticut (23-9)

Site: Alamodome, San Antonio.

Time: 7:27 tonight.

Conference records: The Longhorns went 13-3 and finished second to Kansas in the Big 12. They handled 16th-seeded UNC-Asheville, 82-61, in the first round, and broke free in the second half from ninth-seeded Purdue for a 77-67 second-round win. Connecticut shared East Division honors with Boston College in the Big East with a 10-6 record. The Huskies fought off 12th-seeded Brigham Young, 58-53, in the first round of the NCAAs, and downed Stanford, 85-74, in the second round.

Coaches: Rick Barnes is 114-49 in five seasons at Texas, 316-183 in 16 seasons overall. Jim Calhoun 399-158 in 17 seasons at Connecticut, 647-295 in 31 seasons overall.

Texas' lineup: G T.J. Ford (15.0 ppg, 7.4 apg), G Royal Ivey (8.1 ppg), G Brandon Mouton (14.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Brad Buckman (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), C James Thomas (11.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg).

Connecticut's lineup: G Taliek Brown (7.7 ppg, 4.8 apg), G Ben Gordon (19.7 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.3 rpg), F Denham Brown (7.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), F Hilton Armstrong (2.8 ppg), C Emeka Okafor (15.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.7 bpg).

Bench strength: With 10 players averaging at least 10.8 minutes a game, Texas has one of the deepest teams in the nation. Forwards Brian Boddicker and Brad Buckman combine for 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, and Sydmill Harris got five of his 46 three-pointers in Birmingham last week. Senior guard Tony Robertson is averaging 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Huskies, who get 5.6 rebounds a game from freshman forward Marcus White.

Key matchup: Ford vs. Brown. Ford is regarded as the best point guard in the nation. Brown, a junior, is a three-year starter who missed four games in February with a broken left index finger.

What Texas needs to do to win: The Longhorns need to follow the formula that got them their first No. 1 seed. Keep the ball in Ford's hands and go to the glass in waves. Texas averages nearly eight rebounds more than the opposition. Maryland beat Connecticut in last year's East Regional final by attacking Okafor, and the Longhorns can't be bashful about posting up Thomas.

What Connecticut needs to do to win: With a pro-Texas crowd, Calhoun may feel like Davy Crockett himself being outnumbered at the Alamo itself. His guards - Brown, Gordon and Robertson - have to be able to handle the pressure of the moment. Their defensive plan is to funnel players to Okafor, who has 288 career blocks.

Bottom line: Connecticut likes to run, but so does Texas. The Longhorns have star power and the home-away-from-home advantage.

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