Richmond touches all bases on 3-0 trip

Baseball fan Wainwright gets home run at Kansas

Serb on rise at Arizona

National notebook

January 30, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Second-year Richmond basketball coach Jerry Wainwright is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan, and his pre-game and post-game interviews are often dotted with analogies to home run hitters rather than jump shooters.

So it comes as no surprise that Wainwright likened his decision to play Kansas at storied Allen Fieldhouse last week to a baseball player swinging for the fences.

"I'm not going to bunt. I'm at the stage of my life where I'm not trying to take a 3-2 pitch to get a walk," Wainwright, 55, said in explaining why he would schedule a game in Lawrence. "We're just going to swing."

The mighty Spiders didn't strike out, beating the then-12th-ranked Jayhawks on a shot with 1.3 seconds left by senior swingman Tony Dobbins. It ended a 52-game losing streak by unranked teams at Kansas.

While it was the most high-profile victory in Wainwright's first two years since coming from North Carolina-Wilmington - the Spiders beat No. 17 Stanford last season - the win at Temple that preceded the Kansas game and the one at Xavier that followed were equally, if not more, important.

Wainwright knew that his team's collective psyche was fragile, given the fact that the Spiders had lost three straight and were 8-8 overall when the road trip began. They were also losing ground in the Atlantic 10 standings.

"There are two things that can happen in those situations," Wainwright said Monday on the Atlantic 10 teleconference. "You can lose all your confidence or you can slowly gain more confidence."

Dobbins believes that some of Richmond's disappointing defeats earlier this season led to the upset.

"We felt like we had opportunities slip away when we played St. Joe's and Wake Forest ... and we didn't want to let it happen again," Dobbins said. "We knew we were playing Kansas on their home court and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, especially late in the game [when the score was close]."

Big upsets are nothing new to Wainwright, a former Wake Forest assistant who was hired at Richmond shortly after UNC-Wilmington shocked Southern California in the 2002 NCAA tournament. Nor it is new territory for Richmond, which as a No. 15 seed upset No. 2 seed Syracuse in the 1991 NCAA tournament.

While the Spiders still might have to run the table in the regular season or win the A-10 tournament to get an NCAA bid, the most challenging part of the schedule is definitely behind them.

"I think we've proven we are a really good team," said sophomore center Kevin Steenberge, a former Howard County Player of the Year at River Hill. "We've showed that we can play anyone anywhere."

Precocious import

The fortunes of the Arizona Wildcats might rest on a freshman from Serbia-Montenegro who is trying to get comfortable with college life and the American game.

Ivan Radenovic, a 6-foot-10 forward who became eligible Dec. 28, never heard of the school or its celebrated coach until a friend from Belgrade, Monmouth basketball player Deki Delic, suggested he call Arizona and Lute Olson.

"What's an Arizona?" Radenovic reportedly asked.

Radenovic reached Wildcats assistant Josh Pastner, who quickly did his homework and recommended to his boss that Arizona sign Radenovic before some other school did.

Now it's the Pac-10 that's quickly learning who Radenovic is: a player just as comfortable 20 feet from the basket as he is inside, one who gives the Wildcats another body off what had been a pretty thin bench.

Radenovic had been up and down in his first nine games, scoring 17 in his debut against Liberty (third most by an Arizona player in his debut) as well as against Cal, but getting only three points in a loss to Stanford and going scoreless in a win over UCLA.

If his performance last Sunday is any indication for the rest of the season, Radenovic might want to get a quick lesson about San Antonio, site of this year's Final Four.

In Arizona's 90-66 win over Oregon on Sunday, Radenovic finished with 19 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes, including 11 in the team's 18-0 run in the first half. Radenovic hit three of four three-pointers.

"It was great to see the way Ivan played today," Olson said. "He was really aggressive. He did a much better job of being ready to shoot the ball when he caught the pass. He is getting better and better every day in practice ... he is vital to our long-range success."

Said Radenovic: "I am proud that I am getting better. I work hard in practice. I'm very comfortable playing. It is a matter of practice. I needed time. I took longer than I thought. This is a different culture. My job is to play. Should I start or come off the bench, it is the same for me."

Planting seeds

Starting today and each Friday through the regular season, The Sun will predict the top four seeds in each region of the NCAA tournament.

East ........................ South

1. Duke ................... 1. Louisville

2. Arizona ............... 2. Miss. State

3. Florida ................ 3. North Carolina

4. Connecticut ........ 4. Providence

West ........................ Midwest

1. Stanford .............. 1. Saint Joseph's

2. Gonzaga .............. 2. Kentucky

3. Pittsburgh .......... 3. Cincinnati

4. Georgia Tech ...... 4. Wisconsin

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