Manhattan gets 2nd helping after feasting on Fla., 75-60

With Paul's late push, Wake pulls out 79-78 win over VCU

Texas Tech, St. Joe's prevail

Ncaa Regional

East Rutherford

March 19, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. - As Manhattan was getting ready earlier this week to play Florida in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, junior forward Peter Mulligan thought about something he saw the Gators do on television this season.

Not the players, but their fans.

"I was thinking about them doing `The Chop,' and I thought it was cool," said Mulligan, who grew up in the Bronx and transferred back home after spending two years at UMBC. "We went alligator hunting today."

With less than a minute left in 12th-seeded Manhattan's 75-60 victory yesterday at the RBC Center, Mulligan got to do his own version of Florida's favorite taunt, clapping his hands wide, hard and long.

The fifth-seeded Gators were too dazed to notice.

Luis Flores led the way in the tournament's first upset with 26 points, but Mulligan set the tone early and Manhattan went into halftime with a 36-29 lead.

"Coach [Bobby Gonzalez] told us to respect Florida, but not to be scared of them," said Mulligan, who took the ball inside and would finish with 17 points. "I was able to make things happen. Luis struggled early, but he's the best player in Manhattan history and we're not going anywhere without him."

With Flores back on his game, Manhattan (25-5) will move on to tomorrow's second-round game in the East Rutherford Regional against fourth-seeded Wake Forest, which narrowly averted being upset later in the afternoon by No. 13 seed Virginia Commonwealth.

The win for Manhattan ended an up, down and mostly disappointing season for Florida (20-11), which was ranked No. 1 in December (before losing at home to Maryland and at Louisville in the same week).

The Jaspers broke down the Gators' soft zone defense to lead by as many as 19 in the second half.

"I thought in every facet of the game, Manhattan out-competed us," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, visibly angry over his team's lack of effort.

Anthony Roberson led Florida with 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting, but forced a number of his shots. Matt Walsh, playing on a bruised and blistered right foot, missed eight of 12 shots.

Manhattan will now look forward to its first second-round NCAA tournament game since 1995, when the Jaspers lost to Arizona State after upsetting fourth-seeded Oklahoma.

Wake Forest 79, Virginia Commonwealth 78: The Demon Deacons, a No. 4 seed despite losing their previous three games, appeared on the verge of having their season end at the hands of the Rams.

That was before freshman point guard Chris Paul took over.

Paul, the Freshman of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, brought Wake Forest (20-9) back from a six-point deficit midway through the second half to lead the Deacons to the first-round win.

By finding open teammates twice during a run of three straight three-point shots that turned the game, Paul helped Wake Forest forge a 66-63 lead. Paul then scored 10 of his team's last 13 points, including four free throws in the last 11.9 seconds to seal the win over the Rams (23-8) at RBC Center.

"I wouldn't trade him for any point guard in the country," coach Skip Prosser said of Paul, who finished with 22 points and seven assists.

After an early rut, VCU pulled ahead, 68-67, on a three by B.A. Walker with 3:55 left, and went ahead again, 73-72, on a jumper by Domonic Jones (22 points, seven assists) with 1:55 remaining.

But Jamaal Levy, who played the entire second half despite suffering a sprained knee in the first half, tied the score on a free throw, then gave the Demon Deacons the lead for good on a dunk off an assist from Paul.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Texas Tech 76, Charlotte 73: Andre Emmett scored 20 on 8-for-11 shooting and delivered a critical steal and basket with 58 seconds left as the No. 8 seed Red Raiders (23-10) defeated the No. 9 49ers (21-9) in a first-round game at HSBC Arena.

The Red Raiders will play Saint Joseph's in the second round of the East Rutherford Regional tomorrow.

Charlotte lived at the three-point arc all season - shooting 658 attempts in 29 games - but could not get free against Tech's aggressive man-to-man defense. The 49ers were 4-for-13 on threes in the first half as Texas Tech opened a 39-25 lead.

Charlotte never got closer than five until Curtis Withers hit a three with half a second remaining.

Saint Joseph's 82, Liberty 63: The Hawks' concern in their first game as the region's top seed wasn't the opponent. No, the biggest concern was how the Hawks would respond after being routed by Xavier in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, which ended a 27-game victory streak.

The Hawks (28-1) shot 57 percent in the first half and jumped to a 46-26 halftime lead on the way to beating the 16th-seeded Flames (18-15).

"It was good to see that our speed was back defensively," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

The Hartford Courant, a Tribune publishing newspaper, contributed to this article.

Regional highlights

Top performer: St. Joseph's Jameer Nelson scored 33 on 11-for-17 shooting.

Big surprise: Florida has not advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament since reaching the national final in 2000 as a fifth seed.

He said it: "I'm glad the outcome of this game replaces the outcome of the last game in Buffalo." - Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, who lost to Pepperdine there in his last game coaching Indiana in the 2000 NCAA tournament

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