Pittsburgh has enough offense to outlast C. Florida, 53-44

Wisconsin overcomes 13-point deficit in 2nd half

Memphis dumps S. Carolina

Ncaa Regional East Rutherford

March 20, 2004|By Dan McGrath | Dan McGrath,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MILWAUKEE -- After watching Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin experience varying degrees of difficulty against higher-seeded teams in first-round NCAA tournament play, it would have behooved Pittsburgh to come out and take care of business against lightly regarded Central Florida in the evening finale at the Bradley Center.

After all, the Panthers are a strong No. 3 seed in the East Rutherford, N.J., Regional, they won 29 games against a loaded schedule and are viewed as Final Four material.

In the first half, however, they looked like an early exit candidate, playing down to the level of the 14th-seeded Knights before using their superior size and depth to subdue them, 53-44, and advance to tomorrow's second round against No. 6 seed Wisconsin.

Pitt (30-4) shot 35 percent in the first half, committed nine turnovers and converted only 11 of 30 possessions into points. All that saved the Panthers was comparable ineptitude by the Knights' (25-6) 29 percent shooting, seven turnovers and one eight-minute stretch with two points.

The second half began with more of the same -- Pittsburgh simply couldn't generate anything offensively, and 6-foot-9-inch Roberto Morentin (15 points) kept the Knights in the game with strong and effective work inside. When senior Robert Ross came off the bench two flip in back-to-back three-pointers, Central Florida found itself holding a 32-29 lead with 12:35 remaining.

The game was tied 37-37 nearly eight minutes later when Chris Taft's three-point play gave Pitt the lead for good. The bucket was only the second one of the night for the 6-foot-10 freshman. All-Big East guard Julius Page also struggled, missing 10 of his first 11 shots before finding the range with a three-pointer that gave Pitt a five-point lead with 2:20 left.

Wisconsin 76, Richmond 64: The Spiders dominated the Badgers in the first 28 minutes while running off to a 10-point lead in Milwaukee.

The had shut down Badger star Devin Harris, who didn't have a point. The Spiders had disrupted the Badgers' swing offense, using a bevy of long-and-quick defenders to deny that offense its necessary passes out on the perimeter. The Spiders had rattled the Badgers with their variety of looks, switching from a man-to-man to a matchup zone and even to some box-and-one.

The 11th-seeded Spiders (20-13) looked well on their way to an upset of the No. 6 Badgers (25-6). "We were kind of stagnant and shell-shocked, but then we caught ourselves and decided to wake up," Harris said. They woke up when forward Ray Nixon buried a three-pointer from the right wing at 11:27 and then they stirred even further when Harris got his first points with another three 37 seconds later.

Those baskets were the ones that ignited the Badgers to score on 20 straight possessions while racing off to a victory and a second-round game tomorrow in the East Rutherford regional with Pittsburgh. In this stretch they went 12 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 5 on their threes, and went 13 of 17 from the free-throw line as they ripped apart a defense that had stymied them.

"Offensively we found answers by being more aggressive in our attack," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "When we got more aggressive, it changed the game. We made them react to what we had done all season long. Ball movement, feed the post, stuff like that."

"We started to hit shots," added forward Mike Wilkinson, who led his team with 18 points. "Once you start knocking down some shots, you feed off it. That's what happened. We started feeding off each other."

Kansas City, Mo.

Memphis 59, South Carolina 43: South Carolina was reminded how quickly March Sadness can set in. Barely able to raise an argument with Memphis' long-range accuracy and rebounding muscle, the No. 10 seeded Gamecocks were sent home.

It marked the fifth consecutive time, dating back 31 years, that South Carolina (23-11) failed to survive the first round.

And adding to the low-down feeling was the fact that No. 7 seed Memphis (22-7) was fighting its own one-and-done miseries. Memphis, 0-2 in its most recent appearances, last won in the NCAA tournament in 1995

This time, Memphis moved on and will face Oklahoma State tomorrow.

Senior guard Antonio Burks, though he shot poorly from the field and scored only seven points, quarterbacked the Memphis offense, contributing a game-high seven assists, and put constant defensive pressure on South Carolina's guards who shot a combined 1-for-9 with only two assists.

Sophomore forward Rodney Carney, meanwhile, made 10 of 17 field goals -- 6 of 12 from behind the three-point line -- scored 26 points and took 10 rebounds, both game-highs.

"We won the game," Memphis coach John Calipari said "because of defense and rebounds. What you saw [yesterday] is what we've done all year. We shot 39 percent for the game and still won; I think that's the eighth or ninth time we've shot under 40 percent and won this year.

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