Ga. Tech has hands full but tops N. Iowa

Tough, 14th-seeded Panthers don't blink until two foul shots seal Yellow Jackets' 65-60 win

Ncaa Regional St. Louis

March 20, 2004|By Skip Myslenski and Dan McGrath | Skip Myslenski and Dan McGrath,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MILWAUKEE - Northern Iowa's Brooks McKowen hit his three-pointer from the top of the key and suddenly an unlikely possibility infected the air of Milwaukee's Bradley Center.

The 14th-seeded Panthers, huge underdogs, were up a point on third-seeded Georgia Tech and just 16 minutes away from a stunning upset in their opening-round NCAA tournament game yesterday in the St. Louis region.

Through all of those minutes that possibility lingered and then there were the Panthers, down three with less than 10 seconds remaining, kicking the ball to Ben Jacobson in the left corner. He went up with three seconds left and put up a fadeaway three over Yellow Jackets forward Clarence Moore, and with that a building held its breath.

"Mo did a pretty good job defending him," Tech guard B.J. Elder said. "So I was hoping it wouldn't go in." Hope springs eternal.

"Coach put the ball in my hand and I got a pretty good look at the hoop," Jacobson said. "It felt good. I thought it would go in. But it seemed like it took forever to reach the hoop."

When it finally did reach the hoop, it was long and kicked off the back rim. If came into the hands of Tech guard Jarrett Jack with 0.6 of a second remaining. Jack was fouled, made his free throws and only then did the Yellow Jackets finally have their 65-60 victory good for a date tomorrow with sixth-seeded Boston College.

"I couldn't be prouder of my team," Panthers coach Greg McDermott said, and he had every right for those words. It had been down 17 with 4:31 remaining in the first half and down a dozen when that half finally ended. But then it opened the second half afire and reeled the Yellow Jackets back in.

Northern Iowa's catalyst was 6-foot-6 center David Gruber, who out-dueled Tech's 7-1 Luke Schenscher while scoring a game-high 16 points.

In the second half, their defense limited Tech to 26 points off 38.5 percent shooting from the field. Will Bynum was the Yellow Jackets' rescuer, coming off the bench to relieve the struggling Jack and score 11 points. He was his team's ballast as the Panthers nursed their possibility of an upset and then, with his team clinging desperately to a two-point lead, Elder rebounded his missed three, penetrated and floated home a 4-footer to put it up four at 1:06.

Two free throws from Schenscher and a three-pointer by Erik Crawford followed, and finally there was Jacobson looking to send this one into overtime.

Boston College 58, Utah 51: The Utes clearly are not morning people.

Their first-round game with Boston College (24-9) tipped off at 11:30 a.m., which was 10:30 by the Utes' Mountain time zone body clocks. And after sleepwalking through an uninspired first half, they were caught napping in the final three minutes, twice turning the ball over on shot-clock violations, the second with 12 seconds left in the game, as the Eagles hammered out a victory.

Backup Boston College guard Jermaine Watson's only basket of the game broke a 49-49 tie with 3:27 left, and Craig Smith gave the Eagles 19 points and eight rebounds. But they won the game on defense, limiting Utah to 38 percent shooting and holding Utes scoring leader Nick Jacobson to half of his 16-point average.

Utah finished a credible 24-9, playing the final two-thirds of the season under interim coach Kerry Rupp after health problems forced Rick Majerus off the bench. Rupp said he hadn't given any thought to whether he would be considered for the job as Majerus' successor.

Columbus, Ohio

Kentucky 96, Florida A&M 76 : Florida A&M's basketball players, skinny and youthful, resembled water boys compared to Kentucky's Wildcats, whose chiseled, muscular frames should have been as intimidating as their fluid shooting.

Florida A&M was oblivious to the disparity. The 16th-seeded Rattlers (15-17), the only team in the NCAA tournament with a losing record, had top-seeded Kentucky (27-4) shaken and scared for 30 minutes in a first-round game at Nationwide Arena.

Nationwide Arena, filled mostly with Kentucky blue, was silenced by Florida A&M's Terrence Woods in the first 20 minutes. Woods led the nation in three-pointers.

He went five of 10 on three-pointers in the first half and scored 20 points. At intermission, Woods complained of dizziness. Coupled with the defense of Kentucky's Keleena Azubuike, Woods scored just four in the second half.

Alabama-Birmingham 102, Washington 100: In 1995, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and UAB coach Mike Anderson were on the sidelines as UCLA and Arkansas assistants, respectively, as the two teams duked it out in Seattle for the NCAA title.

Then, Romar's team took the prize. Last night, the results were reversed. With former Arkansas mentor Nolan Richardson watching from the stands, Anderson guided the Blazers (21-9) over Romar's Huskies (19-12) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

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