Elder off the mark, can't provide spark

Ga. Tech's top scorer appears energized, but hits just four of 15 shots

Championship notebook

NCAA Men's Tournament

April 06, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht and Don Markus | Gary Lambrecht and Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO - At first, it seemed like such a good sign for Georgia Tech. Junior forward/guard B.J. Elder, rendered so ineffective for the past three NCAA tournament games with a foot injury, was bouncing around the floor in the opening minutes with his customary energy.

Elder, perhaps due to some championship game nerves, missed his first three shots, including a three-pointer, a 12-footer and a runner. Then, Elder made a three-pointer to cut Connecticut's early lead to 9-7 four minutes into the game.

But there would be no magical return to form by Georgia Tech's leading scorer, who had scored two points in his previous games with limited playing time. Elder stayed cold for most of the half, hitting only a turnaround baseline jumper with 6:23 left to cut the Huskies' lead to 32-20.

Elder would shoot 2-for-8 in the half, which ended with the Yellow Jackets trailing 41-26, marking the third-largest halftime deficit in NCAA title game history. Elder never rediscovered his shooting touch, and his ability to drive was limited by the presence of Connecticut center Emeka Okafor.

Elder finished with 14 points on 4-for-15 shooting.

"I just came out and tried to play the type of game I've been playing all season," Elder said. "But tonight the ball just didn't fall for me."

Different paths

Connecticut teammates Taliek Brown and Josh Boone couldn't have begun their college basketball careers with more different expectations.

Brown, a senior from Queens, N.Y., started four years ago as one of the most highly touted point guards in his class. Boone, a freshman from Mount Airy, started last fall with barely any notice.

For Brown, who has been much maligned for most of his career at Connecticut, and Boone, who has been much appreciated since becoming a surprise starter this season, last night's 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech in the NCAA tournament final brought different types of satisfaction.

"They can shut up about me, and they can't say nothing about me no more," said Brown, who had nine points, six rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers in 37 minutes.

Said Boone, who had nine points, six rebounds and one assist in 29 minutes, "It's an incredible thing. Not only for me to come in as a freshman and have a chance to win a national championship, but to actually do it."

Brown will leave Storrs with the unhappy memories of the past three seasons - including losing to Maryland in the Elite Eight two years ago - while Boone will return next season with the pressure of having to replace Okafor, who is expected to leave after his junior year for the NBA.

"I'm going to have to work hard to get better, more consistent and stronger," said Boone.

The championship was a long time coming for Brown, and a longer time coming for Boone.

Asked the last time a team he played on a team that won a championship, Boone thought for a moment.

"Probably in the fifth grade, we won a state championship in New York," said Boone, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Happy ex-Terp

As a team manager for former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell and as a member of the athletic department in College Park for many years, Jeff Hathaway had never experienced winning a national championship.

Hathaway, in his second stint at Connecticut and in his first year as athletic director, is on the verge of experiencing a bit of history if the Huskies women's team can win the NCAA championship game tonight against Tennessee in New Orleans.

It will mark the first time that men's and women's college basketball teams from the same school won championships in the same year.

"It's a tremendous reflection on our student-athletes, our coaches and on the University of Connecticut," said Hathaway. "Tomorrow night is going to be a very special night for us, as is tonight."

Hathaway was associate athletic director at Connecticut when the Huskies won the men's title in 1999. He left three years ago to become the athletic director at Colorado State, then returned when former boss Lew Perkins left last spring for Kansas.

Reunion arena

There was a reunion of sorts last night for a bunch of former Huskies, including Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall and Richard Hamilton. Asked which was more exciting, last night's victory or the one he played in over Duke in 1999, Hamilton said, "Definitely the one over Duke because we weren't supposed to win."

Travels with Charlie

A year ago, Charlie Villanueva was getting ready to leave Blair Academy, a prep school in New Jersey, for the next phase of his basketball career: the NBA.

Villanueva, considered one of the country's most promising big men, had committed orally to Illinois, but had chosen to try out for some NBA scouts when Bill Self left for Kansas.

It didn't take long for Villanueva to figure out he wasn't ready for the pros. Not all of Villanueva's decision had to do with basketball.

"I wasn't ready to live a man's world," Villanueva said.

Although his visit to IMG's sports academy in Florida nearly cost Villanueva his college eligibility after he accepted some benefits but did not sign with an agent, Villanueva is happy he chose Connecticut.

"This is where I am, and I'm enjoying every moment of it," said Villaneuva.

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